Jeff Bezos is 1 of 2 people in the world to know the feeling of being the richest man in the world – even if he claimed the #1 spot for only a few hours.
While Amazon certainly brings in the bulk of his revenue, Bezos owns and invests in dozens of other entities, creating a modern day empire. These include Whole Foods, Zappos, Goodreads, Audible, IMDB, Living Social, HomeGrocer,com, BankBazaar.com, Bill Me Later, Wine.com, Twitter, Uber, and Airbnb.
It’s natural to speculate when and how Jeff sleeps. Apparently, he sleeps just fine.
In a recent interview at the Internet Association Gala, Bezos was asked what worries keep him up at night. He shared that there aren’t really any. In fact, he claims to be gifted with very good sleep.
Bezos shared he’s able to sleep well because he has complete confidence in the core principles of his company–the common approach that spans everything they do.
Unlike Apple, Microsoft, and Google, Amazon isn’t worried about interlocking and related apps and services.
While Amazon’s wide array of services range from producing original content to overnight delivery, there is a common thread–a unique approach. “We have a very distinctive approach that we have been honing and refining and thinking about for 22 years. It’s really just a few principles that we use as we go about these activities,” says Bezos.
Amazon’s 4 Principles
1. Customer Obsession.
The most important principle, according to Bezos, is the way Amazon centers its business on customer obsession.
While some companies are competitor-obsessed, product-obsessed, technology- obsessed, or business-model obsessed, Amazon and Bezos believe that customer obsession is the best and healthiest way to achieve success.
For Bezos, customer obsession involves enhancing and personalizing the customer experience by listening to customers, exceeding their expectations, and aligning business interests with customer interests. In essence, Amazon strives to start with the customer’s needs and work backwards.
However, “Customer obsession is not just listening to customers. Customer obsession is also inventing on their behalf,” says Bezos–leading to the second principle.
2. Eagerness to Invent to Please the Customer.
Amazon is a trailblazer for innovation. They’ve experienced a wide range of outcomes, from spectacular failure with the Amazon Fire phone and Amazon Destinations, to the overwhelming successes of Amazon Prime and Amazon Web services.
“Customers are always dissatisfied, even when they don’t know it. Even when they think they’re happy, they actually do want a better way, and they just don’t know yet what that should be,” says Bezos.
In a recent letter to shareholders, Bezos gives the example that customers never requested that the Amazon Prime program be created, but they sure do want it and like it now–as evidenced by its estimated 85 million members.
Because of Amazon’s eagerness to stay ahead of customer needs, Fast Company recently ranked them #1 on a list of the world’s most innovative companies.
Bezos explains the drive behind Amazon’s such dynamic innovation: “Our customers are loyal to us right up until the second somebody offers them a better service. And I love that. It’s super-motivating for us.”
3. Long-term Orientation.
Bezos recently shared that he doesn’t care about quarterly earnings. He explains that the quarterly results are solidified through efforts years ago. He’s always thinking about the direction of Amazon 5-7 years out, rather than what’s happening today.
“I ask everybody not to think in 2-3 year time frames, but to think in 5-7 year time frames,” explains Bezos.
He explains that this is not human nature, but something you have to teach yourself. Thinking long term impacts how you plan, and where you allot energy, time, money, and resources.
4. Acceptance of Failure as a Path to Success.
Failure is mentioned in every letter that Bezos writes to Amazon shareholders. In his interviews, Bezos repeatedly emphasizes that innovation and failure cannot be separated.
Amazon has been a place of great innovation, but also place of great failure–and Bezos regularly admits that, saying, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. None of those things are fun. But they also don’t matter.”
However, Bezos emphasizes the important distinction between two types of failure–failure in execution and failure in experimentation.
When experimenting, it is impossible for every idea to be successful; however, if you have successfully done something five times, such as establish an Amazon Warehouse, but fail on the sixth time, there is no excuse for this failure in execution.
Therefore, failure is only a path to success if the failure is due to experimentation.
Amazon’s Principles Drive Everything
“What is Amazon? I would say really, it’s a collection of principles and an approach that we deploy, and it’s fine.
I dance into work,” says Bezos playfully. Overall, Bezos can enjoy himself and sleep well at night knowing that these principles remain central to Amazon and therefore, the company will continue to thrive.
Not only that, but he’s ahead of the game–thinking about his next moves years in advance. We may just see him surpass Gates as the world’s wealthiest man again… for good.