Review #3 – The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Author: Brad Stone.

Genre: business biography.

Target Audience: anyone interested in the life of Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos.

Length: 359 pages.

First Published: 2013.

Review: 

I read this book because Carl Ryden, the founder and CEO of PrecisionLender, mentioned it in one of his company’s podcasts, The Purposeful Banker. In the podcast, he also mentioned that The Goal was a favorite book of Jeff Bezos (see Jeff’s Reading List below), which piqued my interest even more.

Stone covers a lot of ground about Bezos and Amazon, and he does so in an engaging manner. Stone did extensive research and conducted many interviews, including with Jeff Bezos himself.

Below are a few themes I gleaned from my reading.

Customer Focus

A lot of business leaders tout the significance of customer focus. However, when the rubber meets the road, many business leaders simply don’t execute on this, for whatever reason. During Amazon’s once heated rival with Barnes and Noble, Bezos addressed his employees saying, “Look, you should wake up worried, terrified every morning. But don’t be worried about our competitors because they’re never going to send us any money anyway. Lets’ be worried about our customers and stay heads-down focused.” Through thick and thin, Bezos and Amazon seem to have stayed the course of customer focus. This seems to have been and continues to be a significant contributor to Amazon’s success.

Long-term Thinking

Throughout the book, the author writes of Bezos’ self-proclaimed long-term thinking. Danny Hillis, a friend of Bezos, said of him, “If you look at why Amazon is so different than most any other company that started early on the Internet, it’s because Jeff approached it from the very beginning with that long-term vision. It was a multidecade projects. The notion that he can accomplish a huge amount with a larger time frame, if he is steady about it, is fundamentally his philosophy.” While many executives were making decisions aimed at driving up the next quarterly earnings, Bezos was – at times – making decisions with the understanding they may not pay off for years. But when they did pay off – and they didn’t always – they paid off big.

Market Share

Prior to reading this book, I was under the impression that Amazon had created a technology platform that was superior to its competitors, thus creating a competitive advantage. However, in reading this book, it seems that Bezos was intent on getting to scale and market share faster than his competitors. Amazon would then wield this buying power and pricing power to offer its customers the best price, and therein lies the competitive advantage. The company’s first shareholder letter, written by Bezos and Joy Covey, Amazon’s first CFO, reads “We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages. Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in any case.” Investing and executing successfully in this fashion was and continues to be another significant contributor to Amazon’s success.

Employees

Much has been written about the employee experience at Amazon. What surprised me the most in reading this book was a recurring sense from former Amazon employees was that they recalled their time working at Amazon as the best of times and the worst of times. In the book, Stone writes, “Despite the scars and occasional bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder, former Amazon employees often consider their time at the company the most productive of their careers.” He then goes on to quote Faisal Masud, who spent five years in the retail business of Amazon, as saying, “Everybody knows how hard it is and chooses to be there.”

These are what I took away as the most important themes. Certainly, Stone covers much more. Regardless of what you know – or think you know about Bezos and Amazon – this book is sure to open your eyes to new insights.

Buy It Here!

Related Books:

These are listed in the back of the book as “Jeff’s Reading List”

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