5 Lessons Every Business Can Learn From Amazon

By Alice Murray

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Even the most talented detective would find it difficult to source someone who had never heard of Amazon before.

Put simply, we all know Amazon as the one-stop-shop for all of our consumer needs. In their infancy, they started off selling books and now they sell a vast variety of products to consumers and computer services to businesses. In February 2017, Amazon had a massive number of loyal user accounts – no less than 300 million to be precise. You could search for any product on the planet and it’s a safe bet that Amazon would have it in stock and have it ready to be shipped to your door within 24 hours or sooner.

When aspiring tech entrepreneurs are asked who they look up to in the industry the most, they will mention the usual suspects: Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. Surprisingly, there aren’t many who mention Jeff Bezos; founder and CEO of Amazon.

Whether this is down to his arguably dull personality or because people don’t see the running of an online retail store as a particularly innovative process, credit where credit’s due; Jeff Bezos has managed to create nothing short of a remarkable empire.

His philosophy – which helped him build the online retailer into a colossal triumph with a current market cap of about $380 billion – has become a pedestal to aspiring businesses. Regardless of how often you use Amazon, you can’t deny its presence. It’s constantly being added to, upgraded, managed and improved – most recently introducing Amazon Prime to ensure free next-day deliveries for customers.

Not only that, but it rarely fails to hit the right notes with its consumers. The freedom to buy pretty much anything you can think of at the click of a button in one place is mesmerising to a lot of us, and the customer service at Amazon is second to none which only adds to the popularity of it.

So, what is it that makes Amazon such a reputable and successful business? And how can others follow in its footsteps?

1. Be Ambitious

The main reason for Amazon’s high status amongst retailers and businesses is simple: they never stop experimenting. As a company, they never stop expanding their possibilities. As stated earlier, they started as nothing more than online booksellers.

Now, they sell just about every product on the globe. A company of Amazon’s size that wants to grow at over 20% must add at least $27 billion in new revenue each year. Those are the kind of numbers you’re dealing with to compete at their level.

The latest reports show that Amazon is investing in various initiatives, such as expanding into India and Australia, speeding up delivery times to as little as an hour on select products, adding new skills and devices for its voice-activated Alexa platform and producing original movies and TV shows.

A quote from Bezos once read:“If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness.”

The man simply screams ambition, and the current services available to Amazon users are vast, to say the least. At Amazon, experimentation and willingness to invent have always been a part of their brand and culture. It’s not secondary or something that has to be done because everyone else does it.

The cost of shipping has held many people back from ordering online before, as has not receiving a product the same day that they ordered it. Amazon currently offers free shipping on orders over £25. They call the program Super Saver Shipping. You can do the maths on this and see that a company that operates on low margins like Amazon can’t do it profitably. The numbers tell you not to do it, but customers tell you to do it. What side do you think Jeff Bezos choose to take?

The side of the customer, of course.

This is just one example of how Amazon has made its way quickly up the pecking order in terms of online retail and e-commerce, and it’s a mantra that ought to be followed by all other businesses that are looking to succeed.

We all know that the customer comes first, but you have to put that ahead of everything – even your experiments and tests. If it doesn’t benefit your consumers, why do it in the first place?

Experimentation can be a precursor to innovation, so make sure that you’re always experimenting something new.

2. Be Patient

If we know one thing about Jeff Bezos, it’s that he always thinks and does business in the long term.

Amazon retail has been around since 1994 – going fully public in 1998 – but it’s a fair assumption that the majority of us have only become fully invested in it over the last few years. Getting Amazon off the ground was no easy task, but the insistent CEO was determined to make it happen way back in the early days of the internet.

After working closely with computers, Bezos knew even then, that people would be buying products off of it. In the first attempt to create his baby, he set out to make a million dollars. Instead, he talked to 60 potential investors, and 22 people gave him a rounded total of $50K.

This was a time when people didn’t even know what the internet was. Bezos did, and he correctly predicted that they would be the retail tour-de-forces of the future. That’s his vision and long-term thinking at work.

Obviously, thinking long term requires a tremendous amount of patience. This is especially true when you’re the CEO who needs to also focus on day-to-day operations. But long-term thinking and patience need to be the fundamental ingredient for your company.

Without it, you’ll either peak too soon and end up giving in, or your business will simply never work.

3. Be Totally Obsessed With Your Business

Bezos is the leader of the pack of some hugely notable public companies because of his influence and work ethic.

Alphabet, Facebook, and Netflix are just a few of these, which are all being run by their founders and continue to grow at over 20% each per year. Bezos’ net worth of $78.7 billion drew him a mere $9 billion from surpassing fellow Seattle resident Bill Gates’ $87.7 billion on April 28 this year.

Some pretty impressive salaries there. But when you devote all of your time, energy, skills and everyday life in your business, a full bank account is just the start of it.

Until your business has been built from the ground up and is at a stage where your lack of involvement wouldn’t cause it to falter, you can never afford to take a step back or let go of the reigns.

Of course, some businesses will always exceed the success of others, but to make it work for you, you need to be completely transfixed and addicted to it. Jeff Bezos has been at the helm ever since Amazon first began its retail journey over twenty years ago, and it doesn’t look like he’s remotely close to hanging up his CEO title just yet.

Your business is your livelihood, your income and your daily job. So why should it be anything less than everything?

4. Be Aware Of Competitors – But Don’t Let It Consume You

Finding the perfect balance of how much time you should spend considering your competitor market is a difficult process for any business. Think about it; if you spend your entire day being fixated with what everybody else is doing or being concerned about what they think of you, you’d never get anything done.

Bezos once pointed out that tech companies, in particular, obsess too much over their competitors, because they wait and see what rivals introduce, then try to match them or do better them. By listening to customers instead, Amazon built its Amazon Web Services business, which was designed to solve the problems they had with in-house application hosting that was too expensive, and open-source products that weren’t robust enough to easily support fast-growing or already-large companies.

This service is now a business that is worth over $10 billion. In other words, the proof is in the pudding with this one. If you get too caught up in competitor rivalry, you’ll end up damaging your own brand along the way.

5. Be A Brand – Not Just A Business

Any decent business owner or aspiring business leader will tell you that to make a company stand out and appeal to the masses, you need to introduce more than just a product.

Yes, the primary goal of your business might be to sell sell sell. But there needs to be more than that up for grabs in the eyes of a customer. You need a brand, a culture and an ideology in which your entire business is centered around.

Amazon’s own culture has been famously fast-paced and notoriously cost-conscious for most of its life as a public company. But they are also renowned for being cost-effective, user-friendly and experts in fast customer service with amazing reliability.

Of course, every business should have targets like this in mind, but you need to construct an approach that fits you and benefits you. This is something you need to consider in everything that you do, even down to your hiring processes. Your employees should fit your culture and your brand perfectly, and they should all embody every value that your business stands for.

There’s no one set of goals a company must be about. The point is to decide what few things are most important, repeat them often, and make sure everyone buys in.

For instance, at Uniting Ambition, our company values are to be Bold, take Ownership, be Creative and have Ambition. We refer to this acronym of BOCA on a daily basis, and whenever we’re recruiting new staff.

It’s a moral that we all like to represent every day in our work and with one another, as well as with clients and candidates. If you’re looking for a new opportunity or for a new role as a contractor or a permanent position, don’t hesitate to contact one of our BOCA staff for a chat or email us: info@unitingambition.com. 

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