Jeff Bezos is a name synonymous with e-commerce giant Amazon. But that’s not all the world’s once-richest man has done. Before founding Amazon in 1994, he worked at a hedge fund, where he rose to become senior vice-president at the age of 30.
Given his success at running an ecommerce businesses, one through which independent businesses sold a record $4.8 billion during the holiday season, his letter of resignation as chief executive last week to to spend more time on other interests, such as space exploration, came as a shock to the business world.
Mr Bezos is a business tycoon that many entrepreneurs strive to emulate, but his business journey hasn't always been paved with roses, and he encountered a number of failures throughout his career. Shortly after its debut in 2014, Amazon’s Fire Phone spiralled downwards, costing Amazon $170 million in losses.
In an interview with Business Insider in 2014, Mr Bezos says he's suffered "billions of dollars of failures at Amazon".
As the business world reflects on Mr Bezos’s career at Amazon, I share key life lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from him.
Don’t get comfortable
Mr Bezos led what many would perceive as a comfortable life when he worked at a hedge fund. Had he stayed, his life would probably be filled with fewer financial failures and more predictability. But he didn’t succumb to that feeling and didn’t want to be filled with regret later in life.
“When you think about the things that you will regret when you’re 80, they’re almost always the things that you did not do. They’re acts of omission. Very rarely are you going to regret something that you did that failed,” he said. Think about how your life would change if you took risks or welcomed failure. Even though he endured multiple failures, that didn’t stop him from expanding Amazon and developing new services.
Take life one step at a time
When he started Amazon in 1994, did Mr Bezos envision that people would depend on it for groceries? Or that his e-commerce platform would be the business that many depended on during a pandemic? Maybe. He had an idea and he followed it. He wanted to sell books, and that’s what he did at first. He took it one step at a time. Today he wants to attend to his space exploration interest, and that could lead to another revolutionary venture. Sometimes, potential entrepreneurs overwhelm themselves before they embark on their journey. They think about how risky their journey would be if it expanded at a rapid pace or how they would be unable to handle failure, and that thinking puts them off. Take one step at a time. Start small and then slowly expand your operations.
Your customers are your business’s foundation
When Mr Bezos started his journey, many people thought he was crazy to compete with book giants such as Barnes & Noble and that he would lose when the latter took their business online. When his team worried about the competition, he advised them to focus on their customers. “No matter what the drama is, whatever the external distraction is, your response to it should be to double down on the customer, satisfying them," he said. "Not just satisfying them, delighting them."
“If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you're going to double your inventiveness,” Mr Bezos has said. This mindset isn’t exclusive to Amazon, but is one shared by most innovative companies, like Google with its Google Labs and innovative governments like the UAE’s, where innovation is at the core of strategising and planning. If your business doesn’t innovate, it won’t grow. And if you don’t experiment with it, you will never know its full potential.
Jeff Bezos is an innovative visionary whose business lessons are applicable to life. Embrace innovation and take risks – and life – one step at a time.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi