Amazon (AMZN) has grown rapidly from e-commerce pioneer and bookseller to a behemoth that sells just about anything you can think of. And considering Amazon Web Services, which helps run everything from Netflix (NFLX) to DropBox, there are more services than most people would imagine.
According to Brad Stone’s new book The Everything Store that omnipresence made its CEO Jeff Bezos wonder how Amazon could avoid becoming one of those companies that people hate for its size and power.
The company had already been criticized for how it pays sales tax, eBook pricing, certain acquisitions, and ill-thought out marketing efforts, like an aggressive price comparison app. He wanted to know how the company could be “loved, not feared.”
In it, he highlighted the fact that some multibillion-dollar companies have managed to remain beloved, or at least thought of as “cool” by customers. Think Apple (AAPL), Whole Foods (WFM), Costco (COST), Nike (NKE), and Google (GOOG). Others get piled on, rather than defended, if things go badly. Think Microsoft (MSFT), Goldman Sachs (GS), ExxonMobil (XOM), and Wal-Mart (WMT).
Both sets of companies do very well. But the core of Amazon’s ethos and culture is that the customer always comes first. Because the customer loses trust if they fear that you’re out to take advantage of them, Amazon’s sheer size makes that a worry.
Bezos laid out the core differences between the two types of businesses in the memo. It’s a playbook for any business that aspires to be loved, instead of feared.
- Rudeness is not cool.
- Defeating tiny guys is not cool.
- Close-following is not cool.
- Young is cool.
- Risk taking is cool.
- Winning is cool.
- Polite is cool.
- Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool.
- Inventing is cool.
- Explorers are cool.
- Conquerors are not cool.
- Obsessing over competitors is not cool.
- Empowering others is cool.
- Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.
- Leadership is cool.
- Conviction is cool.
- Straightforwardness is cool.
- Pandering to the crowd is not cool.
- Hypocrisy is not cool.
- Authenticity is cool.
- Thinking big is cool.
- The unexpected is cool.
- Missionaries are cool.
- Mercenaries are not cool.
After ranking companies on those attributes, Bezos concluded that customer focus alone isn’t enough. Being inventive isn’t enough, either.
Beloved companies manage to make what he describes as “that pioneering spirit” perceived and felt by their customers. When customers believe the company has a vision of the future that they want to be a part of and trust it can deliver on that vision, then they are more likely to support it.