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36
STRATEGY

What Really Makes Apple Sexy

Some elements of running a business seem downright dull ... until you see the payoff.

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Four days, 11 countries, 3 million devices–amazing. That's the only word to describe the launch of the latest Apple tablet.

The new iPad drew the type of fanfare we've all come to expect with an Apple launch. Being in the consumer electronics industry, all of us at OtterBox were also buzzing with excitement. As expected, each iteration of iDevice comes with new bells and whistles; but can consumers truly fathom what "a million more pixels than an HDTV" actually means? I can't, but it sure sounds impressive. Incremental innovation has driven the latest and greatest from Apple, each time with more excitement.

The touchscreen technology that Apple introduced to the iPod Touch initially was truly groundbreaking and industry changing. It was something customers  literally wanted to get their hands on. Since then, screen sizes have changed, software has become faster and cameras more impressive. All of these are notable, but where Apple really innovates is not quite as noticeable to customers and the public. It's the supply chain.

Anyone working with consumer goods knows how complex a global supply chain can be. Our supply chain is one of the things that sets OtterBox apart, but it's also still a bottleneck for us. The secret to managing (if not mastering) supply chain issues, is a system. Actually, systems are the secret to overcoming any bottleneck, headache or roadblock in your business.

As a rapidly growing company, OtterBox has spent a lot of time and energy during the last few years putting into place, replacing and revamping our systems. This is one of the constant evolutions of a business since systems can easily be outgrown. A forward-looking company with a concrete vision will be able to staunch the flow of no longer useful systems by putting into place what the business will need in five or even 10 years. It's about scalability.

Apple's ability to go to market with a product, which up until the week before had been kept completely under wraps, in as many countries with as many units as were available, is just short of miraculous. There were rumblings that the sharp new displays could cause an iPad shortage but Apple proved these theories wrong.

Apple seems to have systems running like a well-tuned engine. Perhaps, one day, they'll give us insight into the systems that allow the company deliver 3 million top-secret, high-tech devices in a four-day period. Given their ability to hold things close to the vest, maybe not.

Lucky for us, there are already a lot of great books written on the topic. As the wise Michael Gerber so helpfully points out in e-Myth: Let systems run the business and people run the systems.

Last updated: Apr 6, 2012

OtterBox founder and CEO CURT RICHARDSON created the first prototype of a waterproof case in his garage in the early '90s. OtterBox evolved into a leader in protective cases for mobile technology.
@OtterBox




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