Disclaimer and my personal bias: I am a customer that is deeply locked into Amazon’s ecosystem. I am an Amazon Prime customer. I love Kindle even though it is sometimes sluggish. I am an Audible subscriber. After reading Deep Work and almost quitting Facebook and Twitter, Goodreads is my hangout area.
Despite this, I used to think Amazon was a terrible and insipid workplace. Blame my naïveté on the NYT article and some hearsay stories about the bad experiences at Amazon. But after I read Brad Stone’s fantastic book about Jeff Bezos, I started to question my opinion and read more about Amazon. No wonder Charlie Munger respects and is in awe of Jeff and Amazon.
In the 2016 letter to Amazon’s shareholders, Jeff says:
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 of Day 1 vitality.
This attitude shows in the body of work that Amazon has produced. Kindle, Echo, AWS, Prime Video, drone delivery, Amazon Pantry, to name a few. He concludes the letter with this:
Are the world’s trends tailwinds for you? Are you falling prey to proxies, or do they serve you? And most important of all, are you delighting customers? We can have the scope and capabilities of a large company and the spirit and heart of a small one. But we have to choose it
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Jeff explains his vision for his space exploration company, Blue Origin. For me, it looks like he is trying to build an AWS like infrastructure for manufacturing in space. Won’t it be kickass to work in an organization of a person with such vision?
I highly recommend you read the complete letter. It is beautifully crafted and very inspirational. Complement it with this piece from Eugene Wei, who gives an insider view of why the letter is so impactful:
“What Jeff understood was the power of rhetoric. Time spent coming up with the right words to package a key concept in a memorable way was time well spent. People fret about what others say about them when they’re not in the room, but Jeff was solving the issue of getting people to say what he’d say when he wasn’t in the room.”