The connection between Steve Jobs and the aggregate industry

By |  February 22, 2018


What kind of leader are you? What’s your measure of excellence? What tolerance do you have for failure?

These were some of the questions I pondered while recently reading through Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs,” the page-turning account on the late co-founder and CEO of Apple. Isaacson’s best-seller is hardly a newcomer to bookshelves, but the messages that can be drawn from the Jobs biography and applied to your work life are as pertinent today as they were in 2011, when the book was published.

Jobs was undoubtedly a visionary, one who changed the world as we know it. But he was an atypical leader, often strong-arming his way to victories against employees at Apple. At times, he could be ruthless.

Jobs behaved as he did in part because of his nature. But he was also hard on others because his bar for excellence was set somewhere in the stratosphere.

He sought to achieve goals that others deemed unreasonable, and he pushed employees to deliver because he convinced them that impossible tasks could indeed be done. When employees achieved one impossibility, he challenged them to achieve yet another, again and again.

Jobs stands out in history, too, because of his relentless desire to make products that possess unmatched functionality and user-friendliness. He considered the end products Apple delivered to be works of art, with perfection being the only acceptable outcome.

You might be hard-pressed to find someone who characterizes crushed stone, sand and gravel as “art.” But Jobs is someone aggregate producers can relate to because of the passion he brought to his work, as well as his unparalleled standard for excellence and unwillingness to accept failure.

There’s an art to the way Jobs went about his business, just as there is to the way you go about yours. Perfection is the standard Jobs set at Apple, and in many ways it’s a standard you set at your company.

Is an aggregate operation not in pursuit of perfection when its goal is for every employee to return home safely after each workday? Similarly, aggregate producers are, in a sense, in pursuit of perfection as they continuously tinker with their production system and explore opportunities to maximize output.

The thought Jobs put into Apple Park, a 175-acre campus that finally opened six years after his death, probably bordered on the obsessive. But he was attune to every detail because of his high regard for excellence.

In your world, a detail that’s off by a hair in your production system can amount to a slowdown that results in so many dollars lost. Or worse, it can result in an accident that injures an employee or claims the life of one.

Be a leader who values the finer details, and stress these to those around you. Your measure of excellence, like Jobs’, should be high, and you should not tolerate failure. Failures will happen. Where you can one-up Jobs is by constructively reacting and positioning others not to repeat their failures.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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