Tim Cook has offered an insight into life as Apple CEO this week, in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.
Cook talks in-depth about how the late Steve Jobs made sure his elevation to Apple chief executive would be drama-free, saying:
"He goes, 'I never want you to ask what I would have done. Just do what's right."
In the job for 16 months, Cook has headed the release of the company's next-generation iPhones and iPads, seeing stock rise 43% as a result.
Below, the man responsible for the world's most valuable company opens up about life after Jobs.
How has Apple changed since Oct. 5, 2011?
The first thing to realise is that all the things that have made Apple (AAPL) so special are the same as they have always been. That doesn’t mean that Apple is the same.
Apple has changed every day since I have been here. But the DNA of the company, the thing that makes our heart beat, is a maniacal focus on making the best products in the world. Not good products, or a lot of products, but the absolute best products in the world.
In creating these great products we focus on enriching people’s lives—a higher cause for the product. These are the macro things that drive the company. They haven’t changed. They’re not changing.
I will not witness or permit those changes because that’s what makes the company so special.
There are lots of little things that change, and there will be lots of little things that change over the next year and the years thereafter.
We decided being more transparent about some things is great—not that we were not transparent at all before, but we’ve stepped it up in places where we think we can make a bigger difference, where we want people to copy us. So there are things that are different, but the most important thing by far is, the fiber of the place is the same.
The decisions that you’re alluding to—more transparency into the supply chain, doing corporate matches for employees’ charitable donations—were those things that you’d thought, “You know, I want to bring that to the culture. I can’t wait to introduce them.” How did those inflection points come up?
My own personal philosophy on giving is best stated in a [John F.] Kennedy quote, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” I have always believed this. Always. I think that Apple and Apple’s employees have done enormous good and can do even more.
One of the things that we have done is match our employees’ charitable contributions, where they select who they want to give to. So it’s not some corporate committee deciding, but it’s our 80,000 employees deciding what they want to do, and then we match it.
You know, it’s clearly something I wanted to do, yes. But others wanted to do it, too. Our transparency in supplier responsibility is an example of recognizing that the more transparent we are, the bigger difference we would make. We want to be as innovative with supply responsibility as we are with our products.
That’s a high bar. The more transparent we are, the more it’s in the public space. The more it’s in the public space, the more other companies will decide to do something similar. And the more everybody does it, the better everything gets.
It’s a recognition that we need to be supersecretive in one part about our products and our road maps. But there are other areas where we will be completely transparent so we can make the biggest difference. That’s kind of the way we look at it.
You were CEO on an interim basis twice before. How is the experience of being permanent CEO different from those two stints?
There were actually three times. There was Steve’s first surgery back in ’04. Then a medical leave for half a year and then ’11.
Not that there wasn’t public focus on those, but that public focus tended to be quick, and then it sort of flipped back to Steve. This has been different. This, you know. (Pause.) This has been different. So I have had to adjust to that. I’m a private person, so that’s been a bit of a surprise for me, not something I would have predicted. Maybe I should have.
Rex Tillerson is the CEO of Exxon (XOM), which is at any given moment the second-most valuable company in the world. I’m guessing 10 percent of our readers know who he is. I’m guessing less than 1 percent could spot him on sight. By virtue of Steve Jobs and his legacy and by virtue of Apple living in everyone’s pocket, you’re famous. I mean, really, globally famous.
I don’t feel famous. You know, I lead a simple life. My life is incredibly simple. But what’s changed is that, yeah, people recognise me. They may think, “I have seen him before. You know, the CEO of Apple” or whatever. And so it has been a bit of adjustment for me, because for years I had the privilege of being anonymous.
There is a great privilege in that if you’re a private person. So it’s a bit different. I love Apple deeply, and I’m having the time of my life. Obviously, if I could rewind the clock, Steve would still be here. He was a dear friend—much more than a boss.
But I love being CEO of Apple. I love it. It’s just something I have to, and continue to, adjust to. If you have some ideas there of how I can do it better, I would love to hear it. (Laughs.)
To read the rest of the interview, click here