Forbes Gets Jeff Bezos

I’ve written on Amazon before and about CEOs I admire, but until I read Forbes’ April 2012 article on Jeff Bezos entitled Jeff Bezos Gets It, I didn’t realize how much I admired the man behind the company. Bezos seems to embody Steve Blank’s ideas of customer development by making the customer first in all business decisions.

Out of Jeff Bezo’s Top Ten Maxims, a third of them center around the customer. Number 2 is “Obsess over customers,” number 5 is “Determine what your customers need and work backwards,” and number 9 is “Everyone has to be able to work in a call center [for humility and empathy for the customer]”.

Credit: Forbes

It’s not just Bezo’s customer-centric approach to business that has my admiration, but his culture of innovation and his data-intensive decision making that make me so fond of his way of doing business. Forbes’ writes, “Data reigns supreme at Amazon, particularly head-to-head tests of customers’ reactions to different features or site designs. Bezos calls it ‘a culture of metrics’.”

Forbes’ continues, “For Bezos a data-driven customer focus lets him take risks to innovate, secure in the belief that he’s doing the right thing.” Bezos is quoted as saying, “We focus on what is going to be good for the customers. I think this aspect of our culture is rare.” Rare and profitable.

I’ve joked that Amazon has two departments, one that creates ideas on how to make money and another that says, “Yes.” From Amazon Web Services to Lab 126 Amazon has continued to create new revenue streams beyond the giant retailer that it has become. As an Amazon Associate, I get to piggyback on that success.

Forbes’ spends some time putting Bezos on a pedestal where Steve Jobs once stood, calling Bezos, “the corporate chief that others most want to meet, emulate and deify,” but in my mind I’d rather keep those two separate as Jobs tended to make products for customers, Bezos tends to make products because of them – and those are two completely different ways to run a business.