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Leading Apple With Steve Jobs: Management Lessons From a Controversial Genius by Jay Elliot

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Acquiring a Company Can Water Down Your Vision and Culture

One trap that a great many companies fall into lies in acquiring a new company without first making sure that the culture of the company being acquired is a good match for the culture of your own firm. This was another strength of Steve Jobs: He always showed very good judgment about whether to hire people who had the particular technological expertise he was looking for or, instead, to license the technology or acquire the entire company.

He had been on the other end of that equation when he left Apple and was running NeXT. Apple was in need of a new operating system, and the NeXTStep operating system that Steve’s software engineers had developed was one of the leading candidates. Apple could have just licensed NeXTStep or purchased the technology outright. But the Apple CEO at the time, Gil Amelio, saw that by buying not just the software but the entire company, Apple would acquire the services of many talented software engineers—people who had created the NeXT operating system and would be the best qualified to rewrite the software to run on the Mac. So that’s what Gil did: he offered Steve a deal to buy not just the software but the entire company—acquiring the technology, the entire staff that had been so carefully assembled, and Steve himself.

It was a well-reasoned decision. Steve and Gil both understood that the culture of NeXT was identical to the original culture of Apple—because Steve had created them both. It ...

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