- Twenty-seven years ago, Jeff Bezos posted Amazon’s first-ever job ad.
- It tells you everything you need to know about his obsession with speed.
- As Bezos steps down as CEO, his successor, Andy Jassy, will likely continue this obsession.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Amazon’s motto may be “customer obsession,” but it has another infatuation – speed.
Amazon’s brand identity has long rested on the promise of getting parcels to customers as quickly as possible. Its founder Jeff Bezos stepped down as CEO on Monday, to take on the role of executive chairman, but it seems unlikely this ethos will change.
Andy Jassy, Amazon’s new CEO, specifically mentioned Amazon’s speed in a a memo sent to staff right after Bezos named him as his successor. Jassy said the importance of “consistently speedy, outstanding delivery” was one of the key lessons he’s learned from Bezos during his 24 years at the company.
Acceleration is a logical progression for a company whose guiding light has always been speed for the sake of customer convenience, and this philosophy was on show in one of Bezos’ first pieces of public communication after setting up Amazon 27 years ago.
In a 2019 Instagram post, Bezos reflected on the very first job ad he posted for the company, on August 23 1994.
A post shared by Jeff Bezos (@jeffbezos) on Aug 22, 2019 at 4:09pm PDT
The ad is for a computer programmer who Bezos says should be able to build and maintain complex systems “in about one-third the time that most competent people think possible.”
Doing things faster and better than other companies has turned Amazon into one of the most powerful firms in the world, and made Bezos the richest man on the planet – although this year he has occasionally jostled for the top-spot with Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
It’s an ethos that drives him on, because he thinks the alternative is Amazon’s death.
Bezos’ obsession with speed is far from universally loved inside Amazon. Numerous reports on Amazon’s working conditions have described the intense pressure employees face to stay on rate, the company term for the number of items they’re expected to process per hour.
Over the course of the pandemic, the size of Amazon’s workforce has exploded. It added 427,300 employees from January to October 2020. The company is also faced off against a highly-publicised union drive in Alabama, posting anti-union flyers in the bathrooms and handing out merchandise telling workers to “vote no.” Although the Alabama workers voted against forming a union, another union campaign is underway in New York.
It seems highly likely that if Jassy wants to carry on Bezos’ legacy of constant acceleration, he’ll be up against increasing pressure from workers: A January survey by Insider found more than 40% of Amazon workers wished they were in a union.
Worker activism, along with heightened regulatory scrutiny, could be the biggest speed-bumps facing Jassy, Nicholas McQuire, SVP Enterprise Research at analytics company CCS Insight, told Insider.
“Bezos created the blueprint for internet businesses: rapid innovation, huge scale and relentless focus on the customer and few people on the planet have the DNA of managing high growth high innovation businesses at scale than Andy Jassy,” said McQuire.