Jeff Bezos Reveals 3 Strategies for Amazon's Success
“It remains Day 1.” That’s how Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, signed off in his 2018 letter to shareholders. He’s been propagating the “day 1” mantra for decades, and it’s meant as a reminder that Amazon should never stop acting like a startup -- even though the company now boasts more than 560,000 employees and more than 100 million members of Amazon Prime, the company’s paid service for free shipping on select items.
Here are some of the most useful nuggets of wisdom Bezos shared in his letter and during a recent onstage interview.
1. Standards are contagious.
Bezos says he believes high standards are teachable rather than intrinsic. “Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt,” he writes. “The opposite is also true.”
If a company or team operates with low standards, a new employee will often -- perhaps even unwittingly -- adjust their work ethic accordingly. He also says that high standards in one area don’t automatically translate to high standards in another -- it’s important for people to discover their “blind spots.” Try making a list of your duties, then ask trusted colleagues to tell you which responsibilities are your greatest strengths. If certain things from the list don’t come up during the conversation, it might be useful to think about how you can up your personal standards in those areas.
2. Set clear, realistic expectations.
If you’re looking to raise your standards in a particular area, the first course of action is to outline what quality looks like in that area. The second is to set realistic expectations for yourself -- or for your team -- regarding how much work it will take to achieve that level of quality.
Exhibit A: You won’t find a single PowerPoint presentation at an Amazon company meeting. Instead, teams write six-page narrative memos to prepare everyone else for the meeting. Bezos says the quality of the memos vary greatly because writers don’t always recognize the scope of the work required to reach high standards.
“They mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more!” Bezos writes.
3. Stay involved with the people you’re serving.
Whether you’re selling a product or service, it’s a good idea to make sure you never lose touch when it comes to the people you’re serving -- no matter how high up the ladder you climb.
Bezos says he still reads emails from his public inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) as a way to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s happening with Amazon customers. He says he believes focusing on what customers are saying is much more important for success than focusing on what competitors are doing, and he often compares customer feedback to company data to see where they misalign.
“When the anecdotes and the data disagree," Bezos said at a recent leadership forum at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, "the anecdotes are usually right.”