- Carmine Gallo is an instructor at Harvard University and author of The Bezos Blueprint.
- He says Bezos uses simple, often one-syllable words to talk about difficult things.
- Gallo says Bezos also used the “first day” mentality of obsessing over customers.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a visionary who turned a bold idea into one of the world’s most admired brands. When Bezos took his company public in 1997, he began writing letters to shareholders annually, a practice he continued until he stepped down as CEO in 2021.
In all, Bezos wrote just over 48,000 words. His letters fueled Amazon’s growth and spawned innovative communications strategies.
“Bezos’ letter gives us a unique opportunity to see a genius explain his work,” said Jean-Louise Gassy, a former Apple executive and Silicon Valley venture capitalist. say. “The letter would be a great resource for a business school course on strategy and communication.”
Thankfully, we don’t have to wait for business schools to offer classes on Bezos’ letters. I did the analysis in my new book. Bezos blueprint.
1. Make the mission your mantra
In his first letter, Bezos laid out the principles that will drive the company’s decision-making into the next quarter century. It’s a customer obsession.
Bezos formalized this principle into the company’s mission two years later when he wrote that Amazon was trying to build “the most customer-centric company on the planet.”
A company’s mission statement means little without repeat customers who explain and amplify it at every opportunity. For example, Bezos quoted “customer” in her 24 letters 506 times, an average of 21 times per letter. He credits the mission that created Amazon’s Secret Sauce as “the number one reason for our success.”
2. Say difficult things in simple words
70% of Bezos’ letters are easy to read for most people (ages 13-15) with an 8th or 9th grade education. Surprisingly, as Amazon grew bigger and infinitely more complex, Bezos used simpler words to express his big ideas.
For example, in a 2007 letter (written in eighth grade language), Bezos first described the Kindle e-reader.
“If you come across a word you don’t know, you can easily look it up. You can search the book. If your eyes are tired, you can change the font size. All the books in the language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”
When I write briefly, I do not skimp on content. You are ahead of your competition.
3. Use the active voice (most of the time)
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994. The previous sentence is “active” because the subject (Bezos) performs the action (establishment). The passive of this sentence is Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos in his 1994.
Stephen King accuses the passive voice of ruining “nearly every business document ever written.” Bezos must have read King’s advice. This is because only 6.5% of the text of his letter to shareholders contains the passive voice.
Sentences written with an active voice require fewer words, get to the point faster, and are easier to understand. Try to write in the active voice as much as possible.
Four. master the metaphor
Bezos named his company Amazon. This is because it served as a metaphor to compare two things of his that share similarities. In 1998, Bezos explained that he wanted to convey that the company Amazon is “the largest bookstore on earth” in the same way that the Amazon in South America is “the largest river on earth”.
According to neuroscientists, the human brain evolved to use metaphors to communicate with and process the world around us. When we encounter something new, our brains shift gears and look for familiar comparisons. Good communicators use metaphors as a teaching tool to do work for their readers and listeners.
Bezos filled his letters with carefully chosen metaphors to illustrate complex ideas.he introduced Flywheel You’ve created and hired two pizza teams to fuel your growth. missionary Mercenary and above.
Aristotle called metaphor the speaker’s “most formidable weapon,” and Bezos wielded it like a master.
5. Recognize that good writing takes time
In the summer of 2004, Bezos made a decision that upset management. He banned powerpoint. He replaced the presentation with a “narratively structured six-page note.”
In a 2017 letter to shareholders, Bezos explained that while the quality of the notes varies widely, some have “the clarity of angels singing.” .
Bezos explained that writing is hard and good writing takes time. According to him, people mistakenly believe that he can finish his six-page book that fills the high stand in a day or hours.
“It may actually take a week or longer,” Bezos said. “Great notes are rewritten, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve their work, set aside for a few days, and edited again with a fresh mind. These cannot be completed in one day.2 .”
6. Surround yourself with superstars
In a 1998 letter, Bezos clarified the questions Amazon recruiters ask themselves when evaluating job applicants.
- do you admire this person? Bezos says he always tries to work with people he can learn from or look up to as examples of excellence.
- Does this person increase the effectiveness of the group? If you want to be successful in life and in your career, surround yourself with people who challenge you to be your best self.
- In what dimension will this person become a superstar? Spend time around superstars who inspire you to reach higher than you ever dreamed of.
7. Count backwards to move forward
Bezos asked executives to work backwards from the customer’s perspective by creating a mock press release before building the product.
“Kindle is a great example of our basic approach,” Bezos wrote in 2008. Available within 60 seconds. ”
Before any engineer writes a line of code at Amazon, they start with a press release. According to CEO Andy Jassy, who wrote the press release years before launching his AWS, Amazon’s giant cloud computing division, “The press release washes away all the benefits of the product and the customer’s problems.” It’s designed to make sure it’s really solved.”
8. Maintain a “first day” culture
Since 1998, Bezos has attached a copy of his first letter with the reminder, “It’s always day one.”
Day 1 doesn’t matter. It’s a mindset that represents being customer-obsessed, thinking long-term, and boldly innovating to meet customer needs.
Bezos has revealed what “day two” of 2016 will look like. Bezos wrote:
Jeff Bezos ran Amazon for 9,863 days, and he always showed up on day one. By referring to his Day 1 with remarkable consistency, Bezos turned metaphors from metaphors into blueprints for how we think, act, and lead.
Carmine Gallo is an instructor at Harvard University and author of The Bezos Blueprint.