I remember the first time I met Steve Jobs like it was yesterday.
It was 1998, and Steve had returned to Apple the previous year. The first Internet gold rush was under way, and EarthLink was signing up the masses who wanted to get on the Internet for the first time. A long time Apple user, I had worked hard to make EarthLink the best ISP for the Mac, and I guess Steve had noticed, because he asked us to come up to Cupertino and meet with him. Steve walked into the conference room in jeans and flip flops and introduced himself. I told him I was an Apple fan boy since forever and asked him to tell us what his strategy was for the company. Steve got up on the white board and drew out his plan, confidently explaining how he was drastically simplifying Apple, cutting it back to four computers: a desktop and laptop each designed for home and business. And then he proposed to to make EarthLink the default ISP for Apple's new home desktop (the iMac) and eventually all Apple products.
As a result of that meeting, EarthLink became the first ISP presented to a new Mac user as soon as they turned on their computer for the first time. Apple later invested $200 million in EarthLink and one of Steve's most dedicated and insightful lieutenants, Phil Schiller, joined our board.
Today, as he steps down as CEO to battle problems with his health, many people are sharing Steve stories. Here's one from me: It was a hot August evening in 1998, and I was living in a little rented house in Toluca Lake, California. The phone rang, and I picked it up. "Hi Sky, it's Steve Jobs." After quickly getting over how he'd gotten my number, I asked him what was up. It turned out that one of EarthLink's PR team had gotten a little overly excited and briefed a reporter on our new partnership in advance of the press release. Steve had gotten wind and politely asked me to reign them in. I told him I really appreciated the heads up, and I'd do that right away. Steve gave me his home number and told me to call him if I ever needed anything. This was a guy who had at least 10,000 employees at the time.
A lot about being a great manager is knowing how much or how little detail to focus on. Howard Schultz has said, "Everything matters," and Steve Jobs certainly embodies that idea. But to me, it's as simple as, whether the outcome is accomplished directly or through your team, a great manager truly cares about everything. Steve truly cares about every detail of the user experience, far more than anyone I've ever seen, and he has an indomitable combination of being unrelenting and right.
Steve's legacy already spans generations. My 9 year old daughter isn't prone to idolize anyone, let alone me or the founder of a computer company. Last night, she asked me if I knew Steve Jobs, and when I nodded my head, she said, "cooooooool."