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Quick Highlights of Jeff Bezos

Many would agree that Jeff Bezos, solo founder, chairman, and CEO of Amazon, is one of the most inspirational businessmen in modern history.

To date (Oct 22, 2018), Amazon has a market cap of US$ 860 billion, exceeding that of Google and Microsoft. Jeff Bezos has a net worth of US$ 145 billion, overtaking Gates for the first time as the richest person in the country (and the world) on Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires Rankings in July 2017, and is now the wealthiest man in modern history.

But Bezos hasn't always been the billionaire titan he is today. He was born the son of a 16-year-old mom and deadbeat dad. And he didn't set out to be the CEO of the biggest online retailer. Started out working in a financial telecommunications start-up, Bezos later took a riskier career path to build his Amazon empire.

As a technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist, Bezos was believed to have the most significant impact on people's daily lives among major tech firms, according to the SurveyMonkey/ Recode poll conducted in April 2018. Along with his Amazon empire, he also founded Blue Origin, a human spaceflight startup company in September 2000. In September 2018, Bezos announced the launch of a $2 billion fund to support homeless families and education programs in underserved communities.

Wouldn’t it be great to learn from one of the best business minds on earth?

You can, in a way, by reading Jeff Bezos’ annual letters to shareholders. The Amazon founder and CEO reveals insights behind some of his groundbreaking company’s successes – and failures. Over the years, his letters have become a must-read compendium of business wisdom.

So, what are some of his takeaways from recent years?
1. High standards are teachable

In his latest letter in 2018, Bezos writes that if you add someone to a team that has high standards, and that person will adapt. The converse is true: a person joining a group with low standards will adopt lower standards themselves.

But he also notes that even those people who have naturally high standards in general may have blind spots. This is where it becomes important to recognize those weaknesses and come up with realistic timelines of how to improve them. Too often we think we can bang out an assignment in one day – like writing a great memo – without realizing that this seemingly-easy task will actually take a week of revisions in order to be done well.

2. Make reversible decisions quickly, and save your energy for irreversible ones

Slow decisions are innovation-killers, Bezos writes in his 2015 letter. Learn to distinguish between choices that will lead you to a point of no return from ones that can be undone. Waste little time in making reversible decisions – you can always change course later.

Putting too much analysis into each decision as if they’re all of equal weight can breed risk aversion and can stymie experimentation, he writes. Pour your energy into those choices that are truly “one-way doors.”

3. Give customers more without them having to ask for it

When Amazon introduced Prime, its subscription-based premium service, its main draw at the outset was fast and free shipping. Customers were delighted, then, when new features like movies, TV and books were added to their Prime memberships without costing anything extra, Bezos wrote in his 2012 letter. It made customers even more loyal.

Instead of waiting to be told by market research that customers expect more, Bezos argues that his employees feel internally driven to do more for customers all the time. They give proactive refunds for spotty service and issue credits when a price drops on an item that a customer pre-paid.

At Heels & Yield, we work with many entrepreneurs and other professional women trying to add value to their companies. Whose shareholder letters do you love to read? Let us know by leaving a comment in the comment section below.

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One thought on “3 Lessons From Jeff Bezos’ Annual Letters To Shareholders”

  1. Juan Jose Duran says:

    As part of the fashion industry, I love to read Anna Wintours “Editorial Letters” in Vogue. Understanding her perspective of how fashion, business, art and social impact are related, always turns into new perspectives to me. How to use and manage talent to create opportunities and positive social impact is a great value for every kind of business, all around the world.


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