Sunday At The NAED National Meeting: Brad Stone On Amazon, Part 2

“We don’t have many advantages, so we have to weave a rope of all of our small advantages.”

That’s what Jeff Bezos of Amazon says about his company to everyone who will listen.  NAED members at the National Meeting in San Francisco got to learn a lot about Bezos and his strategies, including AmazonSupply, during the new “Speaker Series” event on Sunday, April 27.

Brad Stone, author of the book “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” was the featured speaker at the event.  Stone is the only journalist granted access inside the Amazon headquarters, where he can see the culture of innovation and get a behind the scenes look at the strategies behind and AmazonSupply.

In the second part of his speech, Stone pointed out that Bezos wants to create building blocks that in turn will create great products. Bezos has a strategy to figure out those building blocks and begin to create those advantages.

And they are always looking for the next big thing.  In fact, “Think Big” is a key component to the innovation strategy.  Stone points out that when Bezos is “Thinking Big” it doesn’t necessarily mean he is looking for an instantaneous return on investment.  It’s more about working toward the future.  Stone says one example of Amazon thinking big is with Amazon Web Services, which is something many Silicon Valley industries are still using today.

“They don’t give up,” Stone told the NAED audience. “They drive innovation throughout the company.  Every project manager needs to describe how he is going to take the company in a more innovative direction. And Bezos is very impatient with his project managers who are not meeting his standards.”

Stone also pointed out that it is not always a pleasant place to work.  Bezos has a fierce, invent it here strategy, and anything that falls short of that expectation is not accepted.  Stone believes Bezos uses that strategy because Bezos has no plans to acquire any new companies, but would rather invent everything.

“It’s a very difficult place to work, with very high goals and not a lot of positive feedback,” Stone said.  “Getting promoted is very difficult. Bezos is constantly raising the bar for getting promoted. It is a culture of excellence and relentlessness.  Bezos believes the competition became complacent and stopped innovating, so Amazon took advantage of that.  And now they can climb out of every challenge it has faced.”

When asked what electrical distributors can do to compete with Amazon and the potential of AmazonSupply, Stone says there are aspects of Amazon that distributors can use.  That includes keep inventing, never stand still, and listen to your customers to learn what they want and build on that.

But when it comes to that famous interview that Bezos did with “60 Minutes” where he introduced the potential to use drones, Stone believes it was a ploy for another completely different strategy.  And it is a strategy that the entire supply chain struggles with.

“Amazon doesn’t even need drones because they have trucks and centers strategically placed in major metropolitan areas. Maybe they will need them in rural areas, but even that is doubtful. This was a strategic announcement that was done to help future employees imagine Amazon’s scientific future.”

“This will help in recruiting,” Stone said. “The top talent for future Amazon projects know about how Amazon is innovating for the future, and they are going to want to work there.”


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