“I knew if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”
In 1994 Jeff Bezos, CEO & Chairman of Amazon.com, came across a piece of information that excited and motivated him to move in a new direction.
He found out that internet usage in that year was growing at 2300%. This startling statistic stirred Bezos, at the time a 30 year old Vice President of an investment company, to give up a comfortable job to embark on what he described as ‘this crazy thing…selling books online.’
He was clear what he wanted to do…he wanted to build ‘Earth’s biggest bookstore’.
It didn’t make sense to many people and even the book trade didn’t get it! However, undeterred and with the backing of his wife, family and friends he set out to create a new and innovative path, not just for him but for many online retailers to come!
The BiG Gamble
In July 1995 Amazon.com was open to the world and within 3 months was turning over weekly sales of £20, 000.
The company went public in 1997 and by 2002 Jeff had expanded his vision for Amazon.com to be the ‘Earth’s biggest anything store’, meaning that you could buy anything online from Amazon.
Jeff instinctively knew that to create a company that would change the buying habits of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, he would need to be customer focused. This required the real time information or the dashboard to drive this change being readily available.
Amazon built, in his words, ‘…the world’s most customer centric company. The place where people come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.’
So far. So Good!
It clearly looks like it’s working.
At the start of 2010, the company had revenues of US$10.7 billion. In only 5 years revenues have multiplied by a factor of 10 to US$107 billion at the end of 2015. Now Amazon doesn’t just sell books, they sell anything and everything.
Anything and everything from, DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs, video downloads and streaming, MP3 downloads and streaming, audiobook downloads and streaming, software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys and jewellery.
If that wasn’t enough, the company also produces popular consumer electronics, notably, Amazon Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, and Fire TV —and has become the world’s largest provider of cloud computing, counting Netflix as one of it’s customers.
Amazon has grown into one of the biggest online sales platforms on Earth and Jeff is still at the helm and still driving towards an incredible future.
As one commentator put it ‘The vision of Jeff Bezos had prevailed, and the world of commerce had changed forever.’
All because one man was clear where he wanted to go!
Jeff’s Top 10 Lessons for Entrepreneurs.
1. Care for the Cause
“I strongly believe that missionaries make better products. They care more. For a missionary, it’s not just about the business. You do it because you have something meaningful that motivates you.”
As far as Bezos is concerned, the best businesses are ones that are driven by a purpose and fuelled by a mission. The product is simply a means to an end.
- What is your personal/corporate mission?
- How does your product/business deliver it?
2. Work Backwards
“…determine what your customers need and work backward, even if it requires learning new skills. Kindle is an example of working backward.”
Amazon is a completely customer centric company and always starts with the customer rather than what you are capable of. That way they are always ahead of the curve in creating products that delight customers.
- How do you create your products?
- Do you create products that customers are passionate about or what you are passionate about?
3. Be Focused & Flexible
“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third-party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third-party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.”
Be focused on the end point, flexible on the approach… is another way of putting it. There’s always more than one way to skin the proverbial cat . Look beyond the easiest way.
- Are you crystal clear on your vision?
- What are the other ways of making it happen?
4. Experiment More
“If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness.”
Want to be more innovative and come up with more solutions? In Jeff’s eyes, the solution is quite simple, experiment more, try more new stuff. If you try more stuff you will come up with more innovations.
- What business challenges are you facing?
- What are some of the unconventional ways you could use to fix those challenges?
5. Don’t get it Twisted
“Maintain a firm grasp of the obvious at all times.”
Never ignore the obvious. If you make your product for £10 and sell it for £5, then that doesn’t make for a successful business. Even for the most phenomenal product, the numbers must add up.
- Does your business model make sense?
- Does your pricing structure leave room for a decent margin after you have accounted for all the fixed and variable costs?
6. Lead The Pack
“Market leadership can translate directly to higher revenue, higher profitability, greater capital velocity, and correspondingly stronger returns on invested capital”
Never focus on your competitors but maintain market leadership by always focusing on the customer. The aim of the game is serving them well not just keeping up with your competition.
Customer obsession tends to lead to market leadership.
- What is your product motivation? Is it market leadership or competitor supremacy?
- What ‘out of the park’ services can you deliver that puts you firmly ahead of he pack?
7. Your Brand is in Your Hand
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
It is not what you tell your customers that establishes your brand. It is what your customers tell others that make you brand. When you solve their problems well, customers will gladly share the experience. This is also true when they have a bad experience with you.
- Do you know what your customers think of your product, service or business?
- Do you have a feedback process in place?
8. Be Clear of The Future
“Amazon.com strives to be the e-commerce destination where consumers can find and discover anything they want to buy online.”
Jeff is clear where he wants to take Amazon.com. He simply wants to sell anything. To everyone. Everywhere. With that he has laid out his proverbial stall.
- Are you clear of your business or organization’s future?
- What does it look like?
9. Know Your Competences
“I’ve always been at the intersection of computers and whatever they can revolutionize.”
Jeff has built a core competence in using computing power to revolutionize retailing and book publishing amongst other industries. His purchase of The Washington Post brings that competence to newspaper publishing as well. He knows what he is good at.
- What are you good at?
- Ask around…What is it that people think of when they hear about you?
10. Consistency brings Success
“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.”
Amazon is a very consistent company. This statement Aligns perfectly with their 4 Corporate Principles.
- Long term Thinking
- Customer Obsession
- Passion for Invention
- Operational Excellence
Be consistent. It pays off in the end.
- What are the big ideas that underpin your thinking?
- Are you in this for the long haul or are you looking for a quick profit?
This article written by Colin Tomlin appears in the July/August issue of eg Magazine UK. Get it here.
Colin’s sole purpose and reason for being is to help you to discover, define & deliver your BiG ideas! To that end he publishes eg Magazine, an online magazine that provides Entrepreneurs’ Tales, Tools & Tips and has written the GROWhow experience, a journey to discover, define & deliver your BiG ideas! He lives in Norfolk, UK with his wife, 2 kids & 3 BiG ideas of his own. Connect with Colin for FREE gifts & bonuses by clicking here.