Here's what Apple CEO Tim Cook says he would do if he was 'king for the day'

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn't like that public companies need to report earnings on a quarterly basis. 
  • Instead, he prefers to focus on customer feedback to judge success. 
  • He says he's only had good years while he was leading Apple going back to 2003. 

Under CEO Tim Cook's watch, Apple has sold hundreds of millions of iPhones, booked hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, and launched new products like AirPods and Apple Watch.

In fact, Cook says, he's never had a bad year as CEO of Apple.

"I’ve only had good years. No, seriously," he said in an interview with Fast Company

"Even when we were idling from a revenue point of view – it was like $6 billion every year – those were some incredibly good years because you could begin to feel the pipeline getting better, and you could see it internally. Externally, people couldn’t see that," he continued. 

The last time Apple reported around $6 billion in revenue was in 2003, when Cook was COO, which was also the last time the company reported a down quarter until 2016. In the December quarter, Apple posted $88.3 billion in sales and $20.1 billion in profit. 

But Cook said he doesn't focus on quarterly results, and that they have little to no effect on Apple. 

"Stock price is a result, not an achievement by itself. For me, it’s about products and people," Cook said. "Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives?" 

RELATED: Check out the life of Tim Cook in the slideshow below: 

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Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the opening ceremony of the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song
Nov 25, 2017; Auburn, AL, USA; Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook arrives for College GameDay before the game between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at The Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Apple CEO Tim Cook (R) plays with an iPhone as Jonathan Ive, Apple's Chief Design Officer, looks on during a launch event in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during Commencement Exercises at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Apple CEO Tim Cook smiles as he arrives to a product demo during the annual Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S. June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Tim Cook, CEO, speaks during Apple's annual world wide developer conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S. June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook waves during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook makes his closing remarks during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks during a event for students to learn to write computer code at the Apple store in the Manhattan borough of New York December 9, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the Wall Street Journal Digital Live ( WSJDLive ) conference at the Montage hotline Laguna Beach, California October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new iPad Pro during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, September 9, 2015. Reuters/Beck Diefenbach
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers his keynote address at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California June 8, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 03: Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on as the new iPhone X goes on sale at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. The highly anticipated iPhone X went on sale around the world today. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, Inc., smiles as he greets customers during the opening of the new Apple Michigan Avenue store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. The building features exterior walls made entirely of glass with four interior columns supporting a 111-by-98 foot carbon-fiber roof, designed to minimize the boundary between the city and the Chicago River. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 20: Apple CEO Tim Cook greets guests at the grand opening of Apple's Chicago flagship store on Michigan Avenue October 20, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The glass-sided store sits on shore of the Chicago River in the city's downtown. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 20: Apple CEO Tim Cook greets guests at the grand opening of Apple's Chicago flagship store on Michigan Avenue October 20, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The glass-sided store sits on shore of the Chicago River in the city's downtown. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks during the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The forum, hosted during UN General Assembly week, brings leaders to work together, through on-the-record main stage discussions and private bilateral and multilateral meetings, to address the most pressing economic issues facing us today. Photographer: Misha Friedman/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CUPERTINO, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Apple CEO Tim Cook (R) and Apple chief design officer Jonathan Ive (L) look at the new Apple iPhone X during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre on the Apple Park campus on September 12, 2017 in Cupertino, California. Apple held their first special event at the new Apple Park campus where they announced the new iPhone 8, iPhone X and the Apple Watch Series 3. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during a media event at Apple's new headquarters where Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone and other products in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Josh Edelson (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 12: Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, attends the second day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 12, 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world's most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, technology and political spheres converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive weeklong conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 09: CEO of Apple Tim Cook looks on before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on June 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 9: Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the commencement address during the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commencement at Killian Court on the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA on Jun. 9, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 9: Apple CEO Tim Cook reacts before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers on June 9, 2017 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Technology television interview at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., on Monday, June 5, 2017. Cook�said the company has helped U.K. officials investigate terror attacks, while reiterating his dismay over U.S. plans to quit the Paris agreement on climate change. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 05: Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the opening keynote address the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 5, 2017 in San Jose, California. Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the five-day WWDC that runs through June 9. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on during a visit of the shopfitting company Dula that delivers tables for Apple stores worldwide in Vreden, western Germany, on February 7, 2017. / AFP / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 27: Apple CEO Tim Cook smiles during a product launch event on October 27, 2016 in Cupertino, California. Apple Inc. unveiled the latest iterations of its MacBook Pro line of laptops and TV app. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
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'If I were king for a day' 

One reason that Cook doesn't like measuring Apple's success by sales and profit is because he believes that the 90-day quarterly public company earnings calendar is a "negative."

"Why would you ever measure a business on 90 days when its investments are long term?" Cook asked in the interview. 

"If I were king for a day, that whole thing would change. But when I really get down to it, here, it affects a few of us because we have to do a quarterly call and so forth, but does it affect the company? No," he continued. 

Instead, he says, he focuses on Apple's customers and how they're liking products like the iPhone or MacBook. He said he reads several user comments or criticisms per day, and calls Apple customers "jewels."

Cook's emphasis on customers as stakeholders reflects a growing trend in public corporate management: a move away from the short-term profit focus started by activist shareholders in the 1980s, and towards a better understanding of all stakeholders beyond the company's shareholders.

What Cook said in the Fast Company interview sounds a lot like a letter sent by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink earlier this year.

"Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose," Fink wrote in an open letter to corporate CEOs. "To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial peperformance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate."

Still, Apple has been spending billions in recent years on share buybacks and dividends, keeping its shareholders happy, with another dividend increase on the horizon after a recent tax benefit. Turns out, it's a lot easier to put other stakeholders first when you've never had a bad year. 

The entire interview with Tim Cook is worth reading for Apple investors and watchers

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