There are many lessons learned from Jeff Bezos. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, was there to defend the company against allegations that it was undercutting competitors by pricing products at a loss that it could only sustain, shutting out competitors over the long term.
Entrepreneurs around the world rely on Bezos’ annual shareholder letters for strategy, decision-making, and inspiration to reach new heights and weather the storms that come with a difficult pursuit.
Similarly, Bezos’ opening statement to the US House Judiciary Committee was equally impressive, drawing on relevant experiences growing up, to his relationship with his parents and grandfather, to overcoming the countless odds against Amazon.
His statement is replete with actionable golden nuggets for life and business.
These are some that stood out to me.
1. The Upbringing of Jeff
Bezos’ mother, Jackie, had him when he was just 17-years-old, which was unpopular in 1964 Albuquerque. When his dad negotiated with the principal, she finished high school and enrolled in night school while she packed diapers, bottles, toys, and books for Jeff in the duffel bag she brought to class.
As soon as Castro took over Cuba, Miguel, a 16-year-old adoptive father, immigrated to the United States. It was difficult for him because of the refugee camp experience, the language barrier, and the lack of opportunities he had. In the end, he earned a scholarship to college in Albuquerque, where he met Jackie.
Bezos spent many summers with his grandfather in Texas, who was a civil servant and rancher. He watched his grandfather fix things, whether it was a broken-down Caterpillar bulldozer or his veterinary work.
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: In addition to setting an example of grit and persistence, Jeff Bezos’ parents also set a very positive example for him, one that would inform his business philosophy much later. He also learned from his grandfather that no matter what happens, you keep going whenever you encounter a setback.
2. Exiting an NYC investment firm
During a conversation with his boss in 1994, Bezos described his idea for Amazon, the world’s largest bookstore. It may be easy to pursue entrepreneurship when you have nothing else on your plate, but what if you’re on a comfortable and coveted six-figure salary that will only increase in value over time?
Bezos said he minimizes regrets when making big decisions. “I want to have the fewest regrets in my life when I’m 80. Our regrets are mostly the result of omissions – the things we didn’t do, the paths untravelled. We are haunted by those things.
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: Which path Jeff Bezos didn’t travel will you regret most in 80 years? Do you conform to society’s views of success or do you do things based on your views?
3. Beginnings on a humble scale
In Bezos’ own words, “I wasn’t always the billionaire tycoon I am now.”.
“I remember driving the packages to the post office myself just yesterday, dreaming that one day we might be able to afford a forklift.”
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: It’s important not to lose sight of this when we’re toiling away on a project or undertaking in its early phases.
4. Risking and Conviction
When the internet bubble burst, Bezos recounted how Amazon’s stock went from $116 to $6. The company was said to be going out of business by critics. To weather the storm and succeed, the company took on a lot of risks, hired great people, had some luck, and stuck to its convictions. “Betting against conventional wisdom usually pays off, but conventional wisdom isn’t always wrong”.
Nevertheless, if you look in the mirror, assess the criticism, and still believe that you’re doing the right thing, nothing can move you.
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: Jeff Bezos showed us that big risks are necessary if you want outsized returns. Having the courage of convictions is vital because there are bound to be countless naysayers along the way who will force you to second-guess your actions.
“To invent, you have to experiment, and if you know that it’s going to work beforehand, it is not an experiment.”
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: In attempting to run experiments that essentially validate their beliefs, entrepreneurs fall into the trap of wasting their time. Jeff Bezos is a prime example. To truly explore new territory, your experiment must reveal new data.
In an echo of Henry Ford’s quote, “if I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”, Bezos says that nobody asked for Amazon Web Services (AWS). According to Bezos, the world was ready and hungry for cloud computing, but it didn’t know it yet.
“Amazon never asked its customers to create the Prime membership program, but it seems like they wanted it”.
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: From Jeff Bezos, we learned: Don’t ask what your customers want. Give them what they don’t know they need yet. Embracing human-centered design means being customer-centric and empathizing with your customers.
7. No customer is ever satisfied
We constantly invest on behalf of our customers because they want something better even when they don’t know it. Even when they don’t realize it, customers want something better.”
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: Even if a competitive product or a market seems dominated by a few vendors, that shouldn’t stop you from trying, especially if you have a superior product, and you can always build a better product with the right resources, time, and resources.
8. Flexibility and Stubbornness
Entrepreneurs must be both stubborn and flexible, according to Bezos. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the company is stubborn about its vision. Detail-oriented flexibility is our goal.”
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: The first part is sticking to the vision, and the second part is being flexible about the tactics. Bezos continues, “If you aren’t stubborn, you will lose interest in experiments too soon.” You will never be able to see a different solution if you aren’t flexible.
9. Investing Trust
It takes time to earn trust by doing hard things well – delivering on time, offering everyday low prices, making promises and following through, making principled decisions, even when they’re unpopular, and offering customers more conveniences that help them spend more time with their families.
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: Jeff Bezos teaches us that it takes time to earn customer trust, and once you have earned it, you have to work just as hard to maintain it.
10. Large vs. small companies
Due to our size, we can make a significant impact on important societal issues.
Having been a garage entrepreneur myself, I love them. The world needs both small and large companies. Small businesses simply cannot do certain things. No matter how good an entrepreneur you are, you won’t build an all-fiber Boeing 787 in your garage.
The lessons learned from Jeff Bezos: Despite what the media makes out, the reality is that some things, many things, require a large team and significant resources. The message is a call to action for startup entrepreneurs as well as corporate executives.