Companies built in the image of their founder
I first came up with this idea when I was thinking about why I listened to a lot of Ringer podcasts and read a lot of Ringer content (for those of you unfamiliar, The Ringer is a blog/website that does longer form pieces on sports and media).
I like to think of Bill Simmons as a professional "sports (and media) fan", and his website The Ringer is a business incarnation of these passions.
Reading The Everything Store, Amazon feels like a business incarnation of Jeff Bezos. From frugality to obsession with the customer, Bezos's values emanate through the company. There are stories of Bezos taking a ride from a Harvard student to the airport (the student proceeded to get hired by Amazon). Bezos obsesses over a single customer complaint - they shouldn't be talking to Amazon at all if everything went smoothly.
His Jeff-isms (common phrases the Jeff Bezos uses) are well-known across the company and Jeff-bots are the lucky ones that get to execute his vision. The qualities that make Bezos successful as an individual are the ones that make Amazon successful as a company.
Focus on the customer, not the competitor
Traditional mattress retailers would sell mattresses with little price transparency. Different retailers would have different prices, but it was difficult for customers to compare and they had to bargain to not get ripped off. That's not focusing on the customer - that's focusing on your margins.
When Apple taking away the headphone jack, Samsung advertised they still has one. Apple took away their bezels and replaced it with a notch, and Samsung took away the notch and replaced it with a hole punch. Sure, Samsung may be doing this in the interest of the customer, but it feels more like they're going tit for tat with their competitor.
In the hyper-competitive world of starting a company, you have to be laser-focused on one metric, and for Amazon it was customer satisfaction. As traditional retailers were trying to squeeze out margins from their customers, Amazon was taking on huge losses to ship more products faster and cheaper.
They knew this upfront cost had the flywheel effect of bringing more customers to Amazon and generating the scale necessary to reach profitability in the long term. Focus on what matters.
Work-life balance vs. work-life harmony
Around the time I was reading this book, tech Twitter was debating how many hours you should be working to be successful. Well, I know which side Bezos would be on: Bezos doesn't believe in work-life balance, but rather work-life harmony.
It made Amazon a tough place to work for people with families, but many former executives recall their time there as some of the most productive and fulfilling work they've done. Bezos lives and breathes Amazon. Just as he put everything into his work at Amazon, he expected his employees to do the same.
That's because he believed that changing the world in a meaningful way is really, really hard. It's not even a job really. If you truly want to change the world in a meaningful way, that is your life.
Bezos on what makes Amazon different:
We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long-term oriented and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not these things. They are focused on the competitor, rather than the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don't work in two or three years they will move on to something else. And they prefer to be close-followers rather than inventors, because it's safer. So if you want to capture the truth about Amazon, that is what's different. Very few companies have all of these three elements.
An interesting way to think about Amazon Prime:
Signing up for Amazon Prime, Jason Kilar said at the time, "was like going from a dial-up to a broadband Internet connection."
To understand the magnitude of Amazon, you have to understand the interplay between bits and atoms. Amazon wants to move atoms as easily as we move bits. From one-week to two-day to one-day to the everything store at our fingertips, Amazon is truly the first company to connect the digital world to the physical world.
It's easy to take for granted what makes Amazon great. How hard can it be to move your order of toilet paper, a book, and pancake mix from a fulfillment center to your house? But when you realize the technological and logistical nightmare it is to track, assemble, and fulfill packages in infinite permutations across the country, you really appreciate the vision of the world that Bezos brought into reality.
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