Recently I have read an interesting article: Peggy Noonan On Steve Jobs And Why Big Companies Die by Steve Denning which I highly recommend.
However while I agree with the main Steve Jobs and author’s idea that quality of an underlying product is of paramount importance for long term well-being of a business, I don’t think that this is the whole story. There are examples of demise or near-demise of great companies for reasons that have nothing to do with quality of their products.
Couple of examples. A recent announcement of AMR/American Airlines bankruptcy. Their products (flights) are on a par with the industry. What caused them to go into bankruptcy is an unsustainable financial model.
More personally sad example for me was a demise of Digital Equipment Corporation since I used their computers and loved them (I still have fond memories of them). It might be all but forgotten name by now, but in 60s-70s-80s it was a major player in IT industry rivaling IBM. In a way it was a company very similar to Apple. DEC was created by two engineers - Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson. Ken Olsen who was a great visionary and a great business leader similar to Steve Jobs, led the company through almost all its life. The company had great products (computers of PDP and VAX series), but sadly its leadership underestimated importance of emerging PC market… All that remains of this great company after a series on M&A ended up as a part of HP.
Another story may be a near-demise of Ford company when another great engineer and great business leader Henry Ford failed to recognize that Model T times were gone.
Therefore I disagree with both Steve (Jobs and Dunning). All three facets of business (product, finance, marketing/sales) are equally important. Neglecting any of them – that’s what kills great companies. Sounds much less sensational than the article’s conclusion, but agrees better with facts.