Jeff Bezos didn’t invent e-commerce – he merely created an online retail giant that changed the daily routines of people around the world.
You might love Amazon for giving you 24-hour delivery of the toilet paper your roommate was supposed to buy last week, or hate it for driving your cute local supermarket out of business. Either way, Bezos has, in some fashion, influenced your day-to-day life.
Here’s a brief look at the surprising history of Amazon, along with a peek inside the mind of the man behind the empire.
Bezos launched Amazon in 1994 as an online bookstore based in his garage, branching out into music and video products around 1998. Over the next 20 years, the company transformed retail, with Bezos becoming the richest man in the world in the process.
In the past decade, Amazon has branched out again, channeling its energy into AI and digital services like cloud computing. Less than 25 years after Bezos opened his garage for business, Amazon ranks as one of the Big Four tech companies, alongside Google, Facebook and Apple.
That kind of global domination would be enough for most entrepreneurs, but Bezos has his eyes on the skies, too. The aerospace company he founded two decades ago, Blue Origin, plans to start sending people into space this year.
Recent struggles but ongoing growth
Life at the top can be difficult, and Bezos would be the first to tell you that. Faced with what he called a blackmail threat from a tabloid publisher in early 2019, he publicly acknowledged an affair with former So You Think You Can Dance? host Lauren Sanchez.
The affair contributed to Jeff’s very public divorce from Mackenzie, his wife of 20 years, at a time when their four children were all under 18 years old. Many within and outside Amazon wondered if he could continue running the company effectively.
Meanwhile, Amazon itself has increasingly become a target for public backlash. In 2017 and 2018, Amazon paid no US federal income tax, sparking outcry from 2020 US presidential candidates, other political leaders and the general public.
Accusations of worker exploitation have also surfaced, while authors, publishers and music creators have long complained about Amazon’s unfavorable pricing policies. A number of organizations have called for public boycotts of the company and its products.
Nonetheless, Amazon and Bezos appear to be emerging from it all relatively unscathed. With its combination of massive profits, a well-known culture of innovation and Bezos’s unique leadership style, the company’s share price has increased 8% in the past year.
Two simple ideas that make the Bezos way different
Bezos has banned PowerPoint presentations in Amazon meetings, instead requiring high-level employees (including Bezos himself) to write narrative reports. He insists that storytelling better matches the natural wiring of our brains.
He also refuses to hold early morning meetings (#yay), and keeps the number of people in any meeting small. He calls this his “two-pizza rule”: two large pizzas should be enough to feed everyone at a meeting.
From simple observations to core beliefs that set him apart, here’s a look at the inner workings of the world’s richest man to help you stay agile, motivated and on task.
Eight Bezos quotes on work, innovation and life
- “If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness.”
- “What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.”
- “The common question that gets asked in business is, ‘why?’ That’s a good question, but an equally valid question is, ‘why not?’”
- “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
- “…because, you know, resilience – if you think of it in terms of the Gold Rush, then you’d be pretty depressed right now because the last nugget of gold would be gone. But the good thing is, with innovation, there isn’t a last nugget. Every new thing creates two new questions and two new opportunities.”
- “I believe you have to be willing to be misunderstood if you’re going to innovate.”
- “If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.”
- “Another thing that I would recommend to people is that they always take a long-term point of view. I think this is something about which there’s a lot of controversy. A lot of people — and I’m just not one of them — believe that you should live for the now. …I think what you do is think about the great expanse of time ahead of you and try to make sure that you’re planning for that in a way that’s going to leave you ultimately satisfied. This is the way it works for me. There are a lot of paths to satisfaction and you need to find one that works for you.”