"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well," – Jeff Bezos
They say that, as a toddler, Jeff Bezos tried to take apart his crib with a screwdriver and it was this thirst for knowledge, apparent at even this early age, that was to lead him to develop one of the Internet’s true success stories, Amazon.com. Bezos is viewed by his peers as one of the true innovators and as someone who creates trends rather than following them. He has tended to go against popular thinking throughout his career and it has served him well. As entrepreneurs we could do worse than hang on every word that he has to say about future trends. His innovation, dedication and willingness to approach everything from way outside the box has also given him a $10 billion net worth, enabling him and his wife to be very philanthropic, to boot.
Jeff Bezos, a 45-year-old New Mexican, was raised by his mother and stepfather, a Cuban immigrant and enjoyed his education in both Houston and Miami. He exhibited considerable science skills and was ultimately to join the Princeton University where he graduated with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering. Back in those days, the Internet was still largely unknown and the young Bezos was ideally placed due to his love of computer science to capitalize upon its growth. He settled in New York, working within Wall Street and various companies involved in international trade and finance, quickly rising to vice presidential ranks within each. Ultimately, a career in finance was not his forte and he came up with an idea to initiate a commercial opportunity within the rapidly emerging Internet sphere.
Bezos was a little ahead of his time and he was unable to persuade his current employers to help him launch the business, based on mail order cataloging and distribution of books. Characteristically he had conducted comprehensive research and had even attended a booksellers convention to learn all about the book business. His employers couldn’t clearly see the opportunity and Jeff decided that he needed to strike out on his own if he were to make anything happen.
With little funding of his own, he used a loan from his stepfather to help make the journey across country with his wife, by road to Seattle. Here he would be able to deal with a wholesale book distributor and be able to tap into the known computer talents that existed in the area. His business plan centered on a distribution business, which he compared to that greatest South American river with all its tributaries and different branches — the Amazon.
With very little funding, Bezos centered his operation in the garage of a rented house and used a network of friends and acquaintances to help him test his creation. In the summer of 1995 he was ready and using word-of-mouth through his 300 strong network, Amazon started selling. Consumed by over-delivering and making the process as easy and intuitive as possible, Bezos’ Amazon surged ahead, growing faster than anyone could imagine. In 1997 the company went public and continued to push ahead of the bricks and mortar heavyweights like Barnes and Noble.
Bezos remained grounded and focused on core values, including innovation, obsession with customer service, motivation and great staff. "Our vision is the world’s most customer centric company. The place where people can find and discover anything they might want to buy online." As such, the company moved into CDs, toys, electronics and eventually clothing and other areas. Amazon sailed through the dot com "bust" and continues to this day as one of the bedrock foundations of Internet commerce.
It is said that Bezos likes to micromanage, even while he exhibits greater awareness and vision. He’s definitely aware of how the Internet is continuing to change all our lives and how it is reinterpreting the way that we buy our goods and go about our business. He believes the traditional advertising methods will significantly wane and has cut his conventional marketing budgets completely in favor of providing additional customer service and deeper discounts.
"I’m not saying that advertising is going away. But the balance is shifting. If today the successful recipe is to put 70 percent of your energy into shouting about your service and 30 percent into making it great, over the next 20 years I think that’s going to invert. "
While he may have revolutionized the way that we locate and buy books, he also now wants to revolutionize the way that we read about them. Amazon’s Kindle is a digital device able to incorporate Internet connectivity, allowing for the purchase, download and storage of complete books, hundreds at a time if necessary, at a great price. The device can be adjusted for ease of reading and has been widely lauded as revolutionary.