Lessons from the Experts: Jeff Bezos

Friday, 05 December 2014

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos is considered to be one of the founding fathers of e-commerce. Today, one of his many businesses, Amazon.com, is an Internet goliath that sells everything from books to watches to gift baskets. Bezos started out on his road to success by abandoning his well-paying job as a youngest-ever senior vice president for a firm on Wall Street, to set up office in his garage. Amazon.com was launched in 1995 and made sales worth $20,000 within a week. By 1995, Amazon was making upward of $500,000 in sales and reached $17 billion in 2011. In 2013, Bezos made headlines when he purchased The Washington Post in a $250 million deal.

Jeff Bezos

Here are some nuggets of wisdom from an individual who had vision and was not afraid to take risks.

1. Be customer-driven.
"In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts. The very best businesses acquire customers ‘organically’ without advertising. Great products and word of mouth drives sales at these companies”
Jeff Bezos is known for his empty chair tradition. During staff meetings, he adds an additional empty chair as a reminder of the person not in the room: the customer. This helps him and his team to be conscious of how the consumer would feel about their decisions.

2. Take risks.
"If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table."
“The common question that gets asked in business is, 'why?' That's a good question, but an equally valid question is, 'why not?'”

3. Lead by a fact-based approach.
"The great thing about fact-based decisions is that they overrule the hierarchy."
Many companies make choices based on the seniority or charisma of those arguing the various points of view. This can often blur the right decision for the company.

4. Have the courage to disagree.
“Have backbone, disagree and commit are part of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles. Without freedom to state opinions and freedom to dispute, there is no innovation.”

5. Focus on what matters most.
“We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”

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