Steve Jobs’ exit highlights importance of succession planning

A succession planning expert says start-up founders should be wary of “becoming the business” following the shock resignation of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs.


It was revealed this morning that Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple, stepping into the role of chairman and director of the company.


Jobs will be replaced by Tim Cook, who has filled in for Jobs since he took indefinite leave earlier in the year for health reasons. Jobs is battling a rare form of pancreatic cancer.


“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs said in a statement.


“Unfortunately, that day has come… As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.”


Cook was recruited by Jobs in 1998 to oversee the manufacturing of Apple’s computers. Prior to his appointment at Apple, Cook worked at IBM and computing company Compaq.


In 2004, Cook filled in for Jobs while he recovered from surgery, and was later charged with the responsibility of Apple’s worldwide sales and its Mac computer division.


He was appointed chief operating officer of Apple in 2005, and stepped in for Jobs again in 2009.


But despite Cook’s huge involvement in the day-to-day running of the company, Jobs has continued to act as the face of Apple, embodying its casual approach to corporate culture.


Not only did Jobs co-found the company, he brought it back from near bankruptcy when he returned to the helm in 1997. He has also played a key role in developing and promoting new products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad.


It’s too early to tell what impact Jobs’ resignation will have on the company’s image, but some industry experts have raised doubts over Cook’s ability to uphold Apple’s signature style.


John Downes, director of the Business Development Company, says Jobs’ resignation should serve as a reminder for start-ups to think about how their business would survive if they were to take extended leave or exit the business.


“We have all heard the cautionary tales of business owners preparing to sell up and move on, only to discover that they are the business,” he says. 

“Too many business owners hang on to the everyday intricacies of running their businesses, working 80 hour weeks and spending days off fielding calls from staff not able to make a decision without them.”


“Essentially, they are paying their staff to watch them work.”


According to Downes, there are four things business owners must do in order for their business to function without them.


His suggestions include having a good understanding of the company’s finances, educating staff about their roles, and being consistent and disciplined with staff to hold them accountable.


Martin Nally, StartupSmart mentor and founder of hranywhere, says start-ups must continue to grow or let someone else take over.


“You need to have a process where you’re not standing still… That’s the issue. You can’t wait for the plateau – you have to anticipate the plateau,” Nally told StartupSmart.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.