Andy Cunningham: I think Steve Jobs fired me about 5 times. I’m Andy Cunningham and I run a marketing consulting company called Cunningham Collective and I’ve just written a book about positioning, which is a big practice in the marketing field. It’s called “Get to Aha!”
The first time Steve fired me was actually probably the most traumatic because I thought it was going to be the last time I would ever work with him and he called me into his office, or into a conference room I should say, and his CFO was sitting there and he looked at me and he said, “I’m going to cut off my contract with you. I think the work you’re doing is terrible and we’re just going to stop it right now so that’s it, you’re fired.”
And of course I was taken– you know I was emotional. I was much younger. I didn’t cry but I was on the verge of it and I didn’t really know what to do so I said, “Okay, well you know you owe me $35,000 and so I’ll arrange you know for you to—” he goes, “I’m not going to pay you that because your work wasn’t worth it.” And I was just kind of taken aback so I left the room and I called my mentor who is a man named Regis McKenna and Regis said to me, “Well, if you want to get paid by Steve Jobs you’re going to have to have something over him.” And I said, “I don’t have anything over Steve Jobs, you know that Regis. And he said, “No, you do.” And I said, “What is that?” He goes, “In your relationships with the business press.” And I said, “Oh I get it.”
So I went back and I got in a meeting with Steve because I was friendly with his CFO— she got me a meeting. I walked in there to the meeting, which he took, which was amazing, and I said, “Steve you owe me $35,000. I need that money. I have a start-up company. I need to make payroll and I want you to give me a check for what you owe me.” And he said, “I’m not going to do that.” And I said, I said, “You have to do that,” and he said, “Why?”
And I said, “Well, just so you know Steve I get about 30 or 40 phone calls a week from the business press that we’ve made relationships over the last couple of years asking me what kind of a guy you are to work with and I currently tell them very nice things.” And he wrote me a check immediately and then he hired me back.
Steve got angry with everybody that worked with him. He was very impatient. He had a vision of what it was that you were supposed to be accomplishing and if you didn’t do it fast enough or you didn’t do it right enough, he definitely got angry. He threw things at people, nothing heavy, but he threw wads of paper at people, swore at people, criticized their clothing. He did all those things. So what it did to certain people is it caused us to push even harder and try to be even better, but for some people it destroyed them. Fortunately for me, I was one of the first types and I am forever grateful to him actually for the experience because now I am so much better at what I do than I would have been without him.