Amazon just reported its third quarter results.The company missed Wall Street’s estimates for both revenue and earnings and said it would have lower profit margins next quarter. This resulted in the usual spanking of Amazon’s stock, as short-term profit seekers growled in disgust and raced for the exits.
In other words, with respect to Amazon, it’s the same as it ever was.
Amazon is a highly unusual American corporation, for several reasons:
- Amazon unapologetically builds its business for the long-term, without worrying about what short-term Wall Street traders think.
- Amazon sacrifices near-term profits for long-term investments, again without worrying about what short-term traders think.
- Amazon operates at a much lower profit margin than it could have if it were trying to “maximise near-term returns,” which is what many (most) American corporations try to do.
- Amazon is investing — and hiring — aggressively for the future, at a time when most American corporations are cutting costs, laying off workers, and hoarding humongous piles of cash.
In other words, Amazon is doing what many more American corporations could and should do: Balance the near-term “profit motive” with a more holistic mission of focusing on the long-term and serving customers, employees, shareholders, and the community at large.
The most pressing problems in the U.S. economy right now are two-fold:
- Near-record-high unemployment at the same time as near record-high profit margins
- Income inequality that is now the highest since the late 1920s, just before the Great Depression
By balancing near-term profits with investing for the long-term, Amazon is helping to address these problems.
Amazon’s profit “disappointment” this quarter was largely due to the fact that the company opened more fulfillment centres and hired more people than it expected to — 8,100 people in just this quarter alone.
Amazon’s projection of lower-than-expected profit margins next quarter, meanwhile, is likely the result of Amazon investing heavily in an innovative new product, the Kindle, that is revolutionizing the way media is distributed.
The Kindle “ecosystem,” which did not exist four years ago, is providing jobs and opportunity for tens of thousands of people in the U.S. and abroad. It is taking advantage of one of America’s remaining strengths, technology innovation. Like Amazon itself, it is making consumers’ lives better and easier and more convenient.
Amazon itself, meanwhile, did not exist 15 years ago. It exists because an entrepreneur named Jeff Bezos took the risk of quitting his super-high-paying Wall Street job, racing across the country in his Honda to Seattle, and then starting the company from scratch. And in the past 15 years, by balancing near-term profits and long-term investments, Amazon has outlived many dotcom shooting stars and become a global powerhouse with ~$50 billion of revenue that employs 50,000 people and is beloved by both investors and customers alike.
Amazon is investing (and hiring) while many other American corporations are milking incumbent businesses, under-investing in research and development, and hoarding cash. To the chagrin of some traders, Amazon is distinctly NOT “maximizing near-term profits” — it is sacrificing near-term profits. It is making less money now in the hopes of making more money and creating more value later. And it is ignoring the howls and screams of short-term traders who couldn’t care less about Amazon’s long-term prognosis, add nothing to the economy, and just want to make money now.
If more American companies started to do what Amazon does — ignore short-term pressures, sacrifice near-term profits, and invest for the long-term — the American economy would start to heal itself quickly. America would create more innovation, more jobs, and more long-term wealth. And, just as important, more Americans would be able to go back to being proud of our corporations and innovators and entrepreneurs… instead of camping in parks and protesting them.
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