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Lessons From World’s Largest E-Commerce Company: What Makes Amazon Amazon?

Bloomberg Businessweek has published an excerpt from “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” Brad Stone’s upcoming book on the multi billion online retailer. Here’s an excerpt of the 10 page excerpt, focusing on a few attributes described by Brad Stone, behind the success of Amazon.

Jeff_Bezos
Jeff_Bezos

1. Obssessive Customer Focus

Jeff Bezos has a public e-mail address on which customers can complain. When Amazon employees get a Bezos question mark e-mail, they react as though they’ve discovered a ticking bomb. They’ve typically got a few hours to solve whatever issue the CEO has flagged and prepare a thorough explanation for how it occurred, a response that will be reviewed by a succession of managers before the answer is presented to Bezos himself. Such escalations, as these e-mails are known, are Bezos’s way of ensuring that the customer’s voice is constantly heard inside the company.

2. Amazon’s Berlin Wall approach to public relations

John Doerr, the venture capitalist who backed Amazon early and was on its board of directors for a decade, calls Amazon’s Berlin Wall approach to public relations “the Bezos Theory of Communicating.” It’s really just a disciplined form of editing. Bezos takes a red pen to press releases, product descriptions, speeches, and shareholder letters, crossing out anything that doesn’t convey a simple message: You won’t find a cheaper, friendlier place to get everything you need than Amazon.

3. Cold & Rational Bezos

Some Amazon employees advance the theory that Bezos, like Jobs, Gates, and Oracle (ORCL) co-founder Larry Ellison, lacks empathy. As a result, he treats workers as expendable resources without taking into account their contributions. That in turn allows him to coldly allocate capital and manpower and make hyperrational business decisions, where another executive might let emotion and personal relationships figure into the equation. They also acknowledge that Bezos is primarily consumed with improving the company’s performance and customer service and that personnel issues are secondary. “This is not somebody who takes pleasure at tearing someone a new a-?-hole,” says Kim Rachmeler, an executive who worked at Amazon for more than a decade. “He is not that kind of person. Jeff doesn’t tolerate stupidity, even accidental stupidity.”

4. Adversarial Atmosphere

The people who do well at Amazon are often those who thrive in an adversarial atmosphere with almost constant friction. Bezos abhors what he calls “social cohesion,” the natural impulse to seek consensus. He’d rather his minions battle it out backed by numbers and passion, and he has codified this approach in one of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles—the company’s highly prized values that are often discussed and inculcated into new hires: Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit. Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

You can read the 10 page excerpt here.

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