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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
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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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    More by this author

    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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    Published on July 27, 2021

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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    During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

    But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

    Put the Pro in Professional

    After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

    1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

    The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

    Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

    2. Dress the Part

    While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

    Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

    For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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    Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

    3. Stage Your Workspace

    Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

    Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

    4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

    Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

    Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

    Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

    Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

    5. Arrive on Time

    In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

    Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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    6. Turn on Your Video

    Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

    If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

    Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

    7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

    Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

    Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

    Attend to the Pesky Details

    8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

    With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

    Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

    9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

    Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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    Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

    10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

    As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

    Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

    Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

    Talking Has a Time and a Place

    11. Chat Appropriately

    Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

    At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

    12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

    The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

    Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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    13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

    In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

    Manage Yourself

    14. Minimize Distractions

    While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

    Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

    15. Save Snacking for Later

    Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

    However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

    Final Thoughts

    Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

    Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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