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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

    Sebastian is the co-founder of Blinkist, a serial entrepreneur, consultant, speaker and writer with a passion for management-free organizations.

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    7 Strategies to Keep Employee Motivation High

    7 Strategies to Keep Employee Motivation High

    Highly motivated employees are essential to the success of any business. Most people spend a third of their lives at work.[1] That’s a significant amount of time away from home, apart from the people who make us happy and the things we love to do. So keeping employee motivation high is essential for creating an office environment that gets the best out of our people.

    But do you know what motivates your people?

    It’s simple:

    • Is their work stimulating?
    • Does it challenge them?
    • Is there room to grow, a promotion perhaps?
    • Do you encourage creativity?
    • Can they speak openly and honestly with you?
    • Do you praise them?
    • Do you trust your staff to take ownership of their work?
    • Do they feel safe in their work environment?
    • And more importantly, do you pay them properly?

    Every one of these factors contributes to the general happiness of your employees. It’s what motivates them to come into the office each day and work hard, hit goals, and get results.

    In contrast, an unmotivated employee is typically unhappy. They take more sick days, they’re not invested in seeing your business succeed, and they’re always on the lookout for something better.

    Stats show that 81 percent of employees would consider leaving their jobs today if the right opportunity presented itself.[2] So it’s up to you to set aside time and energy to create a work environment that benefits every one of your employees.

    These seven strategies will help you motivate your people to consistently deliver quality work and, more importantly, to stick around for the long term.

    1. Be Someone They Can Rely On

    You rely on your people to turn up to work each day, to come to you when they have a problem they can’t solve, to be honest, and to always engage professionally with customers.

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    But this is not a one-way street. You, too, need to be someone your team can rely on. They trust you to have their backs when a client is unreasonable, to know that the decisions they make are in your best interest, and to make good on your promises.

    If you say you’ll attend an important meeting, be there. If your company makes a profit and you’ve said you’ll pay a bonus, pay it. The goodwill of your people is something you never want to test, let alone lose.

    Be reliable; it’s astounding how much this motivates your people.

    2. Create an Awesome Company Culture

    There’s no denying that company culture trickles down from the top. Your leadership and attitude massively influences the attitudes, work ethic, and happiness of your staff. If you’re always stressed-out, overly demanding, and unreasonable, it’ll create tension in your office which will adversely affect your employees’ motivation levels.

    In fact, the HAYS “US What People Want Survey” found that 47 percent of staff who are actively looking for a new job, pinpoint company culture as the driving force behind their reason to leave.

    So if you have high staff turnover, you need to determine whether your company culture might be the motivating factor behind your churn rate.

    Here are four ways to build a culture that keeps your employees highly motivated.

    • Be conscious of the image you present. Your body language and attitude can positively or negatively impact your employees. So come to work energized. Be optimistic, friendly, and engaging—this enthusiasm will spill over to your people and motivate them to be more productive and efficient.
    • Appreciate your people and be reasonable. Celebrate your team’s achievements. If they’re doing a good job, tell them. Encourage them to challenge themselves and try new things. And reward when deserved. If they’re struggling, help them. Work together to find solutions and be a sounding board for their ideas.
    • Be flexible. Give your people opportunities to work remotely—this is highly motivating to staff, particularly millennials. They don’t want to be battling traffic each day on their way to work. They don’t want to miss their kids’ baseball games or ballet rehearsals. Stats show that companies that offer flextime and the ability to work from home or a coffee shop have happier and more productive employees.
    • Create employee-friendly work environments. These are spaces that inspire and ignite the imagination. Have you ever been to Google’s offices? No headquarter is the same. From indoor slides and food trucks, to hammocks, and funky work pods on the wall, gaming rooms, and tranquil interior gardens, there’s something for everyone. It’s a space where people want to be, catering to their need for creativity, quiet, or team building; you name it.

    So take a look at your company culture and ask yourself, Is my business an attractive workplace for talented professionals? Does it inspire commitment and motivate my people? What could I do to improve my company culture?

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    3. Touch Base with Your Team Weekly

    Make time for your people, whether you run a remote business or work in an office, set aside time each week to talk to your people one-on-one. It’s non-negotiable.

    When there’s an open line of communication between staff members, work gets done. Don’t believe me? A study by Gallup found that 26 percent of employees said feedback from their leaders helps them to do a better job.[3]

    Your people want to feel trusted. They want to take ownership of their work, but they also need to know that when they have a question, they can reach out and get answers. If you’re unwilling to make yourself available, your team will quickly become unmotivated, work will stagnate, and your business will stop growing.

    So block off time on your calendar each week to touch base with your people, even if only to let them know that what they’re working on matters.

    4. Give Them the Tools They Need to Do Their Jobs Well

    Imagine trying to run your business without electricity. How would you contact your clients? What would happen when your phone or computer battery died?

    Technology is super critical to the success of your businesses. It allows you to work more efficiently, to be more productive, and to handle matters on-the-go. That’s why you need to give your people tools that will make their jobs easier.

    Make sure their equipment is in good working condition. There’s nothing more frustrating than a laptop that takes ages to boot up. It’s got to go. Replace outdated software with new software. Don’t make your designer work in Coreldraw; give them access to the most up-to-date version of Adobe Creative Suite. Take it a step further and buy them a subscription to Shutterstock or Getty Images.

    Make working for you a pleasure, not a pain; and watch your employees’ motivation levels rise.

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    5. Provide Opportunities to Learn and Upskill

    Would you believe me if I told you that 33 percent of people cite boredom and a need for new challenges as the top reason for leaving their job?[4] If you want to retain your talent, you need to upskill.

    Thanks to technology, we live in a rapidly evolving world that demands we change with it. A copywriter is no longer just a writer; they now need to be experts in SEO, Google Adwords, CRMs, and so much more.

    A pastry chef needs to be a food stylist, photographer, and social media manager. An entrepreneur needs to be a marketer—or at least take ownership of the marketing message for their business—if they hope to scale.

    Technology makes all of this possible. No matter your location, your people can continuously expand their knowledge and gain new skill sets—something that’s highly motivating to employees. They want to know that there are opportunities to grow and develop themselves.

    If you won’t invest in your people, then your business becomes just another job to tide them over until they find where they truly belong. So be the company that sees value in developing its people.

    6. Monitor Their Workload

    Overworked employees tend to be unproductive and unhappy. Your people cannot be at full capacity every day, month to month. Something’s got to give. They’ll become deflated and their work will eventually suffer, which will negatively impact your business.

    What I like to do is implement a traffic light system. It helps me to keep a finger on the pulse of my business. So there’s red, yellow, and green:

    • Red means they’re fully loaded.
    • Yellow means they’re busy, but they can potentially take on more.
    • Green means they haven’t got enough to do.

    I use this traffic light system because I don’t want my team members to be stressed out of their brains all the time. If they are, they won’t make good decisions and they won’t do good work.

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    If my people are regularly overloaded, I have things to think about. Perhaps I need to hire a new person to help ease the load or take a closer look at what projects are good to go, and which can take a back seat.

    And this is why #3 is essential. If I’m regularly engaging with my people, I’ll know that while they’re coping with their workload, it is impacting their performance and health, and I’ll take action.

    7. Don’t Mess Around with Your Employees’ Pay

    Never mess around with your people’s salary. As a business owner or high-level manager, it’s easy to forget that most people live from paycheck to paycheck. Delayed compensation can mean a missed bill payment, which could result in costly penalties they can’t afford or hits to their credit score.

    So it’s your job to ensure that you pay your people on time.

    The Bottom Line

    A motivated team is an asset to any business. These people never give up. They get excited about coming to work each day and can’t wait to test a new theory or tackle a particularly tricky challenge. They’re proud of the work they do. And more importantly, they have no reason to leave.

    Wouldn’t you rather be part of their success story than the business that drove them away?

    More to Motivate Your Team

    Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com

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