Week Five: ‘The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon’ by Brad Stone

This is Week Five of the #CEOChallenge – to read 52 books in a year. Follow along for weekly insights into some of the worlds most influential books. Enjoy!


“Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way. We should be trying to find a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more.” – (Jeff Bezos as quoted by Brad Stone, 167)


Brad Stone journals the literary journey of Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, in his book “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon“. Here are three key takeaways that are important to Amazon’s success: Culture, Strategy, and Communication.

Culture:

Culture, as MIT professor Edgar Schein defines it, is a series of assumptions a person can make according to the group they are participating in.  Culture can sometimes be identified by looking at the core values of a company. In Amazon’s case, their culture fits their values. Here is the list of Amazon’s core values from 1998 (99):

  1. Customer Obsession
  2. Frugality
  3. Bias for Action
  4. Ownership
  5. High Bar for Talent
  6. Innovation (This value was later added)

Amazon’s number one priority always was the customer, as Bezos once said, “don’t be worried about our competitors because they’re never going to send us money anyway. Let’s be worried about our customers and stay heads-down focused” (58).

Culture is not what you write on paper, it is the way people operate without anyone saying a word – identify your culture, then you will know your values. 

Strategy:

Amazon, though you might question it, is not a retailer. Amazon is a technology company; Amazon is dedicated to solving problems for customers shopping online.

Amazon began as a digital bookstore, but Bezos always knew that it was just a stepping stone to his real vision:

“To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online” (Amazon).

In order to create an online store that is successful in the 1990s, Bezos needed to overcome a huge problem: creating a trustworthy way of paying for something online with a credit card.

  1. Customer Service Must Be Sublime – Bezos invested a lot into hiring customer service staff who were exceptional at solving customer problems.
  2. Have the Largest Density of Customer Reviews – In order to create a trustworthy site, it required having an incredible amount of reviews from previous purchasers.

Identify what barriers customers might have to your product, then bust them down – then you can begin to create value for customers!

Communication:

Effective communication begins with the “Why?” question.“Distill a pitch into its purest essence, to start from something the customer might see… and work backward” (176).

Don’t explain what something is, or how it works, until you know why you are doing it. Keep it simple and customer focused.

Simplify the way you and your teams communicate and your customer, business, and relationships will all benefit.


Brad Stone is Silicon Valley journalist and author, and I recommend reading this book. Check out his Website and follow him on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn for more insights into Silicon Valley upstarts and giants!

See you next week,

Adam.

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4 thoughts on “Week Five: ‘The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon’ by Brad Stone

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