Failure is important.
“As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments,” Bezos wrote in a 2018 letter to shareholders. “If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle.”
Bezos noted that the infamous Fire phone was a failure for Amazon, but that the company was “able to take our learnings (as well as the developers) and accelerate our efforts building Echo and Alexa.”
Work and life shouldn’t be a balancing game.
“I get asked about work-life balance all the time, and my view is that’s a debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off,” Bezos said during an April 2018 awards event hosted by Axel Springer, Insider’s parent company.
Bezos says people should look at “work” and “life” as integrated instead of two separate entities. “It actually is a circle. It’s not a balance,” Bezos said.
Focus your business on what won’t change long-term.
“When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it,” Bezos said, as noted in a 2015 blog post by venture capitalism Bill Gurley. “I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”
For Amazon, this means investing energy into quick delivery times and low prices, according to Bezos.
Business ideas should have some element of risk.
“If you have a business idea with no risk, it’s probably already being done,” Bezos said during Amazon’s Re:Mars conference in 2019.
“You’ve got to have something that might not work. It will be, in many ways, an experiment,” he continued. Experiments may fail, but these “big failures” are important for success, according to Bezos.
“Delight” your customers.
“The most important thing is to be customer-obsessed,” he said about entrepreneurs during the same Re:Mars conference. “Don’t satisfy them, absolutely delight them.”
Similarly, fear your customers instead of your competition.
“Be afraid of our customers, because those are the folks who have the money,” Bezos once said during an all-hands meeting, he told Julia Kirby and Thomas A. Stewart for the Harvard Business Review in 2007. “Our competitors are never going to send us money.”
Make key decisions before the afternoon.
The early bird gets the worm, but for Bezos, the early bird “makes important decisions.”
“When Jeff Bezos came to visit me here at my home [in May 2019] — he was here for three days — he shared something with me that I really liked,” Bezos told Italian fashion designer Brunello Cucinelli, Cucinelli told The Wall Street Journal’s Lane Florsheim in 2020. “He said, ‘Normally, I make important decisions around 10:30 a.m. I’ll discuss it the day before, I’ll sleep on it, and in the morning I’ll actually make the decision.'”
The four key attributes of a “dreamy business.”
According to Bezos’ 2014 letter to shareholders, a “dreamy business has at least four characteristics”: “Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time – with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don’t just swipe right, get married.”
According to Bezos, Amazon “hasn’t been monogamous in this regard.”
“After two decades of risk-taking and teamwork, and with generous helpings of good fortune all along the way, we are now happily wed to what I believe are three such life partners: Marketplace, Prime, and Amazon Web Services,” Bezos wrote.
“Create more than you consume.”
“If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume,” Bezos wrote in his last letter to shareholders this year.
According to Bezos: “Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.”
“We are all taught to ‘be yourself.’ What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness,” he continued in his 2021 shareholder letter.
“The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.”
Look long-term instead of striving for instant gratification.
Like other successful entrepreneurs, Bezos has discussed the importance of long-term thinking several times, and his 2008 letter to shareholders is no different.
“Long-term thinking levers our existing abilities and lets us do new things we couldn’t otherwise contemplate,” he wrote. “It supports the failure and iteration required for invention, and it frees us to pioneer in unexplored spaces. Seek instant gratification — or the elusive promise of it — and chances are you’ll find a crowd there ahead of you.”