25 August 2011

Tim Cook: Fortune checked him out in 2008




Who is Tim Cook?
"An intensely private Alabaman and Auburn University engineering grad (class of 1982), Cook is also a workaholic whose only interests outside of Apple appear to be cycling, the outdoors, and Auburn football. (Talk about tough years: Apple's stock is down 50% year to date; the Tigers, nationally ranked early in the season, were 4-5 at presstime.) What's more, there's every reason to believe that Apple would at least be stable for some years to come if Cook were to find himself at the helm. The reason: He's essentially been running much of the company for years.




Demanding and even-keeled
Tim cook arrived at Apple in 1998 from Compaq Computer. He was a 16-year computer-industry veteran - he'd worked for IBM (IBM, Fortune 500) for 12 of those years - with a mandate to clean up the atrocious state of Apple's manufacturing, distribution, and supply apparatus. One day back then, he convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia.

"This is really bad," Cook told the group. "Someone should be in China driving this." Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, without a trace of emotion, "Why are you still here?"

Khan, who remains one of Cook's top lieutenants to this day, immediately stood up, drove to San Francisco International Airport, and, without a change of clothes, booked a flight to China with no return date, according to people familiar with the episode. The story is vintage Cook: demanding and unemotional.

Almost from the time he showed up at Apple, Cook knew he had to pull the company out of manufacturing. He closed factories and warehouses around the world and instead established relationships with contract manufacturers. As a result, Apple's inventory, measured by the amount of time it sat on the company's balance sheet, quickly fell from months to days. Inventory, Cook has said, is "fundamentally evil," and he has been known to observe that it declines in value by 1% to 2% a week in normal times, faster in tough times like the present.

"You kind of want to manage it like you're in the dairy business," he has said. "If it gets past its freshness date, you have a problem." This logistical discipline has given Apple inventory management comparable with Dell's, then as now the gold standard for computer-manufacturing efficiency.

We know what you're thinking: Why dwell on the backroom aspects of such a sexy company? Because that seemingly dull stuff is as important to Apple's success as the gorgeous designs and ultracool marketing. Forecasting demand, for example, and executing against that forecast, are critical in the computer industry, especially when new products quickly cannibalize the old."

http://money.cnn.com/2008/11/09/technology/cook_apple.fortune/

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