The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

Summary
  1. Stone attempts to describe the Amazon story, its founder and how Wall St. and the world’s perception has changed these 20+ years
Key Takeaways
  1. Bezos is a visionary who has redefined customer service and runs his company like a chess grandmaster. He is extremely difficult to work for, intense and micromanaged but casts a reality distortion field and paints a vision people who work at Amazon are passionate and committed to
  2. The idea of an everything store which would serve as an intermediary between producers and consumers was hatched during his time at DE Shaw, a technologically advanced hedge fund
  3. Regret minimization framework – put yourself on your deathbed and imagine what you’d regret. If you’re facing a difficult decision, this exercise is very helpful to gain perspective
  4. Bezos recognized early on the importance of having transparent customer reviews in order to gain trust and provide a better shopping experience
  5. Focus on customers, not competitors
  6. Bezos is frugal about his operations but can be very aggressive and bold with acquisitions or new lines of business when he feels it is appropriate
  7. Always take and implement the best ideas from those who came before you, even if not in your direct field
  8. Had a pretty clear vision from the beginning of being the starting point for people’s shopping experience as they trusted Amazon would have pretty much anything you could want
  9. 6 core values – customer obsession, frugality, innovation, bias for action, ownership, high bar for talent
  10. It is the goal of nearly every tech company to become a platform others can/need to use. Amazon achieved this with its distribution system, marketplace and later through AWS
  11. Leadership – have backbone; disagree and commit; be vocally self-critical; think big; bias for action
  12. Bezos learned a lot from Walmart execs about the finer points of retailing and distribution and about every day low prices and customer loyalty from Costco. There are retailers who work to figure out how to charge customers more and those who work to try to charge customers less. Amazon is the latter
  13. It is almost always harder to be kind than clever
  14. Has had the dream of colonizing and traveling through space since he was a child and took his first step with his company, Blue Origin who’s mission is to create an enduring human presence in space. Many people close to Jeff say he is accumulating wealth in order to pursue his space dreams
  15. Jeff Wilke was brought in in 1999 to revamp amazon’s distribution and logistics network which would one day be the most automated and efficient system of its kind
  16. AWS is an incredible business which allows individuals or companies of any size to rent computing capacity. It scales infinitely and while the margins are slim it is incredibly profitable. It helps give start ups and individuals a more equal footing to established players. It has helped spur innovation as this once large fixed cost has turned into a variable cost which can scale in proportion to your business
  17. Influenced by a book called Creation by Steve Grand. Instead of trying to predict what people want, offer the smallest amounts of infrastructure to developers, get out of the way and see what happens and then iterate. AWS helps startups, individuals and companies achieve this business strategy
  18. Far better to cannibalize yourself than have somebody else do it. This belief along with Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma fueled Bezos and co. to dive fully into developing an ebook reader which would control the customer’s entire reading experience, much like Apple did with music and its iPod. As Amazon grew and its scale and influence increased, it sought more favorable terms with book publishers for physical books and also to begin growing the online catalogue for ebooks. Amazon aggressively pressured both large and small publishers and created some bad karma with suppliers. Many inside the company were also unsure of these new tactics as those who were onboard with Bezos’ vision and ruthless enough to achieve it whatever the costs were promoted while others were phased out
  19. Start with the customer and work backwards
  20. Many people talk about the truth but Bezos actively seeks it out and embraces it. He is also not tethered to conventional ways of thinking – only the laws of physics limits him and everything else is open to discussion
  21. Zappos was at first not interested in being acquired so Bezos and team created endless.com which pressured Zappos enough for them to reconsider. Zappos built great relationships with its suppliers like Nike who was afraid of putting their goods on Amazon because they were afraid their newest and most expensive styles would immediately go into the “bargain bin” because of Amazon’s focus on low prices. This was very much the same worry book publishers had with the switch to ebooks and their $9.99 price tag
  22. Successful Companies tend to be loved (whole foods, Costco, Disney) or feared (Microsoft, Goldman Sachs). Bezos wrote a memo describing how he wants Amazon to act in order to be more loved – polite, risk taking, winners, inventing, empowering others, conviction, authenticity, thinking big…
  23. Bezos believes truth arises when different perspectives and beliefs are argued transparently, even sometimes explosively
  24. The question “will amazon enter this area or do this…” Is almost inevitably yes, eventually. It may just move from the everything store to the everything everything
  25. “We don’t have any single big advantage, but we do have thousands of small advantages
What I got out of it
  1. Bezos is a visionary who is difficult to work for but gets the most out of his people in order to bring about the most customer obsessed company in the word to keep expanding and innovating. Fascinating culture and company and will be interesting to see how the company fares in the future and which markets they try to penetrate
“Amazon.love” memo
  • Rudeness is not cool.
  • Defeating tiny guys is not cool.
  • Close-following is not cool.
  • Young is cool.
  • Risk taking is cool.
  • Winning is cool.
  • Polite is cool.
  • Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool.
  • Inventing is cool.
  • Explorers are cool.
  • Conquerors are not cool.
  • Obsessing over competitors is not cool.
  • Empowering others is cool.
  • Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.
  • Leadership is cool.
  • Conviction is cool.
  • Straightforwardness is cool.
  • Pandering to the crowd is not cool.
  • Hypocrisy is not cool.
  • Authenticity is cool.
  • Thinking big is cool.
  • The unexpected is cool.
  • Missionaries are cool.
  • Mercenaries are not cool.” – Jeff Bezos