Here are some notes and thoughts from To Pixar and Beyond, by Lawrence Levy.
Levy was hired by Steve Jobs in 1995 in order to take Pixar public. At the time, Pixar didn’t have a clear business model, with four different business ideas each with limited value.
They were attempting to sell Render Man, their animation software, to a very small audience. They were making short films and animated commercials which had little viability. And they had were working on their first full-length film, internally named Toy Story.
Pixar had no clear road to profitability; Steve Jobs was actually writing a personal check at the end of every month to keep the company afloat. Employees at Pixar were fearful of Jobs, and the company was locked into a four-picture deal with Disney that would give them little profit. In other words, things weren’t good and there was not a lot of hope for success.
That’s the setting for this book, which reads like more of a personal story rather than a collection of business principles and teaching content.
So there aren’t a lot of notes and quotes. Nevertheless, it was interesting and thought provoking.
Here are two main takeaways.
Lesson #1: WOW people need HOW people.
WOW people are the visionary leaders. It’s the guy with the great idea and the passion to make something happen. It’s the woman willing to take a risk because she believes something needs to change. WOW people are idealistic, inspirational and excited about the possibility. Steve Jobs was a WOW person.
But WOW people rarely get things done on their own. They need HOW people.
HOW people may not come up with the idea, but they know how to execute. They are implementers and executioners. They know how to take a big dream and break it down into steps. They love progress and process.
In order for a team, company or mission to succeed, you need both of these people. WOW people need HOW people and vice versa.
They are very different but you need both to be successful.
If Pixar was full of creative visionaries, there may have never been a viable business plan, an IPO that raised the money needed to finance the next set of films or a renegotiated deal with Disney that helped Pixar get a larger share of early revenue.
Lesson #2: One season prepares you for the next.
Before Pixar, Steve Jobs focused on computers and technology. At Pixar, he learned storytelling and creativity. Over time, he realized Pixar was an entertainment company as much as it was a technology company. And he took that newfound perspective back to Apple.
During Steve’s second round at Apple, he launched the iPod (a media device) and helped video go mobile.
Without Pixar, there may have never been Apple as we know it. Pixar wasn’t just a successful IPO, it was a season of learning for Steve Jobs. It was something that prepared him for something bigger.
The present is always preparing you for the future.
Those are two big takeaways from this book. It was a fun read – I actually listened to it on audible.com.