The One Secret to Amazon's Success

published on 17 Apr 2017
For many, the idea of becoming wealthy and successful sounds so far-fetched that we think people who got there are not human like the rest of us and have some kind of superpowers that they used to become rich. What middle class people don't realize is that self-made successful men started from scratch, sometimes with less than most of us have right now. So what's your excuse? 

The world's billionaires are always a good example to observe and follow for anyone who wants to become like them. In business, one role model you have a lot to learn from is Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. So how did Amazon become a multibillion-dollar retail empire that made Bezos the second-richest man in the world with a $76 billion (€71.4 billion) fortune? According to Bezos, the secret is having a Day 1 mentality. It's true that many companies aspire to become one of the big fish and operate like those giant corporations, but that means becoming a Day 2 company which comes with the risk of losing the enthusiasm, the passion, and the ability to grow and innovate. "Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why [for Amazon] it is always Day 1," Bezos says. 

Being a Day 1 company means following the same startup model that inspired employees and excited entrepreneurs, that fueled the passion and enthusiasm of the team and filled them with optimism, whereas by becoming a Day 2 company you risk losing sight and be derailed from your initial purpose. "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," Bezos wrote in his recent annual letter to shareholders. 

According to Bezos, here are three steps to follow to remain a Day 1 company: 

1. Adapt fast
The ability to embrace big trends early on and risk-taking attitude is what makes Day 1 companies so successful. Adaptability and flexibility are traits that fade away as your business becomes a Day 2 company because you reach a point when you're too big to risk failing. In a Day 1 company, you experiment and fail several times until you make it, whereas in a Day 2 company, you experiment, fail and then get fired or urged not to experiment again. 

2. Make decision fast
Being a Day 1 company implies making fast rather than perfect decisions. "...most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you're probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions," Bezos says, encouraging leaders to embrace a principle that he calls "disagree and commit," which implies that everyone must commit to a decision or solution even if they disagree with it. 

3. Stand up to proxies
"As companies get larger and more complex, there's a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it's dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2. A common example is process as proxy... if you're not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you're doing the process right," Bezos says.