It's time for another history lesson, in which Jester Makes History Fun. Are you seated comfortably? Then I'll begin.
This time, we're going to look at relatively recent history. In 1983, Apple Computer Company had only a few thousand employees, and had only been a publicly-traded company for three years. But in that time, Apple had also had a massive success, in its Apple II computer, and a massive failure, in its Apple III. It hadn't really advanced out of its infancy of a few guys in a garage. Its C-suite was made up of two college drop-outs with no business training whatsoever, and one former low-level marketing manager who'd made millions of dollars from some stock options. One of the college drop-outs was a guy named Steve Jobs, a person to whom banks would not lend money.(1) The low-level marketing manager had hired a former National Semiconductor director to be Apple's first CEO, but then replaced that man with himself when the former director personally flubbed Apple's first lay-off.
This is not what you would have called a professional business. ;-)
Though he obviously matured in later years, in his early career, Steve Jobs was erratic and temperamental and a very poor manager. But he was extremely charismatic and seductive as all hell. As I said in a previous blog post, I had the opportunity to work with Jobs a few times, and as I said in that post, Steve Jobs could be incredibly seductive when he wanted to be. He turned this seduction on a man named John Sculley.
And John Sculley was a professional... a PepsiCo VP and President, and a Wharton MBA. Sculley's training was in marketing, focused on Pepsi's soft drink lines, which were doing very poorly at the time he joined them. Sculley used his training and some brilliant marketing ideas to vault Pepsi into the top-tier of beverages, where it obviously still is today. Mike Markkula (the low-level marketing manager) wanted to leave the Apple CEO job and enjoy his retirement, but didn't feel that Jobs had the proper experience to run the fledgling company. Jobs -- perhaps surprisingly -- agreed, but his reasoning was different: he wanted someone that could sell his new Macintosh computer to corporate America. Jobs chose Sculley, closing the deal with perhaps the most famous recruiting pitch in the history of the computer industry: "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"
Sculley came to Apple, and was its first professionally-trained manager.(2) Of course, that didn't necessarily make him a good choice. The later clash between Sculley and Jobs in 1985 is now famous, and Sculley was remarkably tone-deaf about the technology industry. At one point, he demanded that the Macintosh price-point be increased $500 to $2500 to increase its margin and to pay for several expensive marketing campaigns. These and other mistakes caused Portfolio magazine to rate him as the 14th worst CEO of all time.
But let's stop there and focus on the interesting part of the story: the point at which two guys what built a computer in their garage finally decide to hire a pro to market their products.
Certainly, part of the credit for Apple's meteoric rise from 1985 on has to be given to the brilliant technical work that the Macintosh team put into their products. But when it comes to getting people to actually buy those products, pros play the game better than amateurs do. It's as simple as that. In my own job, I sometimes like to joke that trained professionals "bring a higher but more boring standard" to the work they do. Sure, they're more expensive. But you have less drama per capita, and far more success.
In a completely, utterly unrelated note, CCP has managed to seduce David Reid, former marketing chief at Trion Worlds, to take the C-suite position as CCP's Chief Marketing Officer. This is a very smart man, and this is quite a coup for CCP. Reid directed the absolutely brilliant launch of Trion World's RIFT property, getting people as diverse as total WoW addicts to people who have never played WoW like myself to at least try it out.
To say that I cannot wait to see what this man does with DUST 514, EVE, and CCP's other properties is understating the case by a good deal. I worry a bit about him wanting more money for his efforts than what CCP or its customers can currently sustain... but it's a small worry couched in a great deal of promise. This is another smart move by CCP in a fall and winter that's been full of smart moves.
(1) One famous venture capitalist of the time famously asked of Jobs, "Why did you send me this renegade from the human race?" after being introduced to him for the first time.
(2) Coincidentally, Microsoft was also hiring its first professionally-trained managers at about this same time.