7 Lessons I Learned From Jeff Bezos

This video is 80 minutes and 27 seconds well spent but below are some of the takeaways for me. Maybe they are important to you too?

It’s not often that I summarize other people’s work or talks, but this one was too good to pass up.

This video is 80 minutes and 27 seconds well spent but below are some of the takeaways for me. Maybe they are important to you too?

Make your building blocks public and reusable (API’s first). Who would have thought that an online book store would be one of the largest providers of cloud hosting services in the world? It happened because one day around 2002, Jeff Bezos decided “All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.” The mandate, among others, closed with “Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired. Thank you; have a nice day!”

When you think about building a business, you quickly realize how many moving pieces there are and how interconnected everything is. If one part of the machine breaks, the other parts are surely affected. This is especially true in technology. If the button on my website doesn’t work, then it can’t perform the function it was supposed to. Conversely, if the button on my website does work and the supporting function does not, well then I have a clickable button that does nothing. By instilling an API-first culture, Jeff was able to create incredible efficiencies within the organization ensuring that there was a universal language to communicate between different parts of the Amazon machine. Some of those parts were so good, that they were able to be exposed to the broader public as standalone parts, and we now have AWS which is one of the three pillars or business units of their company.

Work backward from customer needs. Business is simple when you realize the core essence of what it’s about: Find a problem, solve it, make money to solve it. In the case of Amazon, the problems they are fixing are customer selection, price, speed and accuracy of delivery. That’s it. Those the are core problems that they set out to fix. It seems this is the best and easiest way to align a business. Figure out the needs and work backwards.

Make a little amount of money on a lot of people instead of making a lot of money on a few number of people. The internet has redefined the impact and importance of geography. The old world: one store could serve a few. The new world: one store could serve everyone. As a result, smart companies are taking advantage of this new paradigm with both technological innovation that sits on top of the internet, but also, financial innovation. In Amazon’s case, their financial innovation is to race towards the bottom with prices and with margins.

There are still plenty of other industries where this financial innovation can be applied such as legal services, financial services, and any other high-priced, big-ticketed item. These are all ripe for financial disruption because of the scale of the internet. In my world, I believe the same thing is happening in enterprise software. We call it, the “consumerization of the enterprise.” Long gone are the days of a bag-carrying, quota-carrying, sales guy that needs to hop on a plane to shovel a 20-page agreement across a table to a CEO for a few million dollars. If not long gone, they are surely moving in that direction. Instead, we’ll see the broader adoption of enterprise software which, like Amazon, will win on selection, price and speed.

The only way to give people happy experiences is with happy people. Depressing and pessimistic people are energy vampires. Positive and optimistic people are encouraging and motivating. You will not win unless you surround yourself with smart, motivated and positive people. “Positive”, is the key operating word. In fact, it is one of the 4 company values at Troops.

You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you. There was a young kid growing up in Seattle in the 70’s and he was obsessed with computers. He would spend hours upon hours on his school’s first computer and tried to figure out every possible way to break the machine and outsmart it. He became obsessed to the point where his parents had to force him to take a break and not use a computer for a whole year. So he did take a break and engulfed himself in books for a full year which also meant no computers during that time. But sure enough, he made it back to his obsession and started a company we now know as Microsoft. Could Microsoft be the company it is today if someone was first and foremost motivated by money? Could Facebook be Facebook without a Harvard dropout chasing some crazy and passionate idea for an online social network? The answer to me seems fairly obvious and yet, most people still try to rationalize and justify the decisions they make in their career. Jeff is successful with Amazon because a passion called him out and he listened. Most people don’t do this and never will. He did, and so am I.

There will be a bunch of artificially intelligent agents. I could not agree more and it is what we are building at Troops. More on that here.

Be stubborn on the vision, but flexible on the details. When Intel Israel’s back was against the wall and it’s facility was at risk of shutting down, it needed to prove that it was an essential part of Intel’s future. To do this, the CEO of Intel Israel said, “$0.66 or die.” He meant we figure out how to make the cost of our chips $0.66 to be the leader in costs and price, or we will go out of business, lose our jobs, and professionally speaking, die. Without the faintest idea of how they would get there, they set out a mandate and just figured it out. Sure enough, they achieved a cost of $0.66 for one of their chips and it proved to be the model for every other Intel Fab factory in the world.

Were there any other takeaways for you?