Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos certainly doesn’t harbor many professional “regrets,” but in his most recent letter to company shareowners he illustrates another work principle that he takes very seriously—high standards. In addition to revealing that Amazon has more than 100 million Prime members worldwide, Bezos took a deep look at the power of applying high standards to every aspect of your work. Here are some takeaways from his letter.
Don’t give up too soon
While expanding on the nature of “high standards,” Bezos writes that a friend of his was trying to learn how to pull off “a perfect free-standing handstand,” and wasn’t progressing the way she wanted to, so she hired a coach who told her about how many people underestimate how much time it really takes to excel at it.
“Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well,” Bezos writes.
Making sure that everyone understands what’s necessary to be successful is crucial.
Keeping customers in mind is key
Bezos writes about how keeping customers happy is a constantly ongoing process, stating, “you cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it.”
He then writes about how high standards play a huge role in accomplishing this goal, although the company has gone through ups and downs.
Bezos believes that standards like these “are teachable” and that you have to work to achieve them across the board— meaning, they don’t simply exist everywhere because of their presence in a certain area— among other points.
Shooting for the moon can never hurt
Bezos illustrates how this practice ultimately serves customers in the best of ways.
“Building a culture of high standards is well worth the effort, and there are many benefits. Naturally and most obviously, you’re going to build better products and services for customers – this would be reason enough! Perhaps a little less obvious: people are drawn to high standards – they help with recruiting and retention,” he writes. “More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the ‘invisible’ but crucial work that goes on in every company. I’m talking about the work that no one sees. The work that gets done when no one is watching. In a high standards culture, doing that work well is its own reward – it’s part of what it means to be a professional.”
Bezos further alludes to how like attracts like when it comes to doing quality work. “And finally, high standards are fun! Once you’ve tasted high standards, there’s no going back,” he writes.