Amazon CEO & Founder Jeff Bezos announced he would step down as the company's CEO after 28 years of running it. Bezos will take over as the executive chairman in the third quarter of this year. Under Bezos’s leadership, Amazon evolved from an upstart online bookseller when Bezos was delivering books in his car; and evolved into one of the world’s most popular internet marketplaces which was able to quickly deliver a vast catalogue of products and services. His journey is not only inspiring but also astonishing and we entrepreneurs can learn a lot from him. So, here are five business lessons you can learn from Jeff Bezos and implement in your business right away.
1. Be Stubborn but Flexible
According to Bezos, good entrepreneurs must be stubborn but flexible. When referring to Amazon, Bezos says, “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” Sticking to the vision is the first part, and being flexible about the tactics is the second part. Bezos adds-
“If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.”
One of the things I know about entrepreneurs is that they are inherently stubborn individuals. They’re the “natural leaders” who like to take charge and have things done their way. In this sense, it seems as if they are close minded on both tactical details and vision. So while having natural leadership skills is good, being flexible on details can help your journey a lot.
2. Think in the long term
When Jeff Bezos is asked about the results of his quarterly numbers, he replies that he simply doesn’t know them. Why? Because that’s too short-term. Why focus on the short-term when you can focus on the long-term, focus in the future, and think how the decisions you make now will benefit your long-term business plans. Bezos often states that this mindset, though beneficial, takes conviction. A short-term approach may solve short-term problems, but in the end, you’re stuck dealing with the everyday decisions.
Make deliberate decisions based on the long-term. Obviously, thinking long term requires a tremendous amount of patience. This is especially true when you’re the CEO who needs to also focus on day-to-day operations. And it requires you to be misunderstood for long periods of time. It’s part of building something new. Bezos says that -
“me-too companies have not done that well over time.” So you need to invent and be willing to be misunderstood. Because all disruptors are inventors. And me-too companies are not inventors."
Is there anything today that most of us are not aware of but Bezos is already planning on? Stay tuned.
3. Obsess about customers
In his interview with Charlie Rose, Bezos says: “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with the customer and we work backwards.” When you work backwards, you start with the customer and their needs and problems. This is the opposite of what some companies do, which is: they think up ideas, build a product, and then see if customers like it; which I am also guilty of. Amazon has revolutionized customer reviews and even gone as far as allowing their competitors to advertise on their website - all ignoring short term benefits and focusing on customer satisfaction.
4. Identify and Remove Risk
The common saying about entrepreneurs is,”They are risk takers. They thrive on risk and it excites them.” According to Bezos, the best entrepreneurs don’t like risk and work to identify it and remove it in the early days of a business. You should start with the highest risk points of your business and solve them, one by one, until that becomes an advantage and your company can control its own future.
5. Get Started Now to Avoid Regret Later
What’s the worst thing you can live with? Regrets, guilt, sorrow? When Bezos was thinking about building Amazon, he had to decide whether to start the company or keep his good job on Wall Street. He created a framework to use for making the decision that he calls a Regret Minimization Framework. It helped him realize he didn’t want to not do it and regret it later. This fear of regret is one of the key reasons why he decided to go ahead and start Amazon.