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In a study published in the most recent issue of the Harvard Business Review, Jeff Bezos was named as the world’s best-performing living CEO. He earned it by building Amazon into a global behemoth, and bringing a 12,431 per cent total return to shareholders over his tenure. In an interview with HBR editor in chief Adi Ignatius, Bezos explains some of the ideas that have helped him avoid the trap of short-termism, which so many companies and executives find difficult.
He sent a letter to his shareholders when the company first went public, telling them he would always be committed to the long term. For the most part, he’s followed through. That takes a unique attitude, Bezos told Ignatius.
“One thing that I learned within the first couple of years of starting a company is that inventing and pioneering involves a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time.
One of the early examples of this is customer reviews, someone wrote to me and said ‘you don’t understand your business, you make money when you sell things, why do you allow these negative customer reviews?’ And when I read that letter, I thought, we don’t make money when we sell things, we make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.”
Bezos’ willingness to be misunderstood, to commit to ideas despite the scepticism of others, and to encourage the same in his employees is one of the reasons that the company’s managed to be successful over such a long period.
An idea that seemed very odd to a lot of people ended up being one of the things that made Amazon so disruptive.
Of course, it’s not just about the desire to invest in and commit to long-term projects. It’s getting people on the inside to commit to them and make them succeed.
Find the full interview here
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