At the end of September last year, the mystery was revealed as to where Apple CEO Tim Cook would go after his ten-year term ended. At that time, Apple gave Cook an option worth more than $76 million to encourage him to stay in office until 2025.
In an interview with the New York Times recently, Cook was asked about retention-related issues. Cook stated that he may step down as Apple's CEO in the next 10 years:
I am in very good condition now, and it has not yet reached the date of leaving office. But 10 years is too long, and I may not stay for another 10 years.
This sentence is a bit sloppy. After all, I have accepted the option award given by Apple, so I have to stay in office until 2025. After retiring after maturity, it can be regarded as resigning within 10 years.
More heated discussion is who will be at the helm of Apple after Cook. In previous public interviews, Cook did not disclose specific succession plans. However, we can still piece together the appearance of the next Apple CEO from scattered information.
▲ Picture from: Sky News
What is the most important ability to become an Apple CEO
In March 1998, Jobs hired Cook, then 37, as Apple's senior vice president of global operations. The basic salary is 400,000 US dollars, and the signing bonus is 500,000 US dollars. Cook's main task is to completely rectify Apple's chaotic manufacturing and distribution at that time.
More than ten years later, Cook has used Apple's global market value to prove that he is one of Jobs' most successful recruitments.
▲ Cook in his youth (second from left). Picture from: Pinterest
Many people believe that Jobs chose Cook to take over as his CEO because he appreciates his calm character, broad vision, and expensive ability.
This is certainly true. But what is curious is that in terms of work ability, what specific characteristics does Cook have, which determines that he is the best candidate for succession?
In "The Biography of Tim Cook", we can find a detailed answer. At the same time, you can get a glimpse of what qualities Apple's next CEO should possess.
▲A group photo of Cook and Jobs. Picture from: businessinsider
In this book, it can be divided into three chapters. One is why Cook can take over, the second is how Cook completes the transition, and the third is how to lead Apple through the wind and waves.
We will not discuss today how Cook stabilized the internal and reshaped the image after taking over Apple, and how to reach new heights by creating new products, expanding markets and new values. We focus on the first chapter, what are the sufficient and necessary conditions for Cook to succeed.
In a nutshell, the secret of Cook's succession lies in his expertise and ability to ensure the smooth development of Apple. These capabilities include three aspects. One is that he is good at grasping the key personal characteristics of the problem, the other is that he is very good at supply chain management, and the third is that the establishment of Apple's foundry strategy has enabled Apple to revive.
Although these three expertise are indispensable, the most important thing is the superb ability of supply chain management .
▲ Cook is on the production line. Picture from: 9to5mac
How important is supply chain management to Apple? The author of "The Biography of Tim Cook" wrote:
Many people may not realize that for a mature company like Apple, the most important thing is not the product, but the logistics-efficient supply chain, distribution, finance and marketing. Cook has demonstrated his extraordinary talents in these areas. Therefore, according to De Diou, he is the best CEO Apple has ever made.
In the official biography of Xiaomi, "Going Nowhere", it also emphasizes the importance of supply chain management to Xiaomi, and it can even be said that it determines the direction of Xiaomi's destiny.
And the reason why Cook can become a master of supply chain management is closely related to his growth experience.
▲ Sentimental Cook. Picture from: businessinsider
Cook's first job at IBM after graduation was to handle supply chain relationships and ensure the smooth progress of PC assembly. During this period, Cook began to accumulate capabilities in supply chain operations and inventory management.
Thanks to his outstanding performance, Cook was regarded by IBM as a rising star and was sent to study for an MBA. Cook recalled this MBA journey in 2016, saying that this journey not only improved his management and leadership skills, but also gave him a global vision of identifying opportunities.
Later, the 37-year-old Cook entered Apple for only 7 months and reduced Apple's product inventory period from 30 days to 6 days, and carried out a thorough reform of Apple's operating system.
Four years after joining Apple, Cook became executive vice president of global sales and operations. Three years later, he was promoted to COO (Chief Operating Officer).
▲ Picture from: nypost
What specific strategies Cook used to make Apple's sales and operating channels smooth and smooth is not the focus of our discussion today. The important thing is that we have seen from these experiences of Cook, the importance of operating capability for him to take over Apple.
If you consider Apple’s current executives from this perspective, the one who is most likely to become Cook’s successor is Jeff Williams.
▲ Apple’s current core executive, Jeff Williams in the lower right corner
A man highly similar to Cook
Williams is currently Apple's COO, responsible for overseeing Apple's entire global business and customer service support. It happens to be the same as Cook's previous position as CEO.
In 2015, when Cook appointed Williams as COO, there was a rumor that Apple was cultivating Williams to become Cook's successor. Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin said:
Williams is being trained by Cook, and he is a suitable candidate for that position.
▲ Jeff Williams. Picture from: appleinside
Although Williams rarely accepts media interviews and has relatively few public appearances, news about him has been increasing in recent years. Bloomberg once bluntly stated:
Williams is a humble, disciplined and demanding leader. Like Cook, he is a model of operational efficiency and even temperament.
In fact, Williams and Cook have many similarities. Some foreign media even commented on it as a "clone version of Cook". In terms of working style and lifestyle, the two are very close.
The similar management style may make Apple's major shareholders more assured that the company can maintain a stable development trajectory after the handover of the two, and there will be no major changes in the mode of operation.
▲Even looks a bit like. Picture from: appleinsider
In addition, Williams and Cook are also surprisingly consistent in their growth experience. Both grew up in the southern United States, and both have a bachelor's degree in engineering, and both had an MBA at Duke University.
Before joining Apple, Williams also worked for IBM for a long time, as long as 13 years. Both entered Apple in 1998. Since then, Williams began to serve as Apple's global procurement director, responsible for product planning, procurement and logistics.
▲Williams was interviewed by Walter Mossberg in 2015. Picture from: appleinsider
It can be said that Williams and Cook are highly similar in many respects. Cook also praised Williams's supply chain management capabilities and pointed out in a statement:
Williams is the best operations executive I have ever worked with.
Cook has done a good job in the position of CEO, in fact, it is also inseparable from his engineering background, which allows him to have a considerable level of control and thinking about hardware products. Williams is the same, and he has a richer experience in hardware and software design than Cook.
▲ Jeff Williams discusses the new health features of Apple Watch on stage. Picture from: appleinsider
The classic design of the double-sided glass of the iPhone 4 is inseparable from the leading participation of Williams. In addition, the development of several popular product lines like iPad, iPod and Mac also has important contributions from Williams. With its outstanding supply chain collaboration and operational capabilities, Williams was evaluated by Fortune magazine in 2011 as:
Tim Cook of Tim Cook.
In the days as COO chief operating officer, Williams also led the development of the Apple Watch product line, and the market performance of this device is already obvious to all.
▲ Picture from: iphonetaiwan
From various perspectives, Williams is the best candidate for the next CEO. However, some people are worried that by 2025, Williams will be 62 years old, and whether he still has the energy and willingness to take over this burden requires a question mark.
A few years ago, there were rumors that Angela Ahrendts, then senior vice president of Apple's retail business, was a high probability candidate to succeed Apple.
▲Angela Ahrendts. Picture from: businessoffashion
From the luxury brand Burberry to Apple in 2014, he is responsible for Apple's retail and online store business. Ahrendts has always been Apple's highest-level female employee. A 2018 document showed that his annual salary was US$26.5 million, which was much higher than Cook’s US$15.7 million.
However, the "successor rumors" were self-defeating at the beginning of 2019 because Ahrendts proposed to leave.
If Williams is concerned about his age in taking over Cook, then John Tenus has a strong advantage.
According to TechWeb reports, Apple is now paying more and more attention to potential candidates for the next CEO, and Tenus is among the targets of attention. Although there is no authoritative source to disclose the age of Tenus, he is estimated to be about 12 years younger than Williams based on his age at school.
Since joining Apple in 2001, Tenus has made many outstanding achievements in the field of hardware engineering. Including the first generation of AirPods and past generations of iPad, he led the charge.
In April 2021, Tenus was promoted to Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering, reporting directly to Cook. At present, Tenus is responsible for leading all of Apple's hardware engineering, including product lines such as iPhone, iPad, Mac, AirPods and so on.
He led the development of the iPhone 12 series and the highly acclaimed M1 chip, which shows his important position in the Apple team.
Tenus's knowledge of hardware engineering is highly valued by Cook. The latter once commented on him:
Tenus' deep expertise and extensive experience will make him a bold and visionary leader of Apple's hardware engineering team.
Although Tenus has little experience in operations, his accumulation in the hardware field and his position in Apple still make him the next CEO.
After all, Jobs is also a hardware background, and the COO can be responsible for operational matters. Moreover, Apple's current supply chain management is already very mature. Tenus doesn't have to worry about reorganization like when Cook first came to Apple, and more importantly, maintain or even accelerate Apple's pace of innovation.
For some time to come, the focus of Apple's efforts is likely to be AR and health. I believe that both Tenus and Williams have the corresponding ability to dig its moat deeper and deeper. So here comes the question: these two excellent candidates, who are you more optimistic about?
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