John Sculley will go down in history as one of the world’s most successful CEOs. As President of PepsiCo, then later CEO of Apple Inc. Sculley’s ability to understand consumer behavior helped him lead these companies into highly profitable global giants that few companies will ever match in terms of annual sales and revenue.
The Early Years
In 1967, John Sculley left an advertising job to join PepsiCo in its marketing department as the company’s first MBA. But when Sculley showed up for work, he learned that PepsiCo didn’t have anything for him to do. “I was given neither an assignment nor an office.”
Making the Best of It
In his book, Odyssey (1987) Sculley outlines how he turned a dead-end job at PepsiCo into his pathway to success. With no job to do each day Sculley turned to reading mounds of consumer research files that he found lying around that had been cast aside. “I was disillusioned but determined to take advantage of my time. So, I would arrive each day, find a place to sit, and begin to sift through every research file I could find.” Eventually, Sculley’s understanding of consumer behaviour propelled his career to stratospheric heights.
Steve Jobs & Apple Inc.
In 1983 Steve Jobs knew that if Apple Inc was to thrive in the highly competitive market of home computer sales it needed an experienced, visionary leader. “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me to change the world,” Jobs asked Sculley. It wasn’t easy for Jobs to recruit Sculley into becoming Apple’s new CEO, but in the end, it was worth the effort. While serving as the CEO of Apple Inc, from 1983 to 1993, Sculley fuelled sales growth of Apple Inc. from $800 million to $8 billion annually.
Lessons From John Sculley
John Sculley used his dead-end job at PepsiCo to propel his career forward in a way that no one could have ever predicted. Academics who study leadership call Sculley’s time at PepsiCo leadership without portfolio. Truly, Sculley used his downtime to learn and create a vision for the future. Inspiring!
Elaine Allan, BA, MBA
Technology & Business BloggerVancouver, BC, Canada