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Ready For Anything

Former Apple CEO John Sculley Has a Message to Entrepreneurs: 'Don't Be Afraid to Fail'

Remember, Steve Jobs wasn't an overnight success.
Guest Writer
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Steve Jobs, one of the most creative geniuses to ever live, who transformed our lives with the personal computer and iPhone, didn't start out as an overnight sensation; he failed his way to success.

"He had the dreams, he had the vision, he saw where things could possibly go but like all of us, you know, he made mistakes along the way," said former Apple CEO John Sculley in an interview with C-Suite Insights host Nicole Sawyer. "I made mistakes along the way. And that's just the nature of being an entrepreneur."

Related: How 5 Entrepreneurs With Household Names Turned Failing Businesses Into Successes

Sculley, 78, widely known as the man who launched the original Macintosh computer with Steve Jobs, serves as an investor and mentor to high-tech startups.

"It's rare for someone to be as brilliant as Steve Jobs and to be able to take a company to every stage. But, even Steve, when he was a young entrepreneur, was not the accomplished CEO that he became eventually."

For new entrepreneurs, the task of thinking like a CEO can be intimidating, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Sculley should know -- he started his career driving a truck for Pepsi, delivering products from Pittsburgh to Phoenix and stocking shelves before he worked his way up to CEO.

"I have faced a lot of challenges in my life. I made lots of mistakes, have had lots of success. I never ever give up," he said.

Related: Why, When You Fail, You Should 'Fail Forward'

In one of his more public mistakes, many people are under the impression Sculley had influenced the board of directors to push Steve Jobs out of Apple after the Macintosh failed and an epic battle erupted between the two in 1985. Sculley explained while he didn't fire Steve Jobs he does wish he would have tried to hire him back.

"Steve was really hurt because we were such close friends and he didn't have a lot of friends, he didn't believe in friends, he felt that he had a bigger mission than having friends and there was a point when the Macintosh office was failing," said Sculley.

"Steve wanted to move the marketing off of the Apple II, our only source of cash flow and he blamed me for pricing the Macintosh too high. I disagree with him. We both went to the board, we presented our case and the board said, 'No we agree with John, we don't agree with Steve.' Steve was crushed and he never really got over that," said Sculley.

Related: Steve Jobs, Barbara Corcoran, Tony Robbins and More Share Strategies for Resilience

Since then, Sculley has authored a book, Moonshot!: Game-Changing Strategies to Build Billion-Dollar Businesses, and shares his experience with corporate executives and serial entrepreneurs.

"I don't care about legacy, I think it's irrelevant," Sculley said. "But, I care a lot about what I can do to help the next generation."

Sculley and his wife Diane, a computer scientist, back dozens of tech companies. He said the first thing to look for when investing in a company is the people, if they can build a relationship of trust and whether they are solving a really huge customer problem.

One company Sculley finds promising is RxAdvance. As the firm's chairman and CMO, he says the cloud-based platform helps pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and insurers with the management of chronically ill patients living at home.

The key problem facing the healthcare industry is lack of transparency. An estimated $1 trillion in healthcare spending is attributed to payment mistakes, excessive treatment, pricing errors and administrative waste.

Related: The 5 Greatest Lessons I Learned Working With Steve Jobs During the Apple Turnaround

"You want to go and have a joint replacement surgery procedure, they can cost thousands of dollars differently within a 12-mile radius of your hospital," said Sculley.

Companies like RxAdvance will help reduce inefficiencies with innovative technologies, he said.

"The debate of do we replace Obamacare or do we repair Obamacare, which is all about policies and subsidies, the real focus should be on how do we deliver the best quality healthcare for a lower cost to the chronically ill patients many of whom are the baby boomers."

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