Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the ultimate disrupter. How did he do it? What can bike businesses learn from Amazon’s amazing growth? Yesterday he released his annual letter to shareholders, and, as usual, it’s insightful. Whether or not you view Bezos as the devil who encouraged online competitors such as Chiggle there’s a lot to be learned from such a market disrupter. If nothing else, know thine enemy.
Bezos runs his $430 billion publicly traded company like a start-up, treating business decisions with the same urgency as in the early days. This is an edited extract from his letter.
[Success comes from] customer obsession, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making.
There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective … vitality.
Why? There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.
Experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight. A customer-obsessed culture best creates the conditions where all of that can happen.
I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.
The outside world can push you into [obsolescence] if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind.
Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.
Pic: Steve Jurvetson.