Tag Archives: Amazon

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Alan Eagle, Jonathan Rosenberg


  1. This is a “help-others” rather than a self-help book. It will teach you how to better help and coach others so that they can flourish

Key Takeaways

  1. Bill Campbell
    1. Bill began every relationship with a foundation of trust. This was essential to him and everybody he worked with felt it. He showed, from the beginning, and regardless of who the person was, that he cared
    2. He always preferred to be behind the scenes but is given credit for helping Apple, Google, and various other companies reach their full potential – totaling over $2T in market cap! Bill was always looking to help others with great compassion and empathy. He helped make sure the problems, ideas, and frustrations were flushed out rather than swept under the rug, making sure everyone was on the same page whether they all agreed with the decision or not
    3. Bill played football at Columbia but was severely undersized, yet led the team due to his effort and attitude. He later coached Columbia but failed and moved into the business world at 39. After only 5 years, he rose up the ranks as a senior executive, first at Kodak, then Pepsi and Apple, later as CEO of Intuit
    4. Bill was always happy and nice to everyone – he showed everyone, regardless of who they, were dignity and respect
    5. Bill was never afraid of crossing divisions within a company he was a sales and marketing guy to start out with but would go talk to the engineers directly and get their point of view, understand them, and help everyone work together
    6. Bill always advocated for more generosity rather than less – he thought that this was an easy and important thing to do for good people
    7. One of Bill‘s main roles was to shine the light on the elephant in the room. He would bring it front and center, expose it, and have people talk about it openly and honestly.
    8. Bill worked from first principles and invariant strategies. It didn’t matter if he was dealing with Steve Jobs and Apple or the flag football team he coached at Sacred Heart. He would treat everyone the same, be present, and follow his same game plan
    9. Bill saw all the chess pieces all the time because he wasn’t on the board! Can often be more effective when you’re not part of the system. Bill did this by not sitting on many boards and by also not taking any cash, or equity. “I don’t take cash, I don’t take equity, I don’t take shit.”
    10. Bill was huge on community and had many yearly trips with different groups – a Super Bowl trip, boys trip, family trip, and he always paid for everything. Even when he died, he set up an endowment to make sure that the tradition continued. He really understood the power of moments and ritual. Bill was heavily focused on building community always connecting people and building deep emotional ties 
  2. Was all about the people and wrote his “It’s the People” Manifesto to capture this idea
    1. “People are the foundation of any company’s success. The primary job of each manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. We have great people who want to do well, are capable of doing great things, and come to work fired up to do them. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect, and trust. Support means giving people the tools, information, training, and coaching they need to succeed. It means continuous effort to develop people’s skills. Great managers help people excel and grow. Respect means understanding people’s unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. It means helping people achieve these career goals in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the company. Trust means freeing people to do their jobs and to make decisions. It means knowing people want to do well and believing that they will.”
    2. A manager’s job is to help their people become as effective as possible, to ensure their well-being and success 
    3. Develop a relationship with everyone – don’t be dictatorial, establish credibility, show you really care and love them
    4. Your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader
    5. People will crown you as a good leader, a good manager – this never comes from yourself.
    6. A manager‘s role is firstly to help his people grow and fulfill their potential but also to help facilitate decisions and remove roadblocks from their people‘s paths. However he hated consensus as he believed this led to group-think. He wanted to air out all the ideas and give everyone a chance to voice their opinion‘s but ultimately the decision is the leader’s. 
  3. Teams > Individuals, Teams > Problems
    1. Bill coached teams and not individuals. When he met with Larry and Sergei of Google, he met with their whole staff not just the founders. He coached them on how to be better managers and leaders of their teams and also how to be better people overall
    2. Always focus on the team rather than the problem
    3. Begin every meeting with some social talk – asking about trips, weekends, plans, anything outside of work that people are passionate about. Deep relationships and clear communication are absolutely vital. Use meetings to get everyone together, build relationships, see each other’s strengths, get everyone on the same page, and make decisions
    4. Bill started meetings by writing five words on the whiteboard that he wanted to cover. He would sometimes ask the person he was coaching to write his top 5 – 9 words. This would help prioritize and show what each thought were the most important topics
    5. The leader should speak last and let everyone voice their opinion‘s. Getting the right answer is important but how you get there is just as important. Sometimes you have to make a hard and unpopular decision but it is the right thing to do – at this point the team has to “disagree and commit”
    6. Winning is important but winning right, winning as a team, is more important
    7. Leaders communicate effectively and clearly. When they see fissures developing, they stop them in their tracks. They fill in the gaps and make sure everyone is on the same page
  4. Other
    1. While a genius can help you in many ways, if they’re sucking up too much management time and aren’t able to work well with others, they shouldn’t be around
    2. An important lesson to learn is that you should only coach the coachable. Those who are coachable are honest and humble, persevere and work hard, and are open to hearing negative feedback.
    3. He always asked a ton of questions – “I would never tell anyone what to do, but I would help people get to the root of the problem or help them get to the key question themselves.” Because everyone knew Bill cared and that he was coming from a place of trust and love, he could be extremely candid and blunt in his feedback. He was constantly giving feedback but, if it was critical, he would do it in private
    4. Listening and making sure whoever you’re with is being heard is vital – be present don’t be distracted. Truly listen to people
    5. Don’t tell people what to do. Instead, tell them stories about where you want to end up and let them figure out how to get there
    6. As a leader, you must be an “evangelist for courage” – giving people a greater ability to push past the fear and go for big, bold outcomes. When you set the bar higher for people than they otherwise would, you can get greater results than they thought imaginable
    7. Have the courage to be your authentic, full self. Do not water it down or hide it – this will help you gain people’s trust
    8. Seek people who have “smarts and hearts,”, integrity, work ethic, and are team players
    9. Solve the biggest problems and solve them first
    10. When things aren’t looking good, when you’re losing, recommit! Be positive, be decisive, infect others with this determination and positivity 

What I got out of it

  1. A really inspiring man who dedicated his life to giving back and helping others flourish – focus on the team rather than the problem or any specific individual, establish trust in every relationship, air out any problems even though it may be uncomfortable

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

  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

One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon by Richard Brandt

  1. Brandt allows the reader to get into Bezos’ head and his decision making process
Key Takeaways
  1. Bezos obsessed with customer service
  2. Was a huge tinkerer as a kid and always one of the smartest in his class
  3. Was very excited about the growth of the Internet and wanted to take advantage of it by trying to become the worlds largest online retailer. The huge amount of books and the ability to sort, search and organize them made it a logical choice as computers could do this very easily
  4. Whenever he had a difficult decision to make, he would write down the essentials and create a deal flow type analysis
  5. Had the mindset of launching everything before it’s ready and figuring it out as you go
  6. Despite his intelligence, confidence and focus, he was poor at getting this across to potential investors
  7. Set a standard where any new hire would have to be better than the people currently working there. Kept the quality of their people very high and ever increasing
  8. Since the beginning said that for Amazon to be profitable would be stupid as they were taking the money and building a moat and innovating
  9. Bezos started looking at acquiring and/or investing in companies – everything from Sotheby’s to IMDB in order to grow his market and customer base
  10. Made many acquisitions but wasn’t until 2007 that the nest major step was taken – the kindle. It forever changed the book publishing industry
  11. Amazon has kept acquiring and focusing fiercely on the customer experience, preferring to invest in the future and innovate than make a profit
What I got out of it
  1. Bezos’ focus and obsession with customer service is core to Amazon’s success and he will continue using this framework for future innovations and acquisitions. Interesting to get a peek into Bezos’ background, influences and thought processes
  • Amazon patented the one click to buy technology and this upset many people since it was so broad
  • Spent a lot of time with his grandfather on a ranch where the entrepreneurial spirit took hold. Learned to be self dependent and stubborn
  • Doesn’t know biological father
  • Bezos is a variation of “besos” as his step father was Cuban
  • His family invested early on and he was very honest with them – telling them not to invest if they weren’t ready to lose it all
  • Bezos set himself apart with his selection and customer service
  • The Amazon website launched in 1995
  • The idea of negative reviews confused many competitors but it was all a part of creating the most customer centric experience possible
  • Got VC money from Kleiner Perkins which valued the company at $60M and one year later (1997) took the company public. One year after that it was valued at $5B
  • He originally did not want to be part of the distribution side but as his orders free he couldn’t rely on third parties. He built some of the most advanced and efficient warehouses in the world
  • Soon turned to selling music as well as books
  • Amazon’s stock got crushed in the dot com crash but rebounded soon after when he showed that amazon could be profitable if that was the goal