Why Tim Cook doesn’t care about ‘the bloody ROI’

“Steve Jobs was once asked at an Apple [AAPL] shareholder meeting by a shareholder who wanted get some insights into his deepest thinking: ‘What keeps you awake at night?'” Steve Denning writes for Forbes. “Mr. Jobs replied, ‘Shareholder meetings.'”

“The wisdom of this insight was borne out last week when Mr. Jobs’s successor at Apple, Tim Cook, was asked at the annual shareholder meeting by the NCPPR, the conservative finance group, to disclose the costs of Apple’s energy sustainability programs, and make a commitment to doing only those things that were profitable,” Denning writes. “Mr. Cook replied –with an uncharacteristic display of emotion–that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues.”

MacDailyNews Note: In the interest of accuracy, we’ll skip the usual misquotes and paraphrasing. What Cook actually said was reported by The Loop‘s Jim Dalrymple thusly:

No, I wouldn’t be willing to say that because we do things for other reasons than profit motives. We do things because they are right and just and that is who we are. That’s who we are as a company. I don’t… when I think about human rights, I don’t think about an ROI. When I think about making our products accessible for the people that can’t see or to help a kid with autism, I don’t think about a bloody ROI, and by the same token, I don’t think about helping our environment from an ROI point of view. It’s not how I look at it. My simple point was if you did only look at it in that way for the Maiden data center, the same decisions would have been made and so there are cases where you can see these two spheres connecting but I’m not going to say that that’s all I’m going to do by any means. I don’t look at it that way. Just to be very straightforward with you, if that’s a hard line for you, if you only want me to make things, make decisions that have a clear ROI, then you should get out of the stock just to be plain and simple… Thank you. I think it’s so important to remember that the Apple brand stands for something and you can’t take each piece of it and say, “This has a 20% ROI and this has a 15, and you shouldn’t have given this $100 million to education,” and all this kind of stuff. That’s not the way we look at it. It’s not who we are as people.

“What the NCPPR is exemplifying is the 20th Century traditional management mindset that has for decades been chasing short-term profits and destroying the long-term profitability of so many companies. The rates of return on assets and on invested capital of US firms continue on their disastrous decline,” Denning writes. “By contrast, the management of Apple, before Steve Jobs and now Tim Cook, has its mind clearly focused on delighting customers in a holistic way. The result? Huge profitability in both the short- and long-term.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
If Tim Cook does not care about the ‘bloody ROI’, does he care about the bloody stock price? – March 4, 2014
Apple’s Tim Cook and his dilemma over sustainability and climate change – March 3, 2014
Tim Cook gets angry over shareholder proposal for environmental spending transparency, says those who disagree should get out of Apple stock – March 1, 2014

38 Comments

        1. Only the incomparable botvinnik could post a comment that earned 29 down votes, then repost the SAME comment and earn nine up votes! Remarkable! Reminds me of the game with the double queen sacrifice (the second promoted)! Winning it with a fork!

  1. Just like the fictional 20th Century Motor Corporation was guided by more noble goals than ROI too. Until they went belly up anyway. “Atlas Shrugged” has been reclassified as non-fiction.

    1. Andy, you clearly do not understand Ayn Rand’s philosophy. She would view Tim Cook as a champion and the NCPPR as part of the problem. Although you, Alan Greenspan, and Wall Street misinterpret her primary point as being “greed is good” and that that is the only criteria for making corporate decisions, her actual primary point is that great people with great talent and vision push mankind forward with great achievements in spite of the masses of men and businesses that drag mankind down by championing mediocrity, status quo, and cronyism. Making a profit for profit’s sake is totally antithesis to Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Creating wealth and improving the state of the world by making world changing products ethically and with integrity is seen by Rand as being the pinnacle of man’s purpose on earth. People who can do this are like Greek Gods that walk among us and make mankind great. Without these great achievers, Rand believes society would collapse into a miserable state. So I believe that if Rand were alive today, she would see Steve Jobs (and Tim Cook too since he is a great and ethical achiever whose goal is to make absolutely great, uncompromising products for the world) as A-listers, and people like Bill Gates who created and maintained the status quo of an empire based on mediocre products through unethical, competition-blocking business practices and cronyism with Intel, Dell and others as F-listers. And I think she would view the NCPPR, who value greed above all else, line their pockets with unearned treasure, and achieve nothing of value for the world, as the lowest of scum.

  2. “What the NCPPR is exemplifying is the 20th Century traditional management mindset that has for decades been chasing short-term profits and destroying the long-term profitability of so many companies. The rates of return on assets and on invested capital of US firms continue on their disastrous decline.” In short, what NCPPR and its ilk are demonstrating are the worst aspects of capitalism and why it will eventually implode as we know it.

    1. NCPPR are forgetting that Capitalism requires that it be built on ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST, not just the latter. Both parts are essential for success. Mere self-interest means that there is little difference in the ethics of the bank robber and the self-interested capitalist. . . But when you add enlightenment to the self-interest, and the capitalistic ethic includes that enlightenment, yen the benefits of capitalism are shared with the workers, investors, society, and it flows outward like a river, expanding to the benefit of all. There really were no “robber barons” of old—that was a term invented by the socialists. . . look at the legacies these Capitalists left behind from what they built because of their enlightened self interest .

  3. I find this label unfortunate, “the conservative finance group”.

    Yes, there is an unfortunate amount of overlap between “conservative” and “pathological selfishness”. But many conservatives do care about other people and about the air we breathe and the water we drink.

    A better label than conservative for these folks would be “the don’t give a flying fuck about anyone or anything besides myself finance group”.

      1. Hmm… self-proclamation is often self delusion.

        There is a way to build a company that is sustaining, ecological supportive and not only profitable but also support a business model where all of the employees thrive, not just survive.

        DuckDuck the movie “Thrive” and have a look.
        There those of us who look at both side of the coin and seek to leave the world a better place than what we fund.

        Cheers.

    1. Most studies of charitable giving have found that self-identified conservatives give more of the incomes to charities than do self-identified Liberals. . . Consistently. Liberals look to government to use other people’s money to do “good works,” and consider that their taxes cover it. Conservatives prefer a do-it-yourself approach to doing “good works,” but still pay taxes.

  4. Just the idea that you would suggest Woz as a CEO says everything there is to say about clueless you are. At least where Apple is concerned. My God! Woz- CEO? What are you thinking?

  5. Hello, Yo Test…

    Your humour is falling on deaf ears. Maybe you should send an email directly to Tim.Cook@apple.com and see if you get an answer. He is always looking for advice from people who, like other imaginary beings in the sky, know it all.

    Heck the only person who knows it all is my wife. I haven’t had to use Gargle for almost ten years now. All I do is ask her. I mentioned your defected … er dedicated diatribe and how she felt and she replied, “Obviously, Yo Test, doesn’t know anything.

    So, there you have it.

    Oh, oh! One question: What have you done in YOUR life to provide 50,000 jobs worldwide (more, if you want to count manufacturing), have a net cash position of over $130 BILLION and have people crowding your stores to buy more of your innovations?

    Just wondering.

  6. Steve Jobs did not have to follow Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple and deal with the questions that would have been asked of him as the successor.

    Cook is not SJ. SJ was not Cook. SJ faced some difficulties associated with losses of key personnel losses during his tenure as Apple CEO…but nothing like the difficulties Cook has encountered attempting to replace an idealized, legendary visionary and founder and deal with the consequences of the management shakeup within the rest of the team. I think that Tim has done pretty well overall. Look around and you will observe that it could have been a lot worse.

    I enjoy anticipating, predicting, and discussing Apple product developments and new product releases and upgrades. It has been really fun since the late 1990s. But it has become some type of mental disease for pundits, journalists, bloggers, analysts, and even some of the people on this forum. Too many people seem to feel that Apple “owes” them something – innovation, “just one more thing” magical experiences, societal disruption – frequently and on a schedule. Apple may yet surprise us again…but that is up to them, not you.

    1. Very well put, KingMel: some type of mental disease.

      I have been studying this effect for some time now (more of a hobby than serious research) and think the key is devising a sensible system to classify memes, which shape perception, and hence behaviour, on a large scale today.

      Such research could hopefully lead to an understanding of their epidemiology. The flow of information can’t be regulated, but quantised babble such as urban myths can persist long enough to do measurable harm. FUD does the same. Does a way to counter these daggers of thought even exist?

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