Masterful Conductor Michael Hageloh Inspires in his Maiden Book 'Live from Cupertino'
By Carin Chea
All of us have that unsung melody within us waiting for the right maestro to come along and draw it out.
For many, this came in the form of systems engineer-turned-author Michael Hageloh whose book, Live from Cupertino, chronicles his experience as one of Apple's most prolific rainmakers.
Perhaps Hageloh (who is by nature a drummer) is able to draw out the inner-song in so many because he innately possesses an artist's soul.
Speaking with Mr. Hageloh, it is apparent he is much more than a salesman. He understands that nothing speaks louder than human connection.
Have you always been a writer?
I have not. I knew I had something to say, so I thought I'd write a book, and I had to write a book to figure out what to say. There were two failed manuscripts and Live from Cupertino is the third.
A lot of people have told me not to talk about that, but writing a book is a solitary adventure and one has to go deep into one's mind. It's a process. I hated it. I enjoyed it.
When you work in an environment of academia that I've worked in, I found early in my career that telling people the straight-up truth may not endear you to them immediately, but it will over time. You can't not be upfront.
What inspired you to transition from being a systems engineer to professional author?
The internal Apple story that I lived for 22 years hadn't been told yet. My premise is that Steve [Jobs] wasn't an innovator. He was a master salesman. He took you to a place you didn't even know you wanted to go. And, conveniently, when you got there, there were his products.
The Apple I worked for, we were a band. We were all waiting for a maestro to step in and lead us. Bands need a maestro to take them to that place. Steve was our maestro.
You describe yourself as a rainmaker for Apple. How did that happen?
Through music, through words, through performance - I adopted this masterful art of presentation.
Out of the 24 sales training sessions I had, one every year, the only one that ever mattered was the one on improvisation, the ability to work with an audience. I did it through masterful communication. I did it through what Steve did on a stage, but just on a local stage where there's revenue attached to it.
Steve was the maestro. I was the touring band. I look back on that and I remember my first number was $800,000, and I thought, "I'll never get there."
But, then, I stepped back and said, "You can play this. You know how to do this technically." And, that year I ended at 2.5 million dollars, and the rest is history.
You describe working at Apple as playing in a band. I've never heard employment or occupations depicted using musical metaphors. How did this come about? Was this the inspiration behind your book Live from Cupertino?
I've played music professionally most of my life. Those in music - you're the energy behind everyone's life. There isn't anyone who, if you played the songs of The Billboard 100 when they were 18 - there are few people that you could not grasp.
I tried to write 2 other business books in business-ese, and it didn't work. The framework was in music.
I started as a hand and organ player, and found that wasn't very portable. As I moved into marching band in high school, I transitioned into percussion. I found it to be my life blood.
The most difficult instrument in the world for me, to play, was the triangle. And it directly relates to business.
When you're doing a presentation, when you're in front of that CEO, that's your triangle moment. It has to be right on cue. It can't be a second late. It can't be a second early.
On one of my early calls as a support person to salespeople, I was fortunate to know this guy who, before any presentation, would listen to a CD because it put him in the zone. Back in 1988, I didn't get it. But that's the reality. Music saved Apple.
It was a framework that I was familiar with. I was living it, and didn't know it. This was not obvious to me at first. Every company has its rhythm. Find it.
Rhythm has an integral part in life. We are rhythmic entities. You know if it's wrong. Don't force it. That's one of the great things about leading a team. As a drummer, I didn't care about being the lead. I cared about keeping the people together. You're convincing the lead - like the lead piccolo - to come along with you. To make them do what you need them to do.
We're doing everything in music today because of Apple. Without the iPod and the iPhone, we would not be doing what we do today. Would there have been others? I don't know. But, nobody can argue the success of the iPod and iTunes. Music saved Apple.
What is the central message you want to convey in Live from Cupertino?
Selling isn't sales. It's an emotional connection. This is the difference between a great CEO and a superior CEO. The stagecraft looks easy because it's so well-practiced. To your audience, the stagecraft is part of great business.
This is really a story about how important ideas are in selling to everyone. You know, your kids are masterful salesmen. Your husband, your wife, your spouse - they'll get you to do anything. The premise in the book is that we're all selling. You may not be in sales, but in life we're all selling, and that's what Steve mastered.
Would you primarily describe yourself as a writer, musician, or engineer?
First, I have a wonderful spouse of 30 years. I dedicated the book to her. She saved my life.
I'd describe myself as a business drummer who understands stagecraft. Steve Jobs said to us, "Don't leave this earth without giving your knowledge back." So, that's what I'm doing.
It's about the emotion inside you for representing the brand. At Apple, it was part of us. It wasn't a job. All sales people are artists in some way. It's not about selling: Relationship with people takes heart. It's about taking people on a journey. That's what I did as a musician. That's what filmmakers do. That's what writers do.
Steve was an artist, and we were like a jam band. We were an artistic company. I think the company still is, but I think it's using more formulaic hits than jam band, and there's nothing wrong with formulaic hits.
What are your thoughts on the various Steve Jobs biopics and Apple-centered movies that have come out over the past decade?
I've not watched or read any of them. I was front-row, living with him. I didn't worship him. I used him for inspiration. I saw Steve as empowerment. I saw Steve as a means to an end. I saw Steve as a way for me to make my number - almost a billion dollars, and I was okay with that.
In meetings, I was never the smartest guy in the room. But that's what Steve did for me. I saw that maestro. I needed Steve to take me to a different place, and he did.
If your book were made into a mini-series, who would you cast to play Steve Jobs?
I knew him at a distance. I didn't have lunch with the guy.
You caught me off guard on that one.
I would say, Steven Van Zandt from The Sopranos. He's also a musician. I've interacted with him a few times at his favorite restaurant in New York. I don't know the guy personally, just from my brief interactions with him.
He seems super-approachable and charismatic. He's got that hard edge and that music vibe. He's got that "come along with me on the journey" vibe. Looks-wise, age-wise, he's not it, but he's got every piece of that essence for me. I'd have to pick a musician, there's no doubt about it, even though I don't think Steve was a musician.
Are there any upcoming projects you'd like our readers to know about?
Live from Cupertino comes out on October 29th.
My second day at Apple, they handed me a cassette tape labeled The Apple Boogie. The song on the backside of the cassette was The Apple II Forever. Nothing is forever. Things come and go. But, the reality is, that's not your reality in life. It's to find your rhythm, no matter what you do, and bring it to the world.
The reality is that we all have songs in us. We're not all musicians, but we all have a song, and we have to get connected to it.
To learn more about Michael Hageloh's current and upcoming works, please visit https://hageloh.com
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