Business is business. No matter how small your idea is if you have good business, people will cater to you. For instance, there used to be newsboys throwing dailies right into homes. They made some (not much but some). They’re gone now. Such client reciprocity could also apply to the biggest companies on the planet, to their detriment. And we may have no better example than the multi-billion pride of Finland, Nokia. At its peak, the Finnish company was worth $300 bn. It was so big that its yearly budget was bigger than that of the government of Finland itself. Imagine that.
Today, Nokia is but a shadow of its former self. And yes, where the Scandinavian country was known for exporting phones worldwide, today not a single phone is produced there. It’s hard to imagine how such a colossus fell. But it did. And that’s just how business is. One man wearing jeans and a shirt got a better idea. He took all that keypad buttons off a phone and put a screen instead. All-screen to be exact. His name was Steve Jobs and his product: the iPhone. The rest is history.
How Giants Fall
It’s hard to be humble when you’re Nokia. If you’re the market leader in the technology of mobile phones for 14 years, then you’d know it can be overwhelming.
At the onset, Nokia was into innovation. Its history dates back to 1865 when a Finnish-Swish engineer decided to establish a pulp mill. And it was this innovative spirit that at Nokia produced the iconic 5110 and 3310 mobile phone product offerings at the turn of the 21st century.
So massive was Nokia’s success that in October of 1998, the Finnish giant became the #1 mobile phone company in the world. That was the time that it overtook Motorola. Months after it shipped its 100 millionth phone. That year, the company profited $2.6 billion.
So much success, however, can be blinding. Nokia commanded a global market share in mobile phones of over 40 percent. As the market changed its tastes, Nokia was unable to make proper adjustments to position itself. It hanged unto its old success: its keypad phones.
And as Steve Jobs overtook the market in 2007 with his all-screen-and-no-keyboard iPhones, Nokia had nothing to offer. From there forward, it was a precipitous fall. Till eventually, it had to sell its mobile phone business, or whatever is left of it to Microsoft.
Everything Hinges on Leadership
The innovative company was at the top of the world, earning billions. And it sat at its laurels. Nokia’s fall was a failure of leadership. That’s the reason why the first thing the board of directors did to salvage the company was to change its CEO.
In September 2010, Nokia installed Stephen Elop as CEO. He used to Microsoft’s head in-charge of Office. At this point, the Finnish company was bleeding, its sales dropping like an errant plane out of the sky. They say they also approached Tim Cook, Steve Job’s right-hand man, and the COO of Apple. But to no avail.
Getting a true leader to lead a company is more than a blessing. It can be the difference to determine if a company goes down or not.
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For its part, Nokia looked for a leader to keep it out of business. But even Stephen Elop wasn’t enough. Experts believe Elop failed massively in his glorious attempts to get the company back on its feet. And they could be right.
When Elop was at Nokia’s helm, the company was worth €29.5bn. Years later, it was just worth €11bn.
The Man of the Hour
The leader that put his name in the stratosphere at this time was, of course, Steve Jobs. The visionary leader of Apple was a perfectionist to the last detail. And while Nokia was much awash in its success in the late 1990s, Steve was making his way to the top.
And what a product Steve Jobs made. Never has there been a product like Steve’s iPhone. People went crazy over it. When initially launched in 2007, iPhones made enough splash that was heard all over the world. It was not the market leader yet, but it steadily climbed. By 2011 Apple sold over 100 million iPhones. That year, it became the biggest mobile phone company in the world.
Just recently, in July of 2020, Apple became the “most valuable” publicly-traded company in the whole wide world. And yes, it’s true. One leader made all the difference.