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We all know money doesn’t make the man, but if Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook were president of the United States, he would be the wealthiest man to ever take office.
There’s been a lot of talk about whether America needs a businessman in the White House. On Tuesday we find out if President Barack Obama gets rehired, or if tax payers prefer the Romney approach. The debt is out of control, the economy is in the can, unemployment is way too high, and apparently nobody in Washington is qualified to deal with the mess.
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But what about one of the world’s most powerful CEOs? Does a Silicon Valley leader have what it takes to run — and save — the nation?
To set the record, Tim Cook is an American-born citizen over the age of 35, and has lived in the United States for at least 14 years.
Briefly: Cook earned an M.B.A. from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, put in 12 years at IBM, and served as VP for Corporate Materials at Compaq before he was hired by Steve Jobs in 1998. From VP of Worldwide Operations, he was promoted to chief operating officer in 2007. After serving two stints as interim CEO, he was named to the position on August 24, 2011.
Tim Cook could easily provide the best return on investment the American taxpayer has seen since we put a man on the moon. Shares of Apple are up over 55 percent since Cook became CEO, and it would be hard to down talk any president who could take $1 dollar and turn it into $1.55 of infrastructure or education a year later.
The analogy isn’t perfect, but there’s some fairness in saying someone who knows how to return value on an investment would also know how to return value on taxes. Cook has aggressively added value for his shareholders through buybacks and dividends. More importantly, he has fundamentally increased the value of the company, not just by making it bigger, but by making it better at what it does. Cook allocates resources in a way that materially benefits shareholders, and if he were president, would materially benefit taxpayers.
It’s no secret that America’s debt is astronomical and totally out of control. The world is full of CEOs who are famous for cutting costs and fixing balance sheets, but Cook is CEO of a company with no debt. There hasn’t been an opportunity for him to demonstrate how to reduce a deficit or fight to control a budget.
However, Cook is a renowned operations man and is credited with fixing what once was a sprawling mess of production and distribution. Cook’s push for operational efficiency reduced an overwhelmingly complicated system into an effective, efficient mechanism.
Sound like a plan of attack for rising government spending and waste?
On that account, Cook was CEO when Apple’s operating cash balance briefly outweighed that of the U.S. government.
Cook clearly holds himself and his organization accountable for their actions. Apple’s recent map snafu was certainly a blemish, and it’s all too common for companies — especially tech companies — to brush off bugs and errors and simply try to address them with the next round of updates. Breaking from the norm, Cook apologized on behalf of the company and pointed directly at competitors’ products as an alternative while Apple worked to improve its own.
Needless to say, some politicians are famous for putting their ego ahead of constituents. Scandals aside, it’s a rare day when a president says “We made a mistake, that project was a bad investment,” or “I voted the wrong way on that bill, I let you down, here’s how we’ll fix it.”
Cook’s demonstrated ability to recognize and admit to mistakes puts him far ahead of the curve in Washington. And perhaps more importantly, he has proven to be someone who will actively and competently pursue a solution. In no small way, that philosophy could play a healthy role in politics.
It’s hard to imagine Tim Cook ritually wearing a suit and tie, but it’s about time for a wardrobe change in the White House anyway.
Cook’s presentation style would fit nicely into the pocket of political speech giving. He understands exactly what is important to tell people, and he knows just how to package it with plenty of placating context. He already faces a national audience with Apple’s product launches.
Cook would also make a good president because of his ability to control a meeting, and directly answer questions. Reports from an investor tour of Apple’s Silicon Valley facility demonstrate that Cook “was in complete control and knew exactly who he was and where he wanted to go. He answered every question head-on and didn’t skirt any issue.”
If Cook treated taxpayers like he treated shareholders, he would quickly gain the type of respect that has been largely absent from politics for the better part of a century.
Many people worried that Apple wouldn’t prosper without Steve Jobs. Many people worry about the same thing when a good president has to step down, and a new one steps in. Tim Cook understands how to inherit something, and stay true to what works while adding his own brand of value.
He is a businessman, but a very different type of businessman than we are used to seeing in the White House. What Cook and Apple have done is unprecedented in the history of business, smashing records for market cap, sales, and brand value. The so-called “Cult of Mac” is probably only an excuse away from organizing into a political party. If what it takes to be president is to be the person people believe in, Tim Cook could very well be that person.
It’s also important to mention that former vice president Al Gore is on Apple’s board of directors. That being said, the ticket looks ready to vote on. And if Tim Cook can sell half as many voters on his candidacy than Apple has iPads, iPhones, and iPods, then he should have Election 2016 in the bag.
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