Steve Jobs at Cupertino City Hall

I’ve seen a few posts commenting on Steve Jobs’ appearance at a Cupertino City Council meeting a few weeks ago. Jay Zipursky’s caught my eye as a keen analysis of Jobs’ motive for “dropping in” on a Cupertino City Council meeting.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this billionaire businessman and brilliant manipulator has nothing better to do than hang around city hall in his copious spare time, but assuming he did have an ulterior motive, I’d bet my last Clif bar that he’s tangled with construction problems before and knows that of all the organizations you have to deal with, the city is the one that can stop even a multi-billion dollar businesses’ plans for development.

I worked for an electrical contractor for a few years after college and of all the obstacles we ran into during construction, the city was the most feared. One project manager I worked with was revered by our executives because he had an “in” at the city and was able to scoot the permit process along for the cost of a nice dinner and a bottle of wine. When you’re planning to build something where the city starts to give you flak – be afraid.

By appearing in person he showed how important this project is to Apple. He also got their buy-in on camera (a clip that’s now all over the internet), which is a powerful currency he and his general contractor will spend time and time again at permit counters and meetings with city planners.

What can we learn from this? Before going head-to-head with a much larger opponent see if you can flatter him into submission, instead.

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