As Bezos steps down from Amazon, here are 6 takeaways from his career

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon 27 years ago – when e-commerce was still in its infancy. Today, it’s one of the most profitable technology companies in existence. 

Bezos recently announced that he’d be stepping down from his role as CEO, making the move to executive chairman.

This transition aims for Bezos to have more time to work on the company’s new product offerings and initiatives, which means he’ll still be playing an active role in furthering the Amazon brand. 

Still, there’s been no better time than now to reflect on the lessons Bezos has taught us all by example as he’s grown his company from its humble beginnings to the online retail empire it is today. 

Here’s a look at a few key takeaways from Bezos’s career as CEO of Amazon. 

Don’t predict the future – invent it

When Amazon first launched, using a credit card to make an online purchase was all but a foreign concept to the vast majority. Instead of trying to predict whether or not this kind of e-commerce would ever become mainstream, Bezos made it so by creating a place to do so – starting with books.

This formula has been repeated throughout his career with Amazon, for offerings like Amazon Prime, the Kindle e-reader and eventually expanding to categories like grocery, tablets and smartphones, and even streaming entertainment.

Bezos didn’t try to predict consumer behavior; he influenced it through the products and offerings he brought forward.

Teamwork is most effective with the right amount of members

The more minds in a meeting, the better the ideas – right? Not according to Bezos. A big believer that smaller teams make more efficient teams, Bezos coined the two pizza rule.

The idea behind this is that two pizzas should feed the ideal sized team – around 5-7 people depending on your appetite. This method helps meeting organizers invite only the essential players to what’s being discussed, making for a more productive meeting.

An obsessive customer focus pays off

There’s putting the customer first, and then there’s Amazon. Bezos created a company that consumers can’t live without by placing the customer’s needs ahead of everything – even the company’s profit margins.

An example of this is Amazon offering free shipping on all orders over $25. Bezos knew customers hated shipping costs, so he got rid of it at a threshold that wouldn’t turn an initial profit – but would build long-term value with customers.

He’s repeated the experiment by offering next-day shipping and incredibly competitive product prices. Instead of worrying about short-term profit gains or losses, staying focused on customer loyalty and retention has helped Amazon become the success that it is today.

Feed the flywheel

While Bezos wasn’t the first to use the flywheel premise to his advantage, Amazon’s business model is an excellent example of how a flywheel business model works.

A flywheel, by definition, is a heavy wheel and takes a significant amount of effort to move. However, the more you push, the more momentum builds, and eventually, the wheel keeps turning on its own. 

Bezos applied this model to his business through his vast, affordable product offerings and stand-out customer service. Once he’d attracted a dedicated customer base, this drew the interest of third-party sellers.

More sellers meant more products for customers to choose from. The more products were sold, the more competitive the prices could be from suppliers. 

Utilize the regret minimization framework

Taking a risk is, well, risky. When Bezos decided to walk away from his high-paying finance job to start Amazon, he used this technique to determine whether he was willing to take the risk. To use this method, imagine yourself at 80 years old. Ask yourself, “What have I regretted in my life?” Then work backward.

Using this visualization technique, Bezos says he asked whether or not he would regret trying his hand at starting an internet company – at a time when the internet was very novel.

He decided his 80-year-old self wouldn’t regret the risk – in fact, maybe the more significant regret would have been not trying. When considering risks in a career, this technique can speak volumes about whether or not you should take that next step. 

How you add value is how you make money

How does Amazon make money? Sure, the products and services offered by Amazon bring the company revenue. But Bezos has famously stated that when Amazon sells things, they don’t make money.

What they do is help customers make purchasing decisions. Amazon reviews provide shoppers with tangible insights and an understanding of the pros and cons of each product listed on the site, making it easy to decide which product is suitable for their needs. Plenty of places sell products – but few help customers make decisions the way Amazon does. In this way, Amazon adds value to the lives of its customers. 

Plenty of places sell products – but few help customers make decisions the way Amazon does. In this way, Amazon adds value to the lives of its customers.