When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 to replace Gil Amelio as CEO, things turned around dramatically. Thanks to Jobs’s vision to execute technological innovations, the company he founded in 1976 became an investor’s dream.
Jobs, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in October 2011 after resigning from his position as Apple’s CEO, created one of the greatest success stories in the world of technology – and he also created one of the greatest growth stories in the world of investing.
I’m by no means an investor by trade, but I am the founder of a digital marketing agency. I’ve found in my line of business that it’s important that nonprofessional investors like you and me take note of these innovators. The sooner an innovator is recognized, the more quickly we can profit. The best CEOs remain in their positions because they are simply the best at what they do. Sustainability as a CEO is threefold: employees share the vision, customer service is at its best and, of course, the product evolves over time into something exceptional.
Simply put, you should invest in a CEO or study from the best. Below are some great current examples.
1. Elon Musk
The South-African-born geek-turned-billionaire innovator holds the CEO role at two companies he founded: Tesla Motors and SpaceX. He is also chairman at SolarCity.
There’s no doubting that the future of everyday transportation resides in electric automobiles. It’s already happening even in the little town of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where I founded my company LSEO.com. Indeed, I am part of this trend: I own a Tesla P85 Model S.
Investors who believed in Musk’s vision at Tesla Motors have also profited. Tesla Motors (TSLA) is up more than 1,200 percent since going public in July 2010. Though Tesla stock is up, this may be just the beginning of Musk’s reign in the world of electric cars. The company is heading in the right direction and will be bringing a more affordable electric car to the market soon. Musk’s proven work ethic and relentless push to innovate is something to watch.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is arguably the most popular (and able) CEO ever. He is a true visionary. Like Musk, Zuckerberg is constantly pushing ahead. Due to his leadership and his technology-forward, long-term view for Facebook, he is worth making up a portion of your portfolio.
Facebook’s stock is up 181 percent since going public in May of 2012, and Zuckerberg is showing no signs of slowing down. Just remember: There’s much hype around Facebook. Don’t buy into the day-to-day; rather, buy into Zuckerberg’s vision to be the leader in the social media sphere.
The founder and CEO of Salesforce, a cloud computing company that debuted in 1999, Marc Benioff is another innovator who turned the software industry on its head. He spearheaded the trend of offering software as a service rather than building it for customer relationship management (CRM).
Benioff continues to build his brand as the leader in cloud computing, even penning the best seller, Behind the Cloud. He continues to develop new products within the cloud computing space and leads in philanthropy. Since going public in January 2004, Salesforce stock is up nearly 1,200 percent. Benioff is another visionary to watch.
CEO and founder of Square, a mobile-payment company that recently had its IPO, and CEO and cofounder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey is another innovator who continually pushes through. His story is similar to Steve Jobs’s. Dorsey was pushed out as Twitter CEO in 2006 – just as Jobs was pushed out from Apple in 1985. But Dorsey returned as CEO in July and, while away from Twitter, he founded Square. When Jobs was out of Apple, he also cofounded Pixar, the computer-animated film studio.
Will Dorsey’s story turn legacy like Jobs’s story has? Only time will tell, but I think Dorsey is definitely worth keeping tabs on.
Shortly after joining Starbucks as director of marketing in 1981, Howard Schultz returned from a trip to Milan with a better understanding of the social makeup revolving around coffee shops.
He learned that there were close to a quarter of a million coffee shops in Italy and that these were the places where people met to socialize over everything from business to romance. Schultz returned to Starbucks’s headquarters in Seattle and tried persuading the owners to follow Italy’s coffee-forward social lead. But it didn’t happen.
Though he was short on money and his wife was pregnant with their first baby, Schultz raised enough for his first coffee store, Il Giornale, named after a Milanese newspaper. Two years later, the owners of Starbucks sold the Starbucks retail unit to Il Giornale for nearly $4 million, and Starbucks spread across the states to become the well-respected brand it is today.
Schultz innovates not only in the way of coffee, but also customer and employee relations through unique marketing concepts and employee incentives.
These top five CEOs continue to pave the way in their respective industries and are among the most widely recognized business executives. Whether you’re looking to invest in a CEO or you’re a business owner looking to learn from the best, you should keep these leading names in mind.
A version of this article originally appeared on BusinessCollective.
Kristopher B. Jones is a prominent Internet entrepreneur, investor, public speaker, and best-selling author. In 2008, Kris wrote a book on search engine optimization that is currently in its third print for Wiley (2008, 2010, 2013) and has sold nearly 100,000 copies. Kris is the founder and former president and CEO of Pepperjam (sold to eBay), managing partner of KBJ Capital (13 companies), and the founder and CEO of LSEO.com and APPEK Mobile Apps.