An Apple a Day

Apple may be the Great American Company — the heir to the spirit of Henry Ford who revolutionized corporations worldwide by modernizing the assembly line to facilitate production of his legendary Model T car.  Similarly, Apple under Steve Jobs’ leadership expresses everything that Americans naturally do well — innovation, high quality, smart growth, and nimbleness.

The recession and credit crisis are not slowing Apple, Inc.’s growth as the firm announced plans to open 25 new stores worldwide this year. Two of the new stores are in the Chicago area – one a 15,000 SF boutique in the city’s Clybourn Corridor and another in 42,000 SF in west suburban Naperville.

Apple’s balance sheet is firmly in the black, and the firm employs 35,000 individuals  globally.  After 30 years, the firm’s brand personality is still groundbreaking, sleek and cool.  Think how the iPod changed the music business and the iPhone has redefined the P.D.A.

Apple’s culture of collaboration is legendary (the ipod, for example, was created by 4 people under the aegis of Steve Jobs) with a belief in also fostering individuality that draws very talented people. To recognize its top employees, Apple created the Apple Fellows program for those who have made extraordinary technical or leadership contributions to personal computing while at the company. The Apple Fellows include Bill Atkinson an and  Steve Capps (two of the creators of the Mac), Guy Kawasaki (marketing guru and legendary blogger) Al Alcorn (one of the brains behind Atari), and Don Norman (cognitive scientist and usability expert).  All that talent has translated to a product that is still peerless in its reputation.  According to surveys by J. D. Power. Apple has the highest brand and repurchase loyalty of any computer manufacturer worldwide.

It is ironic that Apple’s rejuvenation comes during a time when the automakers – the symbol of the primacy of the American corporate model – have seen their fortunes tumble because of antiquated systems, an ossified culture and diluted brands.  As they emerge from Chapter 11, there are few better companies to study than Apple – a firm that Henry Ford would have been proud of.