Jeff Bezos: Becoming Bill Gates’ nightmare
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of global technology and retail giant Amazon.com, surpassed Bill Gates on Thursday (July 29, 2017) to become the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $90.9 billion over Bill Gates’ worth of $90.7. Though the upset was short-lived as Jeff Bezos net worth later went down to $89 billion while that of Bill Gates stood around $90 billion. Nevertheless, the genius and the feat of the Amazon boss will never be forgotten. Even if Bezos doesn’t end this week as the richest man, he will likely take the crown from Gates more permanently in the coming weeks or months.
Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, ‘’The height that great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companion slept were toiling upward in night.’’ The meteoric rise of Bezos on the Forbes rating was never sudden as he rose to the top as a result of some life principles blended in healthy proportion and linked together with a tenacious grit. There are some idiosyncratic approaches to business that can be gleaned from the man who built what is today known as the Everything Store.
There are 14 critical points that I will really like to underline to help entrepreneurs and start-ups reach the zenith of their pursuit in life. Here are some of the strategies Bezos used in building his Amazon Empire:
SEEING AND SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES: True riches are not measured in money but rather in opportunities seized. A sure way to miss success is to miss opportunity! It is an un-debatable truth that people get ahead in life through the opportunity they seize. Great leaders are not necessarily the first to see opportunities but they are the first to seize opportunities. Jackson Brown said, “Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity”. Our life is defined by opportunities, including the ones we miss. In 1994, Bezos read that the web had grown 2,300% in one year. This number astounded him, and he decided he needed to find some way to take advantage of its rapid growth. He made a list of 20 possible products to sell online and decided books were the best option. Since 1994, the web has grown exponentially and so is Jeff Bezos’ wealth. The ability to see opportunities when others are seeing only problems is the essential thing that distinguishes successful people from others.
YOUR DREAM MUST BE A PRIORITY, NOT YOUR SALARY: Farrah Gray said, “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs”. The only thing that is valid in life is your dream, not your job or salary. After graduation in 1986 from Princeton University, Jeff Bezos found work at several firms on Wall Street, including Fitel, Bankers Trust and the investment firm D.E. Shaw. It was there he met his wife, Mackenzie, and became the company’s youngest vice president in 1990. While his career in finance was extremely lucrative, Bezos chose to make a risky move into the nascent world of e-commerce to follow his dream. He quit his highly lucrative job in 1994, moved to Seattle and targeted the untapped potential of the Internet market by opening an online bookstore-Amazon was born! Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.
START SMALL; GROW BIG: The greatest tragedy of life is to do nothing just because you think you can only do little. Learning to start small is the secret of greatness. Edmund Burke captured this succinctly when he said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little”. Bezos started Amazon.com in a garage with a potbelly stove. He held most of his meetings at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble. We are permitted to start small but we must never remain small.
GET A MENTOR: Zig Ziglar said, “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could‘’. In order to get farther in life, we must get a ‘father’! Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”. Jeff Bezos was a demanding boss and could explode at employees. Rumour has it he hired a leadership coach to help him tone it down. Mentors help us manage our weaknesses and magnify our strength. Costly and damaging mistakes can be avoided when we allow ourselves to be mentored by people that are more matured and experienced in our fields of endeavour.
INVEST, INVEST AND INVEST!: The truly rich people invest their money. The easiest way to make more money is not to work for money but to let your money work for you. You become financially free when you no longer have to work for money because money is working for you. In 1998, Bezos became an early investor in Google. He invested $250,000, which was worth about 3.3 million shares when the company went public in 2004. Those would be worth about $2.2 billion today! In August 2013, Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million. He also invested in space projects and his space company Blue Origin made history last year when it became one of the first commercial companies to successfully launch a reusable rocket.
TAKE THE RISK: In today’s rapidly changing world, the people who are not taking risk are actually the risk takers! Jeff Bezos said, “If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table”. Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go. In the early days of Amazon, many ‘doomsdays’ were predicted by experts but the e-commerce pathfinder kept saying one thing: “I know that if I failed I will not regret that, but I know the one thing I will forever regret is not trying”.
E-SALE IS THE NEW PHASE OF ‘SELLING’: Online sales and marketing have opened doors to a new era of global marketing. The world we are in today is being sustained by technology and information. Any entrepreneur that is not maximizing the opportunities availed by the Internet and social media will ultimately lag behind. I want to categorically say that entrepreneurs will not be replaced by technology, but entrepreneurs who do not use technology will be replaced by those who do.
DIVERSIFY: Amazon started by selling books on-line at inception but Bezos continued to diversify Amazon’s offerings with the sale of CDs and videos in 1998, and later clothes, electronics, toys and more through major retail partnerships. Bezos also entered Amazon into the tablet marketplace with the unveiling of the Kindle Fire in 2011. The following September, he announced the new Kindle Fire HD, the company’s next generation tablet designed to give Apple’s iPad a run for its money.
TAKE CRITICISM AS FEEDBACKS: Winners see criticism as feedbacks; average people see criticism as an attack. Jeff Bezos said, “If you never want to be criticized, for goodness sake don’t do anything new”.
YOUR ASSOCIATION MATTERS: The ability to connect with people that are valuable to your destination is priceless. Life is too short to be with a partner who makes you feel less than awesome. Jeff Bezos has this to say about his wife: “I wanted a woman who could get me out of a Third World prison. Life’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful”.
CREATE GOOD CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: When you make customers happy, they will tell five friends but when you make customers unhappy, they won’t tell five friends, they will tell 5,000 friends! Customer satisfaction is the best form of advertisement. Jeff Bezos said, “If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering”. Be obsessed about customers, not competitors.
MAKE NEW MISTAKES: Tallulah Bankhead said, “If I had my life to live over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner”. Nobody learns without first getting it wrong. Tony Robbins said, “No matter how many mistakes you make. You’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying”.
EVOLVE: Thomas Edison said, “There is always a better way, find it”. In business, it is dangerous not to evolve because old ways won’t open new doors. Jeff Bezos said, “As a company, one of our greatest cultural strengths is accepting the fact that if you’re going to invent, you’re going to disrupt.” Don’t glory in the past. I have realised over the years that the greatest hindrance to success is not failure; it is actually the previous success.
THINK LONG-TERM: Be a visionary. Charles C. Noble said, “You must have long-term goals to keep you from being frustrated by short-term failures”.