Forget Wonder Woman. Jeff Bezos is Wonder Man. At only 55 years old, he is ranked as the richest man (most days) in the world. That means ahead of Bill Gates, Bernard Arnault, and the guy who runs Berkshire Hathaway. How the heck did he do that? He sold books. Books! Initially, that is all he sold. Was boring, old, books. In 1994 the Princeton University computer science/electrical engineering graduate created a company called Amazon in his parent’s garage. He wrote the business plan while driving cross country from the East Coast to Seattle. Within 30 days of launching, he was already bringing in $10,000 a week from selling books. Withing 2 years, the company was already going public with an IPO.
Fast Forward to 2020, Amazon is the most successful e-commerce website in history, and Bezos has been described as “far richer than anyone else on the planet.” Amazon has expanded to sell not only books, but every conceivable product known to man. They have warehouses and distribution centers all over the world. They now deliver their orders by drones, they offer cloud computing services to the US government, are leaders in Artificial intelligence technology and are strong players in audio streaming market. They also have a facial recognition software which is being used by police departments across the country to help with law enforcement.
According to their Wiki profile, the company has a “market cap” of more than $1 trillion. Can you imagine that kind of success??
Bezos doesn’t let himself be deterred by that kind of distraction. We can all imagine that having that much money to manage can be a big distraction for most people. But not Bezos. Now, he is refocusing. He has started another company called Blue Origin with which he hopes to offer commercial space flights in the near future. He has also bought a major newspaper, the Washington Post. And he has a venture capital company called Bezos Expedition. And he is just getting started.
How did he get to where he is today with just a small loan of about $300,000 initial capital from his affluent parents? What can others who want to follow in his footsteps learn from Jeff Bezos about how to build a brand?
- Divert profits back into the company
Jeff recently bought a new house in California in February 2020, and it is being dubbed one of the most expensive real estate transactions in history. But he was not always so extravagant. It took years after reaching millionaire status for Jeff to start enjoying his money. For years he drove an old car for example. And he put the money back into the business.
- Get financing as quickly as possible
A lot of brands out there start on a shoe-string budget but most fail. Even with a sizeable budget, failure is still very likely. Nevertheless, it is important to get as much financial support as possible as quickly as possible because without it, you are likely to spin your wheels and get nowhere fast. Especially in the e-commerce ecosystem. You have to have money to invest in a website or it will not succeed. So beg, borrow and steal if you must but get your hands on adequate financing. Bezos reportedly got financing from banks, his parents and from an IPO.
- Lower expectations from stakeholders.
Jeff warned stakeholders that there was a 70 percent chance that the money they were about to invest in Amazon could be lost as the whole thing could fail. Obviously that did not happen but he did not over sell the idea. He undersold it instead and this worked out better for everybody.
- Be competitive.
Apparently, Bezos was “hyper-competitive” and wanted to be the best. As a result, he looked for ways to do things better than the competition which, for him, in the beginning was book sellers like Barnes and Noble and Borders. Eventually, he muscled them out of business.
- Study the data
Bezos is said to be obsessed with data. For example, he looked at what people liked to read to figure out what other products he might successfully sell to them. Successful brands have to be comfortable with leveraging data.
- Make lists
Bezos is said to be a guy who likes to make lists before taking important decisions. Lists probably helped him to keep things clear and organized. Brands who want to be successful like Bezos might learn something from that.
- Scale fast to establish market dominance
Bezos had a mantra it is said and that is “get big fast.” Why was it important to do it fast? Maybe in order not to give the competition any chance to catch up. Who knows? The point is that in order to have a successful ecommerce brand today, time is of the essence and brand creators have to be nimble and quick. They have to move with intention. It is not enough to enter the market. The intention seems to be to dominate the market and it is what Bezos wanted from the beginning and exactly what he achieved.
- Establish certain unshakeable principles
For Bezos, his 5 principles include focusing on customers, not competitors; taking risks in order to achieve market dominance; building staff morale; having a strong positive company culture; and empowering people. (I don’t remember where I read this. It could have been Wikipedia.) Brands that want to emulate Bezos’ success must also have principles that guide them in good times and bad times.
Keep adding new products and services to your portfolio
Bezos started out selling books and today, look at what you can buy and sell on Amazon. But it is not just products. He also has gotten into selling services. He has the facial recognition software. He has cloud computing, space travel, venture capital, Whole Foods, Washington Posts, Artificial intelligence, Audio Streaming….The idea is that he keeps growing, he keeps creating. He keeps coming up with new ideas. That is what a successful brand will have to do.
Have a good team behind you
Successful brand creators like Jeff Bezos understand the importance of having a team, a good one, behind them. He cannot do everything alone. Indeed, there is very little that he can do alone. Without the right support, he understood that failure would be assured. So he started out putting together a solid team.