Friday, August 26, 2011

WSJ: Disney, Walton, Ford, Gates: Tales of When Legends Leave

The founder of a successful corporation steps down. Then what?

At Ford Motor Co. and Walt Disney Co., long periods of stagnation or decline, followed by renewal. At Wal-Mart Stores Inc., continued success for a time, then new challenges.

Now it is Apple Inc.'s turn, following Steve Jobs's resignation as CEO on Wednesday.

Tim Cook, Apple's new CEO, gets high marks for running the company during Mr. Jobs's two medical leaves in recent years. "Apple has done a better job than most to prepare for this," says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, who knows several Apple executives.

But history suggests it will not be a smooth ride.


Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address is always worth going back and watching from time to time.


My favorite quote from the speech:

"When I was 17 I read a quote that went something like "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important thing I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."