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When Ron Johnson told Steve Jobs the Apple Store design was all wrong


You may know Ron Johnson as the man who helped mold Target into the retailer it is today, or perhaps as the Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple from 2000 through 2011. Maybe you know him from his recent work trying to turn JCPenney around before he was ousted in April of this year. Despite his recent setback, Johnson has been an important part of the retail world for decades, driving change and innovation.

Stanford Business put together a fascinating look at the former CEO, republished by, that looks at his successes and failures in business, and includes an interesting story about his time at Apple. The company was just about to open its first retail store, massive amounts of money had been spent, and Johnson told Steve Jobs they needed to change everything.

Before Apple opened its first store in May 2001, Johnson was riding with Steve Jobs to a weekly planning meeting. "We've organized it like a retail store around products, but if Apple's going to organize around activities like music and movies, well, the store should be organized around music and movies and things you do,'" Johnson confessed. Jobs turned to him and said, "Do you know how big a change that is? I don't have time to redesign the store."

Ten minutes later, Jobs walked into the meeting and said, "Well, Ron thinks our store is all wrong. And he's right, so I'm going to leave now. And Ron, you work with the team and design the store." That lesson of doing things well "carried through to so many things I've done," recalls Johnson. "It's not about speed to market. It's really about doing your level best."

The move led to the Apple Stores we know today, which encourage exploration of what the products can do rather than simply having product available to browse. Sometimes starting over can be the best place to begin. You just have to trust the people in your organization to know when a new direction is necessary.

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