design your organisation with long term goals

long term thinking

“Long-term thinking is both a requirement and an outcome of true ownership. Owners are different from tenants. I know of a couple who rented out their house, and the family who moved in nailed their Christmas tree to the hardwood floors instead of using a tree stand. Expedient, I suppose, and admittedly these were particularly bad tenants, but no owner would be so short-sighted. Similarly, many investors are effectively short-term tenants, turning their portfolios so quickly they are really just renting the stocks that they temporarily ‘own.’”

Takeaway

If you want to build a successful company for the long term, build a company of owners.

With the mentality of a service provider, you will seek short-term gains and sacrifice future growth.

With the mentality of an owner, you will always act in the best interests of your customers and your team. In the end, the work you do acting as an owner will coincide with the interests of your shareholders.

Challenge

It can be difficult to take a long-term view when Wall Street and other stakeholders tend to look for fast results. Doing the best thing for the long-term needs of your company doesn’t always coincide with the most expedient or profitable thing in the short term.

That’s because “many investors are effectively short-term tenants,” Bezos writes. Many investors are not looking for long-term success — they want dividends tomorrow.

But it’s not just a problem for investors: the short-term focus also tends to infect the people who run companies.

Thinking long term and building a successful growth company means getting out of that short-term investor mindset and thinking like an owner.

Solution

Taking a long-term view often requires deep consideration of your business model, and it doesn’t always make everyone happy.

When Amazon first started allowing customers to review their products, they got angry feedback from some vendors who asked why they allowed negative reviews on a site where profit came from sales.

For Bezos and the rest of Amazon, customer reviews were built with a long term goal in mind: that customers would trust Amazon to provide them with quality products and transparent information.  Though negative reviews cost sales in the short term,” he writes, “helping customers make better purchase decisions ultimately pays off for the company.”

The same goes for Amazon’s pricing: “Our pricing strategy does not attempt to maximize margin percentages,” he writes, “but instead seeks to drive maximum value for customers and thereby create a much larger bottom line.”

Every decision that gets made at Amazon gets made through “the context of the customer experience.” They design it with long-term owners in mind. And in the end, they trust — and ask that their shareholders trust — that it will ultimately pay off.

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2002

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

create more than you consume

Bezos last letter to shareholders with a simple message: To all of you: be kind, be original, create more than you consume, and never, never, never let the universe smooth you into your surroundings. It remains Day 1.

Bezos last letter to shareholders 2020

Takeaway

If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more value than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. With all your stakeholders. Customers, colleagues, shareholders, your community, the environment. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.

To create value you have to be different… and it’s hard to stay different as everyone wants you to conform.

Challenge

All living things have a tendancy to merge to the same as their surroundings and spend their whole life being warmer or cooler than their surroundings. Companies are the same: the world is continually pulling at you to be more normal and less distinctive. How much work does it take to maintain your distinctiveness? To keep alive the thing or things that make you special?

Solution

We all know that distinctiveness – originality – is valuable. You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it. Being yourself is worth it, but don’t expect it to be easy or free. You’ll have to put energy into it continuously.

The world will always try to make Amazon more typical – to bring us into equilibrium with our environment. It will take continuous effort, but amazon can and must be better than that and remain distinctive adding value to all it’s stakeholders.

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“To all of you: be kind, be original, create more than you consume, and never, never, never let the universe smooth you into your surroundings. It remains Day 1.”

link to all letters to shareholders 1997-2020

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

2020: Create more value than you consume

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2020

Build your business on your fixed costs

Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2001 6/22 

Takeaway

Companies driven by technology have an incredible advantage because much of their value hinges on fixed costs.

If you want to provide the best possible customer experience and the lowest possible prices in your industry, it’s only possible if you can make much of your customer experience expenses fixed.

Challenge

Traditionally, you have a trade-off between customer experience and price. Sell your products at a higher price and you reap enough money to hire and train more people to provide a better experience. Sell at a lower price and the customer experience will take a hit.

Achieving both low prices and a great customer experience would seem to be a contradiction.

Solution

To achieve both low prices and a great customer experience, harness the power of fixed costs.

Amazon turned their customer experience — their recommendations engine, personalization, etc. — into a fixed cost. It is based on technology that it built and now only pay to maintain, which means it doesn’t get (much) more expensive over time.

That allows the cost of running Amazon to actually shrink over time as a percentage of the revenue that Amazon makes.

Remaining disciplined while keeping its operating cash flow steady was one of the tactics that brought Amazon through the dot-com bust in 2000. Not only was the company continuing to generate sales, but it didn’t spend much on its platform. Being relatively low-cost to begin with, the platform was able to continue functioning on a low budget. While competitors folded, Amazon survived, took a leading market position, and was able to invent and grow.

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“One of our most exciting peculiarities is poorly understood. People see that we’re determined to offer both world-leading customer experience and the lowest possible prices, but to some this dual goal seems paradoxical if not downright quixotic. Traditional stores face a time-tested tradeoff between offering high-touch customer experience on the one hand and the lowest possible prices on the other. How can Amazon.com be trying to do both?”

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Bezos measures amazon by free cash flow

Measure your company by your free cash flow

2001 : “Why focus on cash flows? Because a share of stock is a share of a company’s future cash flows, and, as a result, cash flows, more than any other single variable, seem to do the best job of explaining a company’s stock price over the long term.”

Takeaway

Because “a share of stock represents a share of that company’s future cash flows,” free cash flow is the best possible metric for understanding financial success as a business.

Free cash flow should be prioritized because it is pegged to your company’s value both today and in the future.

Challenge

It can be hard to prioritize free cash flow when public sentiment (especially stock prices) usually moves in line with revenues and profits. Few CEOs are able to hold their ground against the pressure of quarterly earnings results.

Communication is a critical (and often undervalued) way to highlight progress. While press releases and MD&A sections in SEC filings add some color to numeric results, they don’t usually allow much space for subtleties outside of their templates.

Solution

In Bezos’s original 1997 letter (discussed below), he made it clear to his new investors exactly how Amazon thought about free cash flow vs. GAAP accounting.

With each subsequent letter, he has enclosed a copy of that original letter to remind shareholders of Amazon’s outlook on this question.

For Bezos, focusing on free cash flow provides a clear method of valuing Amazon for internal planning purposes, as well as for investors.

The metric represents how much value each individual share of stock in a company has today and stands to have in the future.

“Ultimately, your determination of cash flow per share will be a strong indicator of the price you might be willing to pay for a share of ownership in any company,” he writes.

Over the years, Bezos’s constant advocacy for the idea of focusing on free cash flows has turned the idea into a more common and accepted view.

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2001

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Build platforms on infrastructure that’s continually improving

The current online shopping experience is the worst it will ever be. It’s good enough today to attract 17 million customers, but it will get so much better. Increased bandwidth will result in faster page views and richer content. Further improvements will lead to ‘always-on access’ (which I expect will be a strong boost to online shopping at home, as opposed to the office) and we’ll see significant growth in non-PC devices and wireless access. Moreover, it’s great to be participating in what is a multi-trillion dollar global market, in which we are so very, very tiny. We are doubly-blessed. We have a market-size unconstrained opportunity in an area where the underlying foundational technology we employ improves every day. That is not normal.”

Jeff Bezos Letter to shareholders 1999 3/22

Takeaway

  • The biggest opportunities in tech are platform-driven.
  • When you build on an infrastructure that’s beginning to quickly develop and modernize, you reap the benefits of not just your own growth but also the growth of the infrastructure you’re building on.

Challenge

  • Building on established platforms is the easiest and most expedient route, but one with the least upside.
  • Established platforms offer the most integration, often have low barriers to entry, and have plenty of accumulated wisdom around them.
  • At the same time, their growth potential is often limited due to the high pace of technological innovation across industries.

Solution

  • With the rise of internet connectivity in the late 1990s, an increasing divide began to appear between industries. E-commerce, gaming, online financial services were industries where a strong footing established early could set the stage for huge growth.
  • While Bezos was helped by growth in the e-commerce field specifically, and in access to high-bandwidth connections more generally, he didn’t find himself there unexpectedly. Before Amazon, Bezos was vice president at the hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co, where he saw the rise of the internet firsthand.
  • Bezos knew he wanted to build a technology company, and he consciously looked to hire the most talented infrastructure engineers he could find to build new solutions where none existed.
  • Building on a high-growth platform like Amazon did require a much higher degree of upfront investment in engineering and research, but on the long timeframe of technological improvement, it gives you a much higher chance of building a huge, long-term business.

Bezos masterclass in management through shareholder letters 1999 #3/22

Link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

prioritise cash flow

“The year 2001 will be an important one in our development. Like 2000, this year will be a year of focus and execution. As a first step, we’ve set the goal of achieving a pro forma operating profit in the fourth quarter. While we have a tremendous amount of work to do and there can be no guarantees, we have a plan to get there, it’s our top priority, and every person in this company is committed to helping with that goal. I look forward to reporting to you our progress in the coming year.”

Takeaway

Focusing on free cash flow or otherwise giving your business some form of cash moat (whether through outside equity, debt stakes, or tight operations) will help ride out difficult times when customers aren’t buying and/or financing has dried up.

If you’re able to maintain composure while others fall, you have the opportunity to come out ahead and capture a much bigger market share.

Challenge

The dot-com bubble took down a slew of internet companies, including Pets.com and fashion site Boo.com. Amazon, too, nearly went bankrupt. The same happened in financial crisis of 2008/9 and in COVID pandemic 2020.

While the majority of tech upstarts folded during the crash, Amazon stayed afloat. Since March 2000, the company has grown about 20x in market value.

Solution

One reason that Amazon was able to ride out the downturn was the tight cash conversion cycle.

While some companies left inventory in stock for long periods of time, Amazon was always focused on minimizing this to a few days at most, and collecting payments from customers before paying suppliers. This avoided lag times and ensured that Amazon continued to have cash coming in while others were bleeding dry.

Prioritizing free cash flow and being extremely disciplined with their operating cash flows gave Amazon a sound foundation they could use to ride out tough times and ultimately come out ahead.

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders  

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Stay terrified of your customers

2. be afraid of your customers
keep customers by aligning with customers’ shifting needs. rather than be distracted by competitors.

If you don’t do everything in your power to align with customers’ shifting needs, and instead allow yourself to be distracted by competitors, you’ll quickly lose them.

“I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers. Our customers have made our business what it is, they are the ones with whom we have a relationship, and they are the ones to whom we owe a great obligation. And we consider them to be loyal to us — right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service.” Jeff Bezos 1998

Takeaway

In business, the most important thing isn’t what your competition is doing. If you’re expending effort trying to follow your rivals’ every move, you’re losing the big picture.

Keeping pace with your customers is what will keep you informed, relevant, and competitive.

Challenge

Companies are usually wary of their competition.

Understanding where they stack up against rivals, particularly if they’re public and continually judged on relative value multiples like price to earnings (PE), is a key pillar of their business strategy. If they can come in top of class, it’s easier to attract investment.

But the issue with thinking like your rivals is that you start to make similar moves. In fast food, for example, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A all start to blend together. The only ways to differentiate is to narrow down to price and brand. As competition heats up in these crowded areas, it’s increasingly difficult to gain an advantage.

Solution

Flip the focus inward and hone in on your customers. Obsess over their preferences, their shopping behaviors, the quality of their reviews. This will allow you to optimize product features and overall product mixes. You’ll be able to double down on what works and eliminate what doesn’t. If you have a self-service platform like Kindle, find out everything users are creating and where they’re hitting roadblocks.

This granular focus on your true partners will allow you to invent in ways you (and your peers) didn’t anticipate. You’ll begin to develop away from your rivals and stand apart from the pack. This is a core tenet of Bezos’ philosophy.

If you don’t do everything in your power to align with customers’ shifting needs, and instead allow yourself to be distracted by competitors, you’ll quickly lose them.

Bezos shareholder letters

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter.

Link to all letters to shareholders

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

links to all letters

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

we should disagree more

Leadership Tip of the week #134 adapted from HBR

The marmite campaign came out of conflict between the creative team at BMP: one loved it, one hated it and they spend a week disagreeing until they realised it was the idea.

Conflict is a normal, healthy part of working with other people.

And yet many of us avoid it at all costs — often because it feels personal.

To get more comfortable with disagreements, and to reap the benefits of productive conflict, let go of the idea that it’s all about you.

If you model that you’re comfortable with productive conflict, you’ll show your team that it’s OK to disagree, encouraging people to raise their ideas.

To move a work conflict away from the personal, think about the bigger picture and the business’s needs. Disagreements often arise over objectives and processes, for example.

When you and a colleague have different views about something, ask yourself two questions

1. Why is this difference of opinion an important debate to have?

2. How will it help the organization or the project you’re working on?

The more you can keep a conflict focused on the business, the better chance you have of resolving it in a way that benefits everyone.

Adapted from “Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work,” by Amy Gallo

amazon strength lies in scale

“We first measure ourselves in terms of the metrics most indicative of our market leadership: customer and revenue growth, the degree to which our customers continue to purchase from us on a repeat basis, and the strength of our brand. We have invested and will continue to invest aggressively to expand and leverage our customer base, brand, and infrastructure as we move to establish an enduring franchise. Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh trade offs differently than some companies.”

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 1997 1/22

Takeaway

  • Don’t let short-term success, including going public, distract from the long-term focus. Amazon’s focus is market leadership, customer growth, retention, and brand — even if these come at the expense of near-term profits or the risk of negative “Wall Street reactions.”
  • Key to this growth has been Bezos’ clear, consistent message. Each year, it helps attract investors who share the company’s vision and maintains their financial support even when Amazon is at odds with the norm.

Challenge

  • Building an e-commerce company in the early days of the internet meant building on the precipice of huge growth, in terms of infrastructure and huge changes in consumer behavior. Taking advantage of these opportunities meant investing all available cash into growing and delivering value to customers.
  • Bezos explained Amazon would never focus on profits or shareholder returns directly, but would focus 100% of its energy on building value for its customers.
  • When his first letter to shareholders was composed in 1997, Amazon was already a successful company by some metrics — 838% year-over-year growth had recently brought the online bookstore’s revenues to $148M. But much of Wall Street was skeptical of the still-unprofitable company that had just gone public, didn’t pay dividends, and didn’t seem to care about becoming profitable.
  • In that first letter, Bezos didn’t try to convince investors that Amazon was profitable — instead, he explained why profitability was the wrong metric by which to judge a company like Amazon.

Solution

  • Amazon’s real strength is scale. As a company grows, if it’s smart about its costs, these can be minimized while sales increase. Margin expansion follows, and a team suddenly has a chance to grow at a faster and faster rate. More customers also mean more data, which leads to even greater decision-making power.
  • Shareholders who understand this can reap exponential gains.
  • Bezos ended his 1997 letter by reminding Amazon’s shareholders that it was their responsibility to decide whether this was a thesis worth investing in. In the opinions of many analysts of the time, it was not. Many were proved wrong. He still talks about every day being Day 1 and those who invested with a similar goal of inventing each and every day have been rewarded.

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

links to all letters

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

are you taking self-care seriously ?

are you taking self-care seriously: now is the time to say It’s so busy at work, I can’t afford NOT to take care of myself

Leadership Tip of the week #133

You probably already know that sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, physical exercise, human connection, and time to relax are important — but do you actually carve out time for them?

When you consider caring for yourself as unrelated to work, you’re likely to let your business priorities come first. But your resilience is a high-priority business issue, especially when you’re leading a team through the stress of our fast-paced world.

Research shows that our decision-making dramatically suffers when we neglect to properly rest and refuel, so make self-care a daily priority. You don’t need to dedicate hours a day though. You can boost your short-term resiliency by taking a short walk or reaching out to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while just to check in. Investing in yourself isn’t indulgent — it’s mission critical.

It’s time to tell yourself, “It’s so busy at work right now, I can’t afford NOT to take care of myself!

This tip is adapted from “Reframe How You Think About Self-Care,” by Liane Davey

Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

“Wandering” isn’t an efficient practice for a business, but it isn’t random. It requires a culture of builders. It requires a deep customer obsession. And it requires an understanding that you should always listen to the people who use your products, but you ultimately must imagine and invent on their behalf. This is inevitably risky. But great companies, he argues, must take those risks.  Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2018

Takeaway

Businesses are great at putting plans together. When they know exactly what needs to be built, many companies can execute on their ideas.

Where it gets messier and riskier is when you don’t know exactly what should be built. This is the most fertile and profitable territory for a business, according to Bezos.

To him, wandering — away from the obvious, away from old ideas — is key to Amazon’s success.

Challenge

When you’re a small company, virtually everything you try is an experiment. The bigger you get, though, the more you have to lose, and the less tolerant to risk-taking you can become.

For Bezos, it’s not enough for big companies to prioritize taking risks and “wandering” as much as smaller, more nimble companies do.

It’s that big companies need to scale everything up, “including the size of their failed experiments,” he writes.

“Wandering” isn’t an efficient practice for a business, but it isn’t random. It requires a culture of builders. It requires a deep customer obsession. And it requires an understanding that you should always listen to the people who use your products, but you ultimately must imagine and invent on their behalf. This is inevitably risky. But great companies, he argues, must take those risks.

Solution

For Jeff Bezos, the key to staying innovative and growing is constantly urging employees to “wander” — to pursue creative ideas that, while they might sound odd or useless today, stand to deliver extraordinary value to your customers.

Some experiments will fail: the bigger you are, the bigger your failures should be. But one big success can often make up for all those failed experiments, and more.

“Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency,” he writes. “You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries – the ‘non-linear’ ones – are highly likely to require wandering.”

Bezos traces Amazon’s history of hiring “builders” back to the early days of the company. Year by year, Amazon pushed the online retail space forward, and it grew from an online bookstore to a big box retail store competitor to a global e-commerce juggernaut.

That constant innovation, according to Bezos, came mostly out of Amazon’s willingness to “wander” — to imagine and build the new things that customers might love.

For proof, he points to Amazon Web Services. Today a pillar of Amazon’s business, AWS was at one point nothing more than a hunch. No customer asked for it, but it found immediate demand upon its release. “That same pattern has recurred many times,” he writes, citing Amazon’s development of tools like DynamoDB, Amazon Aurora, ElastiCache, Amazon Go, and the Amazon Echo.

“No customer was asking for Echo,” Bezos writes, “This was definitely us wandering.”

Market research won’t tell you about most of the great inventions that your customers want, Bezos warns, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. “It’s critical to ask customers what they want, listen carefully to their answers, and figure out a plan to provide it thoughtfully and quickly (speed matters in business!). No business could thrive without that kind of customer obsession.”

But while customers can tell you what they want, they can never tell you what to build.

“The biggest needle movers will be things that customers don’t know to ask for. We must invent on their behalf,” he says. “We have to tap into our own inner imagination about what’s possible.”

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all. link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

culture ripple effect

culture ripple effect: leadership tip of week #132

By the age of six months, a baby begins to understand that his actions can affect his environment.

It’s amazing how as adults we quickly unlearn this.

As business leaders when we talk about shaping or changing company culture we sometimes forget to own the fact that we are the culture. Culture is not something that is laid down in a strategy document, or changed in the blink of an eye at an offsite event designed to rally the troops. Culture is how we act every day. It’s impacted by how we as individuals choose to behave and evidenced in the ripple effect that our actions catalyse.

When we seek change we often start by looking to see what we can change in others, forgetting that the ripples begin right where we are.

We must walk the walk and Talk the talk

Move fast and focus on outcomes

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2016

Takeaway

Companies that get complacent die.

Bigger companies are even more at risk because growth and scale make it harder to move quickly when you spot an opportunity.

To stay alive, big companies must strive to make decisions and act faster than startups.

Challenge

At Amazon, it is always Day 1— it’s a powerful refrain that has featured in every shareholder letter since the original.

Day 1 represents originality, enthusiasm, and an eagerness to delight customers.

Day 2, for Bezos, is a powerful concept that embodies everything he fears could happen to Amazon and that does happen to many large organizations.

It is the idea that all of the tools you used to grow, all of the processes you used to scale, and all of the work you did to get to where you are become the company’s undoing. People get stuck in their processes.

Day 2 is the failure to adapt. And the bigger an organization gets, the harder it needs to work to stave off complacency.

Solution

  1. measure yourself by your customers. They are always “beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied,” in Bezos’ words, and if you focus on always trying to make them happier, it’s hard to go wrong.
  2. Bezos warns against allowing process to turn into proxy. When you abstract a task into a process, it’s easy to start managing to the process rather than to the outcome you want. Soon, you have people getting the wrong end result and justifying their actions by saying they “followed the process.”

Bezos suggests that you always keep one eye on the outcome, not whether someone has ticked off every box on a list of steps.

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all. Links to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

daydreaming (with a purpose) can recharge your mind

day dreaming with a purpose can recharge your mind: leadership tip of week #132

Resisting distractions seems like an intuitive way to be more productive, yet research shows that excessive focus exhausts your brain.

To tap into your “default mode network” — an unfocused state in which your brain activates old memories, enhances self-awareness, and imagines creative solutions — use positive constructive daydreaming.

  1. I begin a low-key activity, like cycling or gardening , and allow my mind to wander.
  2. But don’t simply slip into a daydream or rehash old worries. Instead, imagine something playful, like running through the woods.
  3. Hold the wishful image in your mind while continuing the low-key activity. In this unfocused state, your mind will recharge, connect ideas, and even find long-lost memories.

The associations your mind makes during positive constructive daydreaming should enhance your sense of self, making you a more confident leader.

So when I’m out on the Pennine hills cycling with Alastair & Mark , or digging my garden I’m really working hard recharging my mind.

Adapted from “Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus,” by Srini Pillay

Build high standards into company culture

Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2017

KEY MESSAGE 20/22

“How do you stay ahead of ever-rising customer expectations? There’s no single way to do it — it’s a combination of many things. But high standards (widely deployed and at all levels of detail) are certainly a big part of it. We’ve had some successes over the years in our quest to meet the high expectations of customers. We’ve also had billions of dollars’ worth of failures along the way. With those experiences as backdrop, I’d like to share with you the essentials of what we’ve learned (so far) about high standards inside an organization.” Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

Takeaway

Great companies, like Amazon, are built on high standards. Bezos argues that despite common thinking that high standards are intrinsic to certain people, high standards can be taught in virtually any domain. And if a company wants to stay competitive, it must teach high standards. As you grow, you need to make an effort to not just get your own standards up, but to build an organization that can develop and recruit new people with high standards.

Challenge

Today, when people are shopping, they can read reviews of items, compare prices across stores, and research products from their mobile devices with unprecedented ease. The customer is more empowered than ever, and as a retailer, that means you’re never safe from your competition. Big companies like Amazon are especially at risk in this kind of environment. They need to get technologically ahead of more nimble startup competition — who often have hyperfocus, and little to lose — and do it with far larger organizations.

Solution

To stay competitive, companies need to ensure that standards internally don’t stagnate, but constantly rise along with the customer’s expectations. Two things hinder the ability to cultivate high standards, according to Bezos:
  • Scope: Employees are able to recognize high quality in the field, but they have an incorrect idea of how long it’ll take to reach that level themselves
  • Recognition: They lack the ability to recognize high quality in the field
Whether it’s creating a great deck or responding perfectly to a customer question, a major prerequisite of high standards is understanding how difficult it will be to achieve greatness. For Bezos, it’s possible to become great at virtually anything, if you can both recognize the level you need to get to and accurately estimate how long it will take to make it. “To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be,” writes Bezos. The second ingredient is recognition, or being able to understand the difference between bad, good, and great. If you have leaders who can help the people on their teams both recognize quality and understand scope, Bezos concludes, you will end up building better products and services for your customers. link to all letters to shareholders
  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997
  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998
  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999
  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000
  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001
  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002
  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003
  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004
  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005
  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006
  • 2007: Missionaries build better products
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007
  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008
  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009
  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010
  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011
  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012
  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013
  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014
  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015
  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016
  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017
  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Deliberately encourage & reward collaboration

deliberately encourage and reward collaboration: leadership tip of week #131

There are a lot of reasons why someone might refuse help from a colleague.

Some employees prefer to be self-reliant, others don’t want to feel obligated to return the favor, and still others don’t trust their coworkers’ motives. But these attitudes can increase employees’ risk of burnout and hinder social connections at work.

As a leader, you can encourage and recognize collaborative efforts by calling attention to them and explaining how they contribute to the organization’s goals and mission. Be sure to demonstrate your willingness to accept help when you need it; colleaguess are more likely to do it if they see their leaders doing it.

And be careful not to send mixed messages: If employees who go it alone advance more quickly than those who give and receive support, people will pick up on that discrepancy — and they’ll go back to looking out for number one.

Adapted from “Why We Don’t Let Coworkers Help Us, Even When We Need It,” by Mark C. Bolino and Phillip S. Thompson

Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Bezos recognised failure and invention are inseperable twins: to remain innovative as you grow, you need to understand which decisions are reversible and should be executed quickly and which have lasting consequences and should thereful be mulled over more slowly.

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2015

KEY MESSAGE 18/22

“Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors — and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. . . . But most decisions aren’t like that — they are changeable, reversible — they’re two-way doors. . . . [These] decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.” Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

Takeaway

Big companies stop being creative because, in large part, their decision-making processes become slower and more drawn out as they scale. Caution creeps in, and people are less likely to move quickly or place risky bets. For Bezos, the problem is that people treat reversible decisions like momentous problems requiring caution. They miss opportunities that nimbler companies don’t. To remain innovative as you grow, you need to understand which decisions are reversible and should be executed on quickly, and which have lasting consequences and should therefore be mulled over more slowly.

Challenge

Big companies are less tolerant of failure because they have more to lose, especially if they are public and have shareholders. Companies say they want to remain innovative, but they’re often not willing “to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.” But it’s a mistake to take the overly cautious approach. “Every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs,” Bezos writes. The key is figuring out how to marry the innovative spirit with the reality of risk aversion that exists at any large organization.

Solution

Amazon’s success, according to Bezos, is rooted in the company’s acceptance of risk. “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail,” he writes, “and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.” The way Amazon achieves its risk acceptance mentality, according to Bezos, is through acknowledging which decisions can be easily reversed (and should therefore be decided on by small, fast-moving teams) and which cannot (and should therefore be more carefully considered).
“Failure and invention are inseparable twins.”
He refers to these as two different types of decisions, Type 1 and Type 2. amazon bezos type 1 type 2 decisions Type 1 decisions are almost impossible to reverse. They’re “one-way doors.” Type 2 decisions, on the other hand, can easily be reversed. They’re “two-way doors.” Type 1 decisions should be made slowly and with caution, and Type 2 decisions should be executed quickly. Mistaking Type 2 decisions for Type 1 slows the team’s pace. It leads to unchallenged risk aversion. And, in the end, it means less innovation. amazon bezos decision making Bezos’ advises to figure out what types of decisions your organization is making and treat them accordingly. Don’t treat lighter Type 2 decisions like Type 1 decisions. When you know you can reverse the outcome if you don’t like it, don’t get too mired in details and projections (no one will know the outcome until it actually occurs), and don’t let the project suffer death by committee. Just execute. link to all letters to shareholders
  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997
  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998
  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999
  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000
  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001
  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002
  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003
  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004
  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005
  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006
  • 2007: Missionaries build better products
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007
  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008
  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009
  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010
  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011
  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012
  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013
  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014
  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015
  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016
  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture
Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

Maintain focus during back to back Zoom meetings

maintain focus during back to back Zoom meetings:
leadership tip of the week 130

When you’re in a virtual meeting, it’s easy to find your mind drifting away — especially if it’s your fifth one of the day.

  1. To make sure you’re as engaged as possible, take a few moments beforehand to understand the meeting’s purpose and what value you can add.
  2. What is the most critical information you have, and what do you want to contribute? Jot down these points.
  3. If you don’t have a critical role to play, identify exactly what you hope to learn from the call.
  4. Coming prepared with specific questions will prime you to listen carefully.
  5. If you speak during the meeting, acknowledge previous statements so people feel heard, but don’t spend a lot of time re hashing earlier points.
  6. Add something new to move the conversation forward.
  7. And don’t worry if you do zone out: Gently notice what distracted you, and return your attention to the call. If you missed something, don’t be afraid to ask a clarifying question.

This tip is adapted from Stop Zoning Out in Zoom Meetings,” by Sarah Gershman

Bet on ideas with unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2014

KEY MESSAGE 17/22

“A dreamy business product has at least four characteristics. Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time—with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don’t just swipe right, get married.”

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

Takeaway

Be aggressive about placing bets on dreamy business ideas. You’ll have failures, but sufficiently big winners will more than make up for all of your failed experiments.

Challenge

Many relationships, particularly business ones, require bold moves to get going. And to find true success, you have to commit for the long haul. The problem is that these moves don’t just appear risky — often, they’re hard to rationally justify at all.


When your risk tolerance is high, you can make bets all over the map.

Organizations that want to make data-driven decisions often have a difficult time with placing risky bets because those bets often don’t have clear quantitative evidence to support them. If they did, there wouldn’t be a risk of failure, there wouldn’t be experiments, and there wouldn’t be such a big upside.

Solution

Place your bets where your downside is capped but your upside is unlimited.

For Bezos, the best bets are on dreamy businesses. You know you have a “dreamy” business idea when:

  1. Customers love it
  2. It has the potential to become very large
  3. It has the potential of very strong returns
  4. It has the possibility to endure

Each of the three major bets that Bezos mentions in this letter — Marketplace, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Prime — was a risky idea.

With Prime, for example, no one on the Amazon team could point to numbers showing that giving customers free shipping for a yearly fee would ever pay for itself.

Today, each of these three bets is a pillar of Amazon’s business. In fact, in 2017, all of Amazon’s operating income came from AWS, a once-risky bet on a “dreamy” business idea. With almost $17.5 billion in sales in 2017, and about $4.5 billion in profit, it was Amazon’s second-largest source of revenue.

Not every bet that Amazon has ever placed has succeeded. The company was a significant shareholder in both Pets.com and living.com, for example. They lost their investment, but stood to gain so much more if they turned out right.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

how to get buy-in

5 fingers5 Steps to Get Buy-in for Your Next Innovation

Leadership Tip of week #129

adapted from HBR

Everyone wants innovation in their organisation, but getting a new idea implemented can be a challenge, especially when office politics are in play. When you’re trying to get approval for your latest innovation, follow these four steps.

1. be clear on the problem you are trying to solve: really understand the internal and customer problem you are trying to solve. this is 80% of the challenge

2. anticipate resistance. If you know what people might object to, you can plan how you’ll address those concerns.

3. understand what objections are truly about. For example, someone might say they object because of a publicly acceptable reason — say, the project is too costly — when their real concern is political, like they’re afraid their team will lose influence.

4. find a champion for the project. This should be a senior executive whose clout and expertise can help you move the project forward.

5. gather a critical mass of supporters. If you have a group of people who believe in the innovation enough to try it, you’ll have social proof that the idea is a good one.

Adapted from “How to Navigate the Politics of an Innovation Project,” by Brian Uzzi

Decentralise decision making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2013

KEY MESSAGE 16/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“We have the good fortune of a large, inventive team and a patient, pioneering, customer-obsessed culture — great innovations, large and small, are happening everyday on behalf of customers, and at all levels throughout the company. This decentralized distribution of invention throughout the company — not limited to the company’s senior leaders — is the only way to get robust, high-throughput innovation.”

Takeaway

Innovation comes from distributed decision-making. Top-down teams are effective at optimizing existing processes and enforcing the completion of work, but only decentralized, bottom-up teams can consistently generate new ideas.

Challenge

In most big companies, command-and-control is the way that work gets done. Ensuring that important decisions only get made by those at the top maintains a certain level of quality and keeps everything stable.

Building a business that is continuously throwing off new ideas and innovating, on the other hand, requires that your people have leeway. You need autonomous teams that can exercise their own judgment rather than having to submit every idea they have to a committee. It requires your company to recalibrate how it hires, how it takes risks, and the opportunity it offers to even junior employees.

Solution

Its culture of creativity is a large part of why Amazon has been so successful on so many fronts, and why it has risen to the second-largest company by market cap in the world.

That creativity is often actually a function of the proactive way Amazon thinks about customers. Rather than wait for their customers to tell them about something they want, Bezos says, Amazon would always rather create the thing they don’t even know they want yet.

To encourage this kind of innovation inside your company, however, you need to have distributed decision-making and autonomy for more than just your senior staff.

At Amazon, employees who have an idea are encouraged to pursue it, even if they have to upset traditional corporate rules to do it.

Great innovations come from a “large, inventive team” with a “patient, pioneering, customer-obsessed culture” rather than from a small braintrust.

If you’re a junior employee at Amazon and you have an idea for some new way to delight customers, Bezos writes, you’re just as encouraged to give it a try as a senior leader. Experiments can start small. The downside of a small failed experiment is low, but the potential upside can be very high.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

Try Silence During Your Next Remote Brainstorm

brainstorm ideas 2

Try Silence During Your Next Remote Brainstorm

Leadership tip of the week #128

adapted from HBR

Research shows that embracing silence during a brainstorm helps teams produce significantly more — and higher-quality — ideas. Silent brainstorming can be particularly useful in remote meetings.

So what does it look like in practice?

  1. Starting with the meeting invite, make sure everyone understands the goals of the brainstorming session.
  2. At the beginning of your meeting, share a working document (such as a Google Doc or use Teams ) with key questions that need to be answered.
  3. Encourage all participants to contribute to the document for 10 to 20 minutes without talking. During this time, attendees can actively ideate and respond to each other in the document.
  4. The leader can also participate, providing direction and asking attendees to elaborate on specific ideas as they’re being formed.
  5. Once the silent phase of the brainstorm is complete, you can begin a discussion if your group is relatively small. If the group is large, you can end the meeting, review the document, and follow up with an email that shares conclusions and next steps. Or, you might consider sending out a quick survey where participants can react or vote on options to move forward.

A different approach to working on ideas but one that creates the workshop capability from before lock down and stops Zoom overload.

This tip is adapted from Break Up Your Big Virtual Meetings,” by Liana Kreamer and Steven G. Rogelberg

Surprise and delight your customers to build long term trust & customer lifetime value

Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust and customer lifetime value 

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2012

KEY MESSAGE 15/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to.”

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

Takeaway

In the short term, spending money to deliver value above what your customers could reasonably expect looks foolhardy — in the long run, it could be your competitive advantage.

Proactively bringing value to your users and delighting them builds attachment and trust. Build enough of it, and you create a connection with your customers that becomes hard to break.

Challenge

On Wall Street, delivering value above and beyond what your customers expect is not considered a sensible decision — especially if it costs money. One early critic of Amazon derisively described the company as a “charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers.” This kind of attitude has become so pervasive that for many businesses, it’s seen as safer to move in lockstep with your competitors, never falling behind but never advancing ahead of them either.

Solution

Building a great customer-centric business over the long-term doesn’t happen when you’re only reacting to your competitors.

Proactively delighting your users costs money, but it pays off when you distinguish yourself — your customers stick around for longer and they pay you more.

The longer a company is able to retain its customers, the less it needs to spend on acquisition or marketing. The more revenue it drives from each customer, the stronger its business.

For Amazon, building a high lifetime value among its customer base through proactive delight has been a powerful differentiator. The average lifetime value of a Prime customer was estimated at $2,500 in 2017, well over the $150 average in e-commerce.

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link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017

  • 2018: Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2018

How to increase your versatility

darwin survival of fittest

How to increase your versatility

– the best leaders are versatile ones

Leadership tip of the week #127

adapted from HBR

Versatility is a key leadership trait.

Managers must have the capacity to read and respond to change with a wide repertoire of skills and behaviors.

So how can you actually build this ability?

  1. Start by soliciting feedback from trusted colleagues. Ask a simple question like, “What should I start doing, stop doing, or continue doing to be a more effective teammate?”
  2. You might also take a more systematic approach and complete a personality assessment to gauge your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Follow up by asking colleagues if they agree with the results.
  4. Finally, learn some new habits from people you respect. Set up a meeting with a colleague who has different strengths than you to pick their brain. Your goal is to learn to see things from their perspective, so come with an open mind. You might even ask what they are reading, how they learn, or what their day-to-day routine is.

Try to adopt some elements from their approach — it just might make you a more flexible worker and versatile leader, and more adaptable to change.

Keep listening keep learning

This tip is adapted from “The Best Leaders Are Versatile Ones,” by Robert B. (Rob) Kaiser

 

self serve platforms unlock innovation

 

Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders 2011

KEY MESSAGE 14/22

Jeff Bezos has been writing a letter to shareholders since 1997 and looking at all if them gives an insight to the organisation and a masterclass in leadership. This is a series of short blogs  that gives you a snap shot / key takes outs of each letter, along with links to them all.

“I am emphasizing the self-service nature of these platforms because it’s important for a reason I think is somewhat non-obvious: even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation. When a platform is self-service, even the improbable ideas can get tried.”

Takeaway

A platform that other people can use to generate value will always be more powerful than a controlled, walled garden that you control and populate with your own content.

Incentivize people to use your self-service platform, and you can build a much larger business than you could even as a well-meaning gatekeeper.

Challenge

The main impediment to platform creation today is technology. Companies that do not invest in technology that can turn their work into a platform are going to fall behind.

Solution

Amazon has disrupted traditional publishing similarly to how it disrupted traditional retail: by building a platform for other people to use to sell their wares.

In publishing, agents and editors decide what is quality and what’s not. They only have the resources to produce and market a certain number of books every year, so they can’t publish everything that comes across their desks.

With Kindle Direct Publishing, authors can set their own list prices for written work, control their rights, and get their books in front of readers around the world in less than 48 hours. No gatekeeper needed.

Amazon provides the same type of self-service platform for internet companies through AWS and merchants via Fulfillment by Amazon. “These innovative, large-scale platforms are not zero-sum — they create win-win situations and create significant value for developers, entrepreneurs, customers, authors, and readers,” and of course, Amazon.

link to all letters to shareholders

  • 1997: Bring on shareholders who align with your values

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1997

  • 1998: Stay terrified of your customers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1998

  • 1999: Build on top of infrastructure that’s improving on its own

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 1999

  • 2000: In lean times, build a cash moat

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2000

  • 2001: Measure your company by your free cash flow

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2001

  • 2002: Build your business on your fixed costs

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2002

  • 2003: Long-term thinking is rooted in ownership

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2003

  • 2004: Free cash flow enables more innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2004

  • 2005: Don’t get fixated on short-term numbers

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2005

  • 2006: Nurture your seedlings to build big lines of business

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2006

  • 2007: Missionaries build better products

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2007

  • 2008: Work backwards from customer needs to know what to build next

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2008

  • 2009: Focus on inputs — the outputs will take care of themselves

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2009

  • 2010: R&D should pervade every department

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2010

  • 2011: Self-service platforms unlock innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2011

  • 2012: Surprise and delight your customers to build long-term trust

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2012

  • 2013: Decentralize decision-making to generate innovation

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2013

  • 2014: Bet on ideas that have unlimited upside

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2014

  • 2015: Don’t deliberate over easily reversible decisions

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2015

  • 2016: Move fast and focus on outcomes

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2016

  • 2017: Build high standards into company culture

Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders 2017