I've been tracking Guy Kawasaki since the late 1980s. We were both at Apple back in the day, and we've had many chances to interact before, during, and since our time at the tech company. Recently, I talked to Guy on my podcast, All Access Radio. We discussed how lucky we were to work closely with Steve Jobs -- an incredible experience that left an indelible impact on our respective career paths.

Our conversation reminded me that while Guy is influential to many people, I've had the privilege of a front-row seat to his wisdom and insights. Thanks to him, I've learned many lessons about being a great thought leader and influencer. Here are a few of the biggest takeaways I'd like to share.

1. The customer isn't always right. Customers don't always know what they need. In fact, they rarely know what they need. It's up to you to share a vision for what you've created on their behalf and how it will improve their life experiences.

Recently, I had a casual conversation with someone at an industry event. As I listened to what the person was expressing, I was able to connect the dots in a highly matrixed way in real time and reflect back to her what I was hearing, and some tangible needs materialized. She asked whether I could help her address them, and lo and behold, she became a new client on the spot -- even though she hadn't realized she needed help.

No matter your industry, learn to read between the lines of what customers say or do. Observe things that others don't, and share those insights.

2. Value matters more than price. Brands such as Apple thrive because customers are willing to pay more for superior experiences.

Consider the value your proposition brings to the customer. On selling value, Guy says, "Unless you're saying something that's directly opposite what everybody else is saying, you're not saying anything." By that, he means that how your company is perceived is your strongest differentiator. Yes, your product should be stellar, but it's equally important to consider how the customer feels while she's using it.

As more industries become commoditized, the competition really comes down to customer experience. If they love it, and the experience surprises and delights them, they'll tell their friends, spread the word, and become repeat customers.

3. Marry up -- so to speak. The people you surround yourself with will play a huge role in your success or failure. When it comes to hiring, slow down and make sure you select the very best people with the best attitudes.

When Guy and I were at Apple, we had plenty of resources to hire agencies and consultants as well as employees. We both took care to hire the best people and teams we could find, and then utilized them again and again. Once I started my own practice, I did the same, and it has made a huge difference in my business results, profits, reputation, and even stress levels.

Bad hires can affect every aspect of business. Research shows that a bad hire can cost $25,000 or more, and that's not to mention the potential chaos caused for the whole team, department, or company.

It's essential, though, to understand what makes someone "bad." Guy especially likes to talk about hiring "infected" people. The best credentials and experience mean nothing if the hire doesn't love your product or has a bad attitude. For that reason, always "marry up" by hiring people better than yourself and looking for those with passion. Steve Jobs often shared that he looked at people's eyes to see if they lit up as an indicator of whether they'd be candidates he'd want on his team.

4. Belief before sight. Don't wait for proof. The most successful entrepreneurs first have the vision and passion for what they build. They believe in it wholeheartedly, and only afterward do they experience the actual results.

Guy once said, "The reason why Macintosh was successful is that, at the core, 100 people, starting with Steve Jobs, believed in Macintosh. And because we believed in Macintosh, we made it real."

Make sure your team holds an unshakeable shared vision. Make tweaks as necessary, but never lose the unwavering conviction that you're providing value and creating impact. Then you'll be way ahead of the pack.

Published on: Sep 25, 2016