Great Entrepreneurs? The Man Who Fired Steve Jobs

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On February 16, 2015

07Steve Jobs is often held up as a shining example of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Even though his faults were well documented, nobody could argue with his brilliance, his drive, his persistence, and his feel for where the market was heading.

But what about the guy who fired Steve Jobs?

In a recent interview on John Sculley talked a bit about his time as Apple CEO and ousting Jobs from the company he (Jobs) had founded. Sculley says his biggest regret was not hiring Jobs back.

“I wish in hindsight I had reached back to Steve and told him, ‘I want to help you come back to Apple,'” Sculley told CNNMoney. “I wish Apple had hired him back sooner rather than later.”

It’s interesting that Scully didn’t regret firing Jobs. He regretted not hiring him back. He recognized (as history showed) that Steve Jobs still had a lot to offer Apple, and he felt that if he’d brought Jobs back earlier he would have saved Apple a lot of pain and struggle (and money).

What a tough decision. What do you do in your business when you have someone who needs to be removed from his or her position—but still has so much to offer the company? Those are some of the things that can keep a business leader up all night.

John Scully is still an entrepreneur in the fields of technology and marketing, and he invests in Internet companies. As an author, he also writes about entrepreneurship.

His biggest advice to young entrepreneurs is, “Create a product that customers love. Customers are in control now—they’re paying attention to other customers’ experiences more than companies’ advertisements.”

“Business plans are almost obsolete these days,” Sculley says. “There’s nothing more powerful than customers that are happy.”

Note that Scully doesn’t say that planning is obsolete. You still need to set goals and make plans and have metrics that allow you to measure your progress. But the elaborate business plans that were de rigueur some years ago have ceased to be effective. Business today changes too rapidly for those kinds of exercises.

What about you? Would you have fired Steve Jobs? And would you have been able to bring him back into the company—knowing what he still had to offer? Leave me a note in the comments section. I’d love to know what you think!