Finally filling the slot left vacant after former retail chief John Browett was fired last year, Apple on Tuesday announced that Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts will take on the newly-created position of Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores.
Not only does she have a good handle on how to sell things but, as someone with CEO experience coming in to Apple, she could have an impact throughout the organization. Along with being the only female at that level.
Perhaps even running Apple someday is in the cards? She has put herself in the best spot to accomplish that, I think. Selling Apple stuff is what makes the company function. And she is in charge of pretty much all the Apple-owned places to sell.
It will be interesting to see what effect she has though, because, as Jobs commented, a company often dies when it gets taken over by sales-marketing people (my bold):
“The technology crashed and burned at Xerox. Why? I learned more about this with John Sculley later on. What happens is, John came from Pepsico. And they—at most—would change their product once every 10 years. To them, a new product was a new sized bottle. So if you were a ‘product person’, you couldn’t change the course of that company very much. So, who influences the success at Pepsico? The sales and marketing people. Therefore they were the ones that got promoted, and they were the ones that ran the company. Well, for Pepsico that might have been okay, but it turns out the same thing can happen at technology companies that get monopolies. Like IBM and Xerox. If you were a ‘product person’ at IBM or Xerox: so you make a better copier or better computer. So what? When you have a monopoly market-share, the company’s not any more successful. So the people who make the company more successful are the sales and marketing people, and they end up running the companies. And the ‘product people’ get run out of the decision-making forums. The companies forget how to make great products. The product sensibility and product genius that brought them to this monopolistic position gets rotted out by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product vs. a bad product. They have no conception of the craftsmanship that’s required to take a good idea and turn it into a good product. And they really have no feeling in their hearts about wanting to help the costumers.”
This is a danger for Apple. It is something I have seen again and again. It is why I often look to see if the CEO is ‘of’ the industry or simply a sales monkey.
Because a sales monkey only sees things to sell and will just move onto the next thing to sell when things get tough. But when they are ‘of’ the industry, they understand the sensibility and genius of the company.
We have only to look at the previous head of retail who damaged the Apple experience in the quest for higher margins. He simply did not fit Apple’s sensibility.
So we will need to see if Angela contains the inner understanding to eventually run Apple. Because if she turns out to be a sales/marketing drone like the last one, she should be gone and I would sell Apple if she became CEO. But if she has a similar sensibility as Jobs – who was ‘of’ the industry and a great sale/marketing person – then maybe she could run Apple someday.
We shall see.