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7 Habits You Can Learn From Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com

7 Habits You Can Learn From Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com

The year is 1994. The scene: Jeff Bezos’ parents garage.

While many of us were kicking up our Airwalks with an episode of Friends playing in the background, Bezos was architecting a grand plan that would change the way people shopped forever. He called it the “Everything Store,” a place where, using the as-yet-untapped power of the Internet, people could purchase virtually anything. Twenty years later, the Everything Store makes billions worldwide and goes by the name Amazon.com.

What grew an idea planted in a Bellevue garage into one of today’s most successful businesses? Dedication, innovation, and 7 smart habits that you can use to nurture the success of your own enterprise.

1. Focus on Customers

Jeff Bezos understood early on that the advantage of an online business was in measuring customer behavior. Over the years, Amazon constantly adds features that are aimed of making their customers happy which, in turn, bolsters the company’s sales.

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Look at Amazon.com book reviews, as an example. Despite receiving a scolding from publishers, Amazon encouraged customers to post their thoughts, even if those thoughts were critical or negative. Customers loved sharing their insights and reading others’, too, and now, reviews are one of the best-trusted aspects of the modern e-commerce platform.

Make the core of your business customer satisfaction. Hunt relentlessly for what makes your customers smile, and innovate based on their needs.

2. Practice Frugality

Though not geographically far from the swank, luxuriously-stocked offices of Silicon Valley, Amazon got its start in a simple, functional space in Washington state and operated on a market with minimal margins. Frugality is in Amazon’s very DNA and seems to help the company focus on the most important things: its customers and continuing innovation.

What does frugality mean for Amazon? For starters, employees pay for their own parking tickets, snacks at the office aren’t free, and, when traveling, employees bunk in double rooms. In general, Amazon isn’t a place where staff spend relaxed days brainstorming over coffee. The norm is to work long, hard, and smart, with no compromises on any of the three.

Sometimes success doesn’t require any special conditions. A studied rejection of luxury can make for lean innovations and improve company focus.

3. Make Your Own Rules

What’s an internal meeting without a PowerPoint? Well, at Amazon, it starts with a written argument. Anyone who wants to propose a new idea must first distill his or her thoughts into a 6-page document. Before any decision is made, those involved, including Bezos himself, must take the time to read and dissect it.

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Another rule introduced by Bezos is the Two-Pizza Team: no team should be so big that you couldn’t feed it with two pizzas. According to Bezos, larger groups are less productive, so the company is organized into autonomous units of 10 or fewer that compete for resources (but not pizzas) in their mission to make their customers happier.

Honor organizational outlaws. It’s often the radical or outlandish approaches to daily business that make the most impact.

Amazon Boxes

    4. Think for the Long Term

    Bezos started Amazon with the long game in mind–a play that meant accepting short term losses that not everyone understood.

    Consider the e-book. When e-books first entered the market, most publishers sold them at prices commensurate to their print editions. Bezos, however, projected that their long-term price would be around 10 dollars and started selling them for 9.99. At first, this decision generated losses of about 5 dollars per e-book, but when the price eventually dropped, Amazon had already become the go-to for e-books. With this surprising strategy, he’d also laid the foundation for one of the company’s greatest successes, the Kindle.

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    Don’t be afraid to make decisions that might be unpopular in the moment but will reap future rewards.

    5. Risk It

    Before that big idea in the Bellevue garage took off, Jeff Bezos had a secure job at a hedge fund. Still, he quit it, set up in his parents’ garage, and poured his savings into making the Everything Store a reality. And it worked.

    Today, Amazon operates on the premise that the risk is worth the reward. This approach has led to flops such as Amazon Auctions, a division that simply couldn’t compete with eBay’s hold on the market, but it’s also spawned Amazon’s wildly successful 1-Click Purchase. To support a culture of initiative and enterprise, Bezos created a “Just Do It” award, conferred to both employees who tried and succeeded, and also to those who tried and failed. The core message is that taking a risk is preferable to being too fearful to move.

    Risks are worth taking. Half the time, you’ll fail, but when that initiative results in a win, it just might be big and bold.

    6. Let the Data Decide

    It might surprise you that Amazon.com started off as a book shop. The initial product selection was no happy accident on Bezos’ part, but rather the result of a long look at hard facts. Books can be shipped without breaking, they’re rarely returned, and they’ll never expire (even if the knowledge therein grows stale). In short, books are the ideal product for e-commerce.

    Every aspect of commerce and customer behavior is eminently quantifiable, so Bezos demands that all decisions be based on that intel. Meetings are not about customer anecdotes, but rather Excel sheets filled with relevant metrics.

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    Before making a call, consult the data. Humans can get it wrong, but numbers never lie.

    7. Stay Hungry

    Never ceasing to learn, evolve, and innovate might be the ultimate ingredient for success. Amazon began with books, but no sooner had they gained a foothold in that market than they conquered music, movies, electronics, and toys. Later came the Kindle, and with it, they won their niche. Even now, there are Amazon services completely under the radar to most consumers. Did you know that Amazon Web Services provides cloud computing services to big businesses, the US government, and even NASA?

    Becoming a viable player in such a variety of different arenas never came from Bezos sitting back, satisfied with the goods already reaped. To the contrary, he believes that there are no products and services Amazon couldn’t sell. Soon, the company will have its own delivery fleet, become a publisher and media company, build smartphones, and perhaps even offer 3D printing services. For Bezos, the future is rife with possibility, opportunity, and inventiveness–and he’s hungry for all that it brings.

    The road to success is paved with dissatisfaction. Never accept the status quo or say, “I’ve done enough.” Instead, keep searching for potential and inciting growth.

    Jeff Bezos’ unique way of thinking long-term and taking smart risks has made Amazon into the company it is today, one that writes its own rules and evolves every minute, not to mention one that rakes in an annual revenue of 75 billion dollars. Take it from Amazon’s founding striver: focus on customers, stay hungry, be frugal, and maybe, take a peep into the garage. If you look past the lawnmowers and buckets of paint, it just might be teeming with potential.

    This piece is based on knowledge from Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

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    Sebastian Klein

    CEO, Serial Entrepreneur, Consultant, Speaker and Writer

    Life-changing books open your mind 10 Books to Read That Will Change The Way You Think Forever jubilation! 10 Little Tricks to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today 10 Things You Can Learn From the Dalai Lama to Become a Happier Person Mentors 101 Mentors 101: Finding, Maintaining, and Outmatching Your Mentor jeff bezos 7 Habits You Can Learn From Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com

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    Last Updated on April 17, 2019

    10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

    10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

    What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

    Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

    They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

    1. Communication Skills

    Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

    To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

    Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

    Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

    After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

    2. Flexibility

    Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

    Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

    Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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    Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

    3. Being a Team Player

    Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

    What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

    This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

    Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

    4. Positive Mental Attitude

    There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

    Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

    Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

    It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

    Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

    5. A Strong Work Ethic

    People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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    If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

    Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

    • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
    • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
    • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
    • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

    For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

    6. Public Speaking

    Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

    Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

    If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

    For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

    Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

    7. Integrity

    From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

    • Always doing what you say you will do
    • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

    …even when no one is around to check up on you.

    There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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    Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

    8. Managing Your Time

    Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

    A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

    Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

    Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

    These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

    9. Assertiveness

    In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

    • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
    • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
    • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
    • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

    Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

    How do you use this information for yourself?

    It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

    Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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    How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

    10. Creative Thinking

    LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

    Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

    How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

    Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

    These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

    You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

    What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    Final Thoughts

    The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

    So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

    The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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    Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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