Global MBA trek: A "fruitful" expedition to Apple Paris

By Global MBA student Yong Wang

At the beginning of the new year 2012, twelve members of the Global MBA cohort, including myself, enjoyed an unforgettable evening visiting Apple France.

We were warmly welcomed by members of the top management: sales director, retail director and country chair, HR manager, and the sales support director, who is also an ESSEC alumnus.

The trek began with and introduction to and upate on Apple’s iOS family, a product line with which we were all quite familiar. She emphasized that the iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry and that the iPad seized the niche market with powerful functions and competitive price. We then talked about Apple’s service contents, consisting of iTunes, the App Store, iBook, iWork, etc. Thanks to its organic integration of hardware, software and service contents, Apple surpassed Exxon Mobil to embrace the title of world's most valuable company in August 2011.

All of us raised hands for questions after her impressive presentation. After listening to my proposed question of, “I still remember in March 2011, Steve Jobs proudly declared to the whole world that 2010 was the Year of iPhone and 2011 would be the Year of iPad. What about the Year of 2012 ?”,  she laughed, recalling that once she asked the same question of a friend who had attended a confidential conference at Apple headquarters. Her friend simply replied, “I will be killed if I disclose it”. Obviously, we will have to wait until this year's Apple’s keynote to find out.

Next, we were presented Apple’s multi-channel distribution system --- retail stores, online stores, direct sales force, resellers, carriers, and wholesalers, among which 359 retail stores worldwide are Apple’s priceless assets. My classmate Julian asked whether Apple adopts the “hunger marketing” strategy, illustrating the recent unavailability of iPhone 4S in France during the Christmas holiday. The presenter attributed this to logistical problems. Another classmate, Samer, pointed out that Apple is cooperating with third-party cellular network carriers now but ultimately aims at getting rid of carriers. Interestingly, all four directors chose to smile and stay silent in response!

Our ESSEC alumnus, sales support director Mr. Yves Martin, started sharing us with his career experiences by citing one of Steve Jobs’ famous quotes:  “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy”. He joined in Apple in 1988 out of his fascination with Macintosh computer and games, left Apple in 2006 during a period of decline, and re-joined in Apple in 2001. His masters in finance at ESSEC, completed between 1979 and 1982n, paved his career path.

We learned briefly about Apple’s recruitment criteria, mainly the emphasis placed upon the principles of both Focus
and Expertise. Apple focuses on its core competence of designing electrical products by inviting experts in different fields, such as marketing, accounting, design, etc.

The session lasted for three hours, one hour longer than originally scheduled time. Questions regarding Apple’s products, services, distribution, strategy, future, competition and vision all came up. All of the directors were extremely happy to exchange with us. The vibrant discussions and interactions we shared made for a very fruitful evening, and all of us were very appreciative of their passion and willingness to share with us.

I have been fascinated by Apple's products, especially the  iPhone, which I see as a lifestyle device and a life facilitator. I really appreciate such an exceptional opportunity to explore Apple’s culture and to communicate with Apple’s top management here in France. Focus, a principle stressed by all of them, is embedded in my mind. Their emphasis on Focus and Expertise coincides exactly with the ideas that I took away from Steve Jobs' biography, written by Walter Isaacson.  I hope that 2012 will continue to be the Year of iTune U,  Apple TV, the iPad, and the  iPhone!

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