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Amazon buys Zappos: Lessons from Bezos

Amazon announced last night that it bought Zappos for about 10 million Amazon stock, worth $807 million, and $40 million in cash and stock to Zappos employees.

In the following video, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tells an interesting story of what he has learned and why Zappos is a great fit for Amazon. It seems that Amazon bought Zappos because they have the same values (i.e., customer service obsession and innovation) and because their market overlaps.

Here is a list of Jeff Bezos' top four rules in doing business well:

1. Obsess over customers
2. Invent
3. Thing long term
4. It’s always Day 1

Bezos says that the only reason why Amazon still exists today is that they obsess over customers. While they do pay attention to competitors, what really motivates them is customers.

Develop an inventive culture. Invent on behalf of customers. Listen to customers to learn their needs. Then invent solutions that will help customers.

Plan 5 to 7 years out. Invest in that vision. Be prepared to be criticized by others that misunderstand the ideas you are pursuing for tomorrow that aren’t yet accepted today.

There are always new ways to improve customer service and new inventions to pursue.

It seems to me that points 2 and 3 significantly overlap. Adoption of innovation always takes time before inventions are widely adopted. So innovation always requires patience and long term thinking. In summary, run a great company by always giving terrific service to your customers. Part of that service is to always think of better ways to do that … that’s where the creative/inventive culture comes into play.

Sounds like the maxim: love your neighbor as yourself. If a company really loves the customers they serve they will #1 always be courteous, helpful and friendly with a keen eye for detail to make sure the customers are never failed to be serviced properly. And, #2 the company will be thoughtfully aware, like a butler or waitress ready and waiting to notice when their customer is in need of anything. When it spots a need, the company will launch into a creative process to invent new ways of servicing the customer better.

I like how Bezos makes a distinction between paying attention to competitors and obsessing over customers. If you are driven by competitors, it is like being driven by envy. That's never a pretty place to be. Apparently its not productive even in a business environment. The best way is to be motivated by the positive force of wanting to help people.

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