Manage Your Practice like Steve Jobs Managed Apple

As you probably know, Steve Jobs built the most valuable company in the world and revolutionized the computer and entertainment industries. He was the Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford of our times.

In the April 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review, biographer Walter Isaacson outlines Steve Jobs’ leadership approaches. You can improve your practice with these four ideas from the article.


When Jobs took back control of Apple, it was producing dozens of different computers and nearly bankrupt. Steve turned the company around by focusing on just four computers and making them perfect.

If you are trying to provide too many types of services, you do not have time to master any of them.

For example, when a general dentist tries to provide orthodontic, periodontic, cosmetic and surgical services to all of his patients, he makes mistakes and generates complaints. When this dentist focuses on just one or two types of services, he gets very good at them. He builds a reputation and climbs to the top.

Take Responsibility End to End

When Steve Jobs saw how stores were selling Apple products, he was disappointed. He decided to take responsibility for every aspect of the consumer experience and so created a better store.

Now, you can use an Apple store to learn about Apple products, buy Apple products, learn to use Apple products and get repair service for your Apple products, all in one location.

The software and hardware on an Apple product is made by Apple. Apple products work perfectly well with other Apple products. Steve Jobs controlled everything to ensure his customers were delighted.

How can you take more end-to-end responsibility for your patients?

Examine each point of contact. Start at the beginning. Find your weakest points and improve them.

For example, when new patients come in, are you bursting with pride with the impressions they receive? Your forms, your furniture, even your doorknob, makes a statement about your practice.

Put Products Before Profits

John Sculley, who ran Apple from 1983 to 1993, was a marketing and sales executive from Pepsi. He focused on profit maximization and Apple’s income declined.

When Jobs returned, he shifted Apple’s focus back to making “insanely great” products: the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. As he explained, “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary.”

When you make your profit more important than your patients’ experiences, you hurt your practice.

For example, low-pay employees who repel patients, uncomfortable furniture, old-tech treatment equipment, poorly ventilated office space, low-quality educational material and so on.

Tolerate Only “A” Players

Jobs was famously tough with the people around him. He expected perfection. “I don’t think I run roughshod over people,” he said, “but if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest.”

As a result, the best performers thrived. They felt more loyalty to Apple than similar workers feel in other companies. Jobs said, “By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things.”

You can read the Harvard Business Review article in their website’s April 2012 magazine issue.