Imagine you have 60mins with one of the most powerful people on Earth

Moments before Jobs arrived, the PR person for Apple walked to Watson and told him:

“I just want to let you know Steve Jobs hates photographers.”

Imagine you have 60mins with one of the most powerful people on Earth and he hates you. Photographer Albert Watson did not have to imagine – it was his reality one day.

Every single person who has worked with Steve Jobs, will tell you that it was not easy working with him. The man pushed your limits to do better every single day – every single iteration – every single product.

Now imagine for a moment, Steve Jobs is your customer. Clearly not a very easy customer to handle given his penchant for perfection. This is the fascinating story of how the most iconic picture of Jobs came to be.

Steve Jobs was part of a project for a magazine photographing the most powerful people in America. The photographer Albert Watson had exactly one hour to get the best shot out of Jobs.

Albert Watson

Jobs was scheduled to arrive at nine, Jobs arrives a minute early to the studio. Moments before Jobs arrived, the PR person for Apple walked to Watson and told him: “I just want to let you know Steve hates photographers.”

Knowing that he would hate you and knowing that he is not an easy person to deal with and knowing that he is amongst the most powerful people alive and knowing that he is the archangel of tech world and knowing that you have him for no more than 60mins and perhaps the only time you have a chance of working with him in this lifetime – how do deal with that anxiety?

Well what can you really give Jobs that he will love to work with you for those 60mins? Watson figured that very exact thing.

Watson walks to Jobs and said: “Mr Jobs, I have some good news for you. I believe I have you for an hour”.

Jobs said, “You do.”

Watson replies: “I think I can get this done in half an hour.”

That cheered up Jobs and he replied back: “Oh, my god, that would be great. I’ve so much to do today!”

Watson starts with a few shots. But none of them seem to project Jobs’ personality.

Albert Watson’s clicks of Steve Jobs before the iconic shot

And then Watson eases Jobs into posing for him, asking: “Mr Jobs can you please lean toward the camera and I would like you to imagine you are across a table from four or five people who don’t agree with you, but you know you’re right.”

Jobs replies back, “Easy for me, I do that every day.”

And then Jobs leans forward and puts his thumb on the chin and wears a mystic smile that seems to say, “Don’t question what I am doing.” That there was the iconic shot of Steve Jobs being etched into history that we all know today.

Steve Jobs by Albert Watson

When Jobs was leaving that studio, he asked Watson, “Can I have this picture?” 

And Watson handed him a copy, Jobs replied, “This maybe the best picture ever taken of me.”

Jobs walked out of the studio in 20mins and the picture became history. Years later Apple called into Watson’s studio years later and asked for this very same picture. That night they put it on their website remembering Steve Jobs.

Apple’s announcement on Jobs’ death on their website uses the same iconic pic by Albert Watson

Here’s a small learning and an experiment that can scale with course corrections to suit your need.

Presume you are in a Negotiation call with an Enterprise prospect and on the call you have a VP who’s the final authority. What you have is a chance to be thoughtful, to make an impression. All sales reps go prepared to such an important meeting with presentation and preparation. But very few make it apparent. Next time you are in such a call, with a customer or an internal leadership, tell this out in words and explicitly:

“We have you for 60mins on this call and we appreciate your time. But we know you are a busy person Miss Smith, and we hope to able to conclude this conversation in under half the time.

We put this slide together on where we are from our previous conversations and the terms of ongoing negotiations. We spent two hours with our leadership to put the best offer for your team on this slide.”

Nothing makes anyone happier than being told they can leave early: a high school class or an important meeting.


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