“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.” – Jeff Bezos
Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store” is a thriller. Bezos’ journey from a gifted student to a groundbreaking entrepreneur takes roller coaster twists. Stone dwells on each turn to illustrate the ethos of Jeff Bezos’ vision and Amazon.com, by extension.
Bezo brimmed with intelligence throughout his life. As a youth, he shocked his teachers with his intellect. As an adult, he thrived through college and upon graduation received and pursued a variety of job offers before becoming senior vice president of D.E Shaw and Co at age 30. While there, Bezos’ did what many brilliant young professionals tend to do, he followed his intuition. For Bezos, this meant betting on the internet.
The ability to take this step required one of Bezos’ traits that was a major motif throughout the reading: stubbornness. Time and time again, Bezos went out on limbs, challenging even his partners on as little as a gut feeling. This approach has a allot of added responsibility but in the case of Amazon, the genius of the leader proved to outweigh the risk.
Some of the uniquely ‘Bezos’ attributes of Amazon that seems to keep it a step above its competitors:
- Future mindedness – Amazon never thought in the past and very rarely ever thought in the present. The payoff for Bezos was always on the horizon and only in very unusual periods, where the possibility of growing pains looming, did Bezos ever focus on short-term profits.
- Customer-centricity. Because Bezos often gave off the vibe of an esoteric savant, It’s hard to believe just how consumer focus his thinking was. Bezos seemed to have ultimate consumer empathy which manifested itself in two key ways:
- Data drivenness – Bezos seemed to have a direct tap into the mind of his consumers, sometimes knowing what they wanted before they did. A large part of this grew from a reverence of those data that Amzon.com made accessible. To this day, Amazon uses data to create specialized consumer profiles that allow it to cater to each user’s individual needs.
- The virtue of the vanishing middleman – Amazon realized early on that fluid competition between sellers on Amazon would keep its microcosm market efficient. So Amazon worked to become as inconspicuous as possible, allowing consumers and sellers to communicate vertically and horizontally without interference. Though this infuriated sellers, Bezos knew Amazon’s consumers would appreciate it. In this way, Amazon serves as the perfect middleman – one that’s hardly there.
This was a phenomenal read for me. A major eye-opener was releasing the intricacies of Amazon’s company culture. Amazon seems to fly in the face of the other tech giants in this regard. As opposed to the extravagant treatment most companies of like size hail upon their workforce, Amazon has a strict, competitive, and truly relentless work environment. Early mornings and late nights. The only glamour comes from one’s immediate achievements.
As a computer science Major, I am familiar with the rhetoric that surrounds applying for a job at Amazon. There is a running joke about the merciless hours and break jaw pace of projects. Still, though Amazon is a place any young developer would make major sacrifices to be a part of. This is because to be a real innovator in any sector (but especially in tech) allot of ‘crazy’ is involved. This craziness, though, is both necessary for imagining and pursuing huge leaps forward in technology and fun enough to attract and entertain young talent.
An experience I have had with a similar culture was with the Boston College rowing team my sophomore year. Under the leadership of a new coach that vowed to breath new life into our team, every day became a competition. Not unlike the wild broom balls games that would unfold at Amazon (games in which Bezos was known to partake), any team gathering was liable to degenerate into a massive competition. Even things as small as eating breakfast or stretching could turn into an unadulterated brawl with clear winners, clear losers, and prizes. That year BC earned its first ACRA national champion boat.
Bezos had a similar idea in mind. He knew what is important to a company, isn’t its resources, backing, or sex appeal. It is its relentless culture of intensity. A finite set of values that allow a group understanding to hold certain goods above others and push every possible situation to the extreme in doing so. It was this idea that had the potential to turn a simple bookstore into a store that sold everything (a grandiose and impossible idea). That same idea took Jeff Bezos and a group of other like-minded intellectuals and transformed them into the biggest tech giant the world has ever seen.