Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is obsessed with forward motion.
In his view, the day a company stops moving forward is the day it begins an “excruciating, painful decline” through irrelevance to eventual death.
Dude’s pretty intense, huh?
As a result, Bezos thinks a lot about how Amazon can retain the forward motion of a small business even as it employs 341,000 people and earns $136 billion in annual revenues.
In a recent internal memo, Bezos revealed three factors for continued vitality that are especially applicable to small businesses.
Let’s take a look at Bezos’ obsession with customers, eager adoption of external trends, and high velocity decision making style.
1. Jeff Bezos on Customer Obsession
Some companies focus on and react to the competition above all else (even when it comes to how much they charge).
Others are obsessed with their own product innovation (think Apple) or their business model (like WalMart’s focus on supply chain).
For Amazon, the customer comes first.
Why? Even if they don’t yet know it yet, your customers are always on the verge of wanting something better.
By obsessing over customers, you will anticipate their needs and deliver products that they want before they know they want them.
Amazon example: Customers didn’t even realize they wanted Amazon Prime until it arrived. Now it’s ubiquitous.
2. Jeff Bezos on External Trends
The outside world can drive your business to irrelevance quickly if you fail to embrace powerful trends – from political and economic factors to shifts in technology.
What are some trends influencing small online sellers?
- Democratization of online marketing, especially email automation.
- The proliferation of online reviews – and the trolls who leave them.
- The rise of third-party marketplaces like Scott’s Marketplace.
- The sensitivity of pretty much everyone on the internet to politics.
Amazon example: Machine learning and artificial intelligence drove Amazon to release Alexa, a cloud-based AI assistant.
3. Jeff Bezos on Decision Making
It’s not enough to make good decisions. To stay relevant, you have to make good decisions quickly.
Bezos has a lot to say on the topic of high-velocity decision making, but here are two tips that are especially relevant for business with just a few or no employees.
First, many decisions are easily reversible and don’t require deep investigation. If the consequences of getting it wrong are minor, why agonize over a choice.
Second, most decisions should be made well before you have all the information you’d like. If you wait for 90% of the info you want, you’re probably being slow.
Amazon example: Bezos doubted a movie pitch but deferred to his team. After all, Amazon Studios has delivered 11 Emmys, 6 Golden Globes, and 3 Oscars.
A Call to Action From Jeff Bezos
It’s typical for a blogger to include an inspiring call-to-action at the end of an article. Well, I can’t say it any better than the man with the plan himself. Here’s Bezos’ call-to-action for all of us:
“So, have you settled only for decision quality, or are you mindful of decision velocity too? Are the world’s trends tailwinds for you? … And most important of all, are you delighting customers?
“We can have the scope and capabilities of a large company and the spirit and heart of a small one. But we have to choose it.”