What Can Steve Jobs Teach Us About Boardwalk Construction?

Posted: May 31, 2013

Do you work for a rebel company? Are you a rebel yourself? 

Steve Jobs Apple Speech

Believe it or not, the way you approach your day or the projects you take on could put you in the rebel category that Steve Jobs manifested and publicized in the popular Apple video ad posted below.

While reading the Steve Jobs biography, it struck me that PermaTrak is a quietly rebellious company. What we are setting out to do within the boardwalk construction industry is to buck the trends, upset the norms, and redefine the expectations.

If you’ve read the biography by Walter Isaacson, you can appreciate how Steve made his mark on society with his ability to function as a small team leader, rallying his troops towards a common goal: working to innovate and distribute revolutionary products to the masses. PermaTrak is a small, tight-knit team with one goal in mind: to redefine the standards for boardwalk construction.

While I’m 99% positive Steve Jobs wanted nothing to do with boardwalks, pedestrian bridges or trail systems, let’s assume he lived his life designing and marketing boardwalks. Never one to dabble in the gray area, which boardwalk material would Steve Jobs prefer? Let’s go through Steve’s priorities when creating a new product to find out.

1. "Beautiful" Product Engineering

Jobs had a passion for product engineering; he wanted his products to be beautiful creations.Steve Jobs apple circuit board  Working from a garage with Steve Wozniak on the Apple I computer, Jobs would insist the circuit boards be perfectly balanced with clean lines, ensuring it was captivating in appearance. Most likely the user would never look at the circuit board. This mattered little to Jobs; he was a perfectionist. A cluttered circuit board meant a cluttered machine- in his mind, an unfinished product. 

Jobs would prefer a boardwalk option that offers beauty inside and out; a completely finished product from top to bottom. It wouldn’t require third party products to dress it up, maintain its appearance, or give it character- these things should be an inherent component of the product itself. The boardwalk would boast colors and textures to complement its surrounding environment.

2. Usability 

Jobs knew personal computers would fill a need in the marketplace, despite a lack of popularity in the past. He knew people wanted personal computers, even if they didn’t realize it.

Steve Jobs was the master of filling gaps in the marketplace. I’m confident he’d be searching for the gaps in the current boardwalk industry. What do people desire out of their boardwalks? What do the current products fail to provide?timber boardwalk plank rotting resized 600

Humidity and UV exposure break down the capacity of timber boardwalks quickly and steadily. Inconsistencies from plank to plank make walking and running uncomfortable or unsafe. Over time, the chemicals used to preserve the wood boardwalk leech into the surrounding soil. In a commercial setting, hundreds or thousands of daily users wear down the surface to the point that it becomes slippery. When this occurs, boardwalk users must watch every step, especially when rainy conditions make the situation even worse…

Always one step ahead, Jobs would see these shortcomings as an opportunity, to introduce a new product for high traffic commercial boardwalks.

The term “concrete boardwalk” has never truly existed before in the US.

Most people can’t picture what a concrete boardwalk tread even looks like. Offering design flexibility to support different uses, a concrete boardwalk can offer the reliability and consistency that pleases runners, bikers, dog walkers, rollerbladers, business owners, and land preservationists. When designed properly, concrete boardwalks can fill the gaps in the marketplace, solving the typical problems associated with boardwalk construction and use.

3. Longevity (Timelessness)

Jobs wanted to make a mark on history. He wanted to create a product and brand that would stand the test of time. He pushed for products that would outlive their creator. He worked to ensure that his products would have an impact after he was gone.

Apple Think Different campaign

Jobs didn’t want to sell computers without regard to their long-term function. He built products that lasted, so your investment up front paid off over the years of product use.

Have you ever seen a wood boardwalk installed? It’s beautiful on day one: clean, straight lines, tight gaps, consistency from one board to the next, countersunk wood screws, etc. Now… how did the boardwalk look after 5 years? 10 years? Wood faces issues like warping boards that twist up and grab ankles, screws that have popped up ½’’ or more, rotting planks that cause ¾’’ gaps (falling short of ADA requirements), etc.

Known for his brutal honesty, Steve Jobs might see this and offer his favorite critical phrase, “That’s a pile of crap! I’ve never seen anything so horrible in my life.” Jobs would be looking for a material that could function flawlessly for a lifetime.

Unlike traditional wood boardwalks, concrete boardwalks can last 50-75 years without any maintenance. Where I live in Florida, Southern Yellow Pine boardwalks are expected to last 7-10 years, always a continuous headache for one parks administration after another. 

4. Passion

One of the most practical lessons we can take away from Steve Jobs was his pointed focus and drive to accomplish something he believed in, to make his vision a reality.

Jobs would want to work with people who were passionate about the product they were backing. Passionate about the goals they were accomplishing.

I can’t speak for the engineers and sales reps of Southern Yellow Pine or Ipe boardwalks in regards to passion.PermaTrak team passionate about concrete boardwalks

I can tell you that our small company is as passionate as they get. We know that we have a product, a concrete boardwalk system, that many are just starting to hear about- we work hard to share our product with designers, cities, counties and state agencies. We believe these groups need to know that there is another option for boardwalk construction that fills the current gaps in the marketplace. It’s a cost-effective, durable, long-term solution.

Concrete boardwalks may not seem as mainstream as personal computers, but we’ll follow Jobs’s example and work to continue to redefine our industry.

Steve Jobs gave us countless examples of questioning the norm, proposing something polar opposite, and seeing it through to capture a share of the market. He was the fearless leader of the rebel clan. And his passion was contagious, even to people like us in a different time period and different industry. He showed the world how to put on the blinders and go 100 mph towards a goal you believe in.

Photo Credits: 

1. by dfarber

2. by MATEUS_27

4. by bump 

Topics: Boardwalk Construction, Boardwalk Durability/Maintenance