Everything Store: Transforming Markets One by One

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon tells a very readable story of how one global giant transformed retail.

It’s about a company that started in a small niche, delivering books through the mail, always moving towards a grand vision. To become ‘the everything store’, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. But ended up doing much more!

“There is so much stuff that has yet to be invented.
There’s so much new that’s going to happen.
People don’t have any idea yet how impactful the Internet is going to be and that this is still Day 1 in such a big way.” — 
Jeff Bezos

PS! Although the book’s over 400 pages long, it was a relatively fast read. But read it with caution, as it really shakes your views on how a company should be built. There’s no time for the lazy and incompetent. No need for the B team!

Get. Big. Fast.

“It’s one thing to have a good idea, but it’s another to execute it.

From start on, everybody knew there was no time to waste when building Amazon. Because Internet was booming, and all eyes were on getting retail online. Just like now, when more and more are betting on a revolution in logistics. It was about to happen! The only questions: when and by whom. Because the company that got the lead would likely keep it, and could then use the lead to build a superior service for customers.

Thus, the assumption at Amazon was that no one would even take a weekend off until this thing was up and running. Nobody said you couldn’t, but nobody thought you would. The dominant image was just running. And scads of cardboard and packing material flying.

“Look, you should wake up worried, terrified every morning. But don’t be worried about our competitors because they’re never going to send us any money anyway. Let’s be worried about our customers and stay heads-down focused.”

Also it’s a common that when you’re small, someone else that’s bigger can always come along and take away what you have. But disruptive small companies can still triumph if they move fast enough, while focusing on the customer.

Just. Do. It.

“The reason we’re here is to get stuff done, that’s the top priority. That’s the DNA of Amazon. If you can’t excel and put everything into it, this might not be the place for you.”

Many companies as they grow begin to compromise their standards in order to fill their resource needs. But to keep this from happening, Bezos instituted the Just Do It award for employees that did something notable on their own initiative. As this helped customers constantly get a better experience. And it was believed the company would become great as long as Amazon stayed focused on the customer.

Meanwhile, it was made sure everybody understood the company’s furgal. People still have to pay for their own parking and only fly coach. Because neither of those costs helps anyone provide the customer a better experience.

“Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way. We should be trying to figure out a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more.”

Also, Bezos stopped one-on-one meetings and banned PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheets. He firmly believed first to be filled with trivial updates and political distractions. And the other to be a very imprecise communication mechanism that keeps people from getting stuff done.

Instead, everybody has to write their presentations in six-page narratives in the shape of a mock press release. A discussion will only be held after everyone has gone through the paper.


“Nothing gives us more pleasure at Amazon than reinventing normal — creating inventions that customers love and resetting their expectations for what normal should be.”

By the time, Amazon had truly become a true everything company, selling everything from books to home appliances and web services, it was time to look into itself. That’s when Bezos analysed why some companies are being loved, while others aren’t:

Rudeness is not cool.
Defeating tiny guys is not cool.
Cose-following is not cool.
Young is cool.
Risk taking is cool.
Winning is cool.
Polite is cool.
Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool.
Inventing is cool.
Explorers are cool.
Conquerors are not cool.
Obsessing over competitors is not cool.
Empowering others is cool.
Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.
Leadership is cool.
Conviction is cool.
Straightforwardness is cool.
Pandering to the crowd is not cool.
Hypocrisy is not cool.
Authenticity is cool.
Thinking big is cool.
The unexpected is cool.
Missionaries are cool.
Mercenaries are not cool.

Conclusion being that being polite and reliable or customer-focused isn’t sufficient. Being perceived as inventive, as an explorer rather than conqueror, is critically important.

Other great thoughts from the book:

  • Borrow the best ideas of competitors. Every company (in retail) stands on the shoulders of the giants that came before it.
  • There are two kinds of retailers: there are those folks who work to figure how to charge more, and there are companies that work to figure how to charge less. Customer-focused companies should be choosing the second.
  • Adding manpower to complex software projects actually delay progress. One reason is that time and money spent on communication increases in proportion to the number of people on a project.
  • Great companies fail not because they want to avoid disruptive change but because they are reluctant to embrace promising new markets that might undermine their traditional businesses and that do not appear to satisfy their short-term growth requirements.
  • Think big: Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently a look around corners for ways to serve customers.