Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a very clear view on how to dedicate his time as a leader of his business:

  • Time working on the Future
  • Time working in the Present

How does Jeff allocate his time?

50/50?  80/20?  90/10?…

What do you think is the allocation of time that Jeff aims for himself?  What is the allocation of time in your life as a leader?  Watch the video for Jeff’s answer.

(If you want to skip all the introduction and go straight to Jeff’s answer, go to 3:05 in the video or click Jeff Bezos’ ideal allocation of CEO time)

If you liked this idea from Jeff Bezos, check out Amazon: Why Jeff Bezos banned Powerpoint and Jeff Bezos on High Standards (and why you don’t achieve your goals).

This video is inspired by George RR Martin and his view on leadership and the price of power. Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge show that being a good person gets the greatest effort out of the people around you, but just being a nice person can mean you avoid the really tough decisions of Leadership.

What’s the toughest leadership decision of all time?  Answer below the video…

Tough Leadership Decisions?

The toughest decision of Leadership: Odysseus’ choice between Scylla and Charybdis.

Are you a Business Leader?

I’ve been part of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation for the last 10 years and for almost any significant decision I have taken in the last decade, there are 9 people in my forum group who have helped me take a better decision.  I would share with them:

  1. the background to the decision
  2. the why of the decision
  3. what I’m seeking to achieve in my life

There is no major decision I’ve taken in the last 10 years that has not had at least those other 9 wise brains also looking at it.  They are also giving me different perspectives, helping me think through:

  1. Who I am
  2. What what my strengths are
  3. What my company strengths are and
  4. How I can better play into the opportunities that I have

My question to you: “how many brains do you get involved in the big decisions you have to make?”

If it is just one brain (your own) then you are really going to struggle over your life as a business leader.   Join Vistage, join EO, join Young Presidents’ Organization…  Get into a peer group where others can give you multiple different perspectives, different ideas, different experiences that have worked for them in the past.

Get as many brains as you can to help you take important decisions, to help you think through the problems you face, to see how to seize (or say no to) the opportunities coming into your life.

Get access to brains to share your problems. Ask lots of questions and get as much coming back from other’s life experiences as you can.

There is a saying: “if you’re the smartest person in the room, find another room.” 

Are you the smartest in the room?  If you find that you are often the smartest person in the room, you’ve got to expand your network.  Get out of that room and get yourself onto a bigger playing field.

Peer Group Organisations

 

 

“Some People Go 24 Hours Without Hearing a Single Positive Thing Said About Them” Coach George Raveling (on the Tim Ferriss podcast)

Coach George Raveling

I was struck by this sentence.  I was inspired by Tim Ferriss’ interview with Coach George Raveling.  George speaks so clearly and concisely about life and learning and our role.  His life has had some amazing adventures that came from him being open to the advice and suggestions of mentors at a young age.

So I made a video…  back again after a couple of months away from video making for YouTube.

Who will get a positive word from you today?  Don’t forget the power we each have with our words…

Leadership is about raising up those who follow you. Leadership is not so much about doing, but about having an effect on how others do.

The Tim Ferriss podcast episode: https://tim.blog/2018/08/09/george-raveling/ Great episode, loved listening to Coach George Raveling

Subscribe here to my channel http://cono.rs/utube I upload videos every Tuesday about leadership, personal development, entrepreneurship and the power of communication to drive change.

Check out my online course: Speaking as a Leader, 10 weeks of lessons on becoming a more impactful speaker https://conorneill.com/improve-your-speaking/

And you can message me and connect via Facebook: http://facebook.com/rhetorical

Screenshot 2018-07-31 21.39.54
Mark Fritz, Vistage Expert Speaker

Mark Fritz is a regular Vistage speaker who is on a mission to end micromanagement around the world.  He is passionate about helping leaders create highly engaged organisations where every employee treats the business as if it were their own.

One of my favourite examples from Mark is his question: “why does nobody ever wash a rental car?”

Why Does Nobody Ever Wash a Rental Car?

Have you ever washed a rental car?  No.  It is not your car.  You give it back covered in muck and full of litter.  It’s not your problem.  Its someone else’s car.  It got you from A to B.

Many people treat their work like a rental car.  Do your employees treat your business like it is their rental car, or do they take care of it as if it were their own vehicle?

Leaders must be great at 3 things to create Success…

The 3 Necessary Conditions for the Success of your Organisation

Clarity – when things are clear, you take more action. When things are clear, everybody takes more action.

People – it is not your people that are your most important asset, it is your people pipeline. How are you developing the next generation of people?  If you are not developing people to replace your current leaders, your current leaders can’t grow into their next roles.

Influencing Skills – if your people can’t influence someone else on the team, where do they come to get help?  to you.  If your people can’t influence, they depend too much on you.

As a leader who really wants everyone to grow around you, you need to help people around you develop two abilities:

  1. Business Judgement
  2. Influencing Skills

Check out Mark’s short video from a recent Vistage open day in the UK:

Check out some of Mark’s recent blog posts:

Learning Business Judgement

I am biased.  I believe business schools are excellent at developing business judgement.  During the 19 months of my MBA program at IESE Business School, I worked through 650 cases.  Each case is a business decision.  Each case requires some individual work to practice your own ability to focus on what is important and develop a plan.  Each case then requires that you work with a small team to influence them about your plan, and to allow your ideas to be tested and changed by their influence.  Each case then requires that you enter a classroom with an excellent teacher who will take the discussion even deeper.  There is no better way to develop general business judgement than in the business school environment.

Learning to Influence

I have a vested interest in this.  I have taught over 44,000 business leaders, MBAs and political leaders to Speak more Powerfully – specifically to Move People to Action.  I would suggest you begin by taking my Speaking as a Leader online course (currently free).  You can also watch the playlist on my Youtube channel (over 70K subscribers) called Develop Your Speaking Skills.

 

Have a great summer.

This video is about how to become someone who is inspiring to those around you.

There are 4 key ingredients of the people that get the best out of the teams around them. I shared this talk with over 800 school heads, teaching leaders and educational leaders at the Global Forum on Girls Education in Washington on June 19 this year.

The book mentioned in the video is “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner.

Summary of The Leadership Challenge

Here’s a customer review by Daniel King on Amazon that gives a great summary of the book:

The Leadership Challenge is considered a classic on leadership principles. Kouzes and Posner have spent more than three decades studying the best practices of top leaders. In their book, they explain five practices that all great leaders engage in. Under these five practices, they also discuss ten commitments of exemplary leadership. Below are some of the ideas and quotes that stood out to me.

Practice 1 – Model the Way

1. The first step to being a great leader is to clarify your values.
  • “You must be able to “clearly articulate deeply held belief” (44).
  • “To find your voice, you have to explore your inner self. You have to discover what you care about most, what defines you, and what makes you who you are” (46).
  • Question: What values guide your current decisions, priorities, and actions? (69).
2. The second step is to set an example by aligning actions with shared values.
  • “Credibility is the foundation of leadership” (37). You have to practice what you preach. Do what you say you will do. (39).
  • “Titles are granted, but it’s your behavior that earns you respect” (16).
  • “Leader’s deeds are far more important than their words” (17).
  • “Leading by example is more effective than leading by command” (17).
  • “What you do speaks more loudly than what you say” (76).
  • Use stories to “pass on lessons about shared values” (91).
  • “How you spend your time is the single best indicator of what’s important to you” (96).
  • Question: How are you spending your time?

Practice 2 – Inspire a Shared Vision

3. The third step is to envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities.
  • Vision begins with “one person’s imagination” (103).
  • “Leaders are dreamers. Leaders are idealists. Leaders are possibility thinkers” (105).
  • “Leaders need to spend considerable time reading, thinking, and talking about the long-term view, not only for their specific organization but also for the environment in which they operate” (110).
  • “Imagination is more important than intelligence” – Albert Einstein (112).
  • It is easier to drive fast when there is no fog on the road. This “analogy illustrates the importance of clarity of vision…You’re better able to go fast when your vision is clear” (123).
  • Question: What do you care about? What drives you? Where do your passions lie? What do you want to accomplish and why? (126). What ideas and visions do you hold in your mind of what can be? (100).
4. The fourth step is to enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.
  • “You can’t command commitment; you have to inspire it. You have to enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations” (18).
  • “No matter how grand the dream of an individual visionary, if others don’t see in it the possibility of realizing their own hopes and desires, they won’t follow voluntarily or wholeheartedly” (117).
  • “The best leaders are great listeners (118).
  • “People commit to causes, not to plans” (121).
  • “People aren’t going to follow someone who’s only mildly enthusiastic about something. Leaders have to be wildly enthusiastic for constituents to give it their all” (129).
  • “Visions are about ideals. They’re about hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They’re about the strong desire to achieve something great. They’re ambitious. They’re expressions of optimism. Can you imagine a leader enlisting other in a cause by saying, “I’d like you to join me in doing the ordinary?” (130).
  • “Feeling special fosters a sense of pride” (134).
  • “Show people how their dreams will be realized” (138).
  • “Visions are images in the mind…They become real as leaders express those images in concrete terms to their constituents” (143).
  • Question: What common ideas are you appealing to? (152).

Practice 3 – Challenge the Process

5. The fifth step is to search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and looking outward for innovative ways to improve.
  • “Maintaining the status quo simply breeds mediocrity” (156).
  • 100% of the shots you do not take will miss going into the basket (166).
  • “Find ways for people to stretch themselves. Set the bar incrementally higher, but at a level at which people feel they can succeed” (169).
  • “Be on the lookout for new ideas, wherever you are” (181).
  • Question: What are you doing new today in order to become better than yesterday?
6. The sixth step is to experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience.
  • “Nothing new and nothing great is achieved by doing things the way you’ve always done them. You have to test unproven strategies…break out of the norms that box you in…venture beyond the limitations you normally place on yourself” (188).
  • “Big things are done by doing lots of little things” (196).
  • “It is hard to argue with success” (197).
  • “Small wins produce results because they make people feel like winners and make it easier for leaders to get others to want to go along with their requests” (199).
  • “Learning is the master skill” (202).
  • Question: How are you changing, improving, growing, and innovating?

Practice 4 – Enable others to Act

7. The seventh step is to foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships.
  • “The team is larger than any individual on the team” (21).
  • “‘We’ can’t happen without trust” (219).
  • “When you create a climate of trust, you create an environment that allows people to freely contribute and innovate” (222).
  • “Placing trust in others is the safer bet with most people most of the time” (223).
  • “People have to believe that you know what you’re talking about and that you know what you’re doing” (226).
  • “Once you help others succeed, acknowledge their accomplishments, and help them shine, they’ll never forget it” (234).
  • “Demonstrate that you trust them before you ask them to trust you” (239).
  • Question: Who are you willing to trust?
8. The eighth step is to strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.
  • “The paradox of power: you become more powerful when you give your own power away” (244).
  • “Feeling powerful…comes from a deep sense of being in control of your own life” (246).
  • “Individual accountability is a critical element of every collaborative effort” (252).
  • “The more freedom of choice people have, the more personal responsibility they must accept” (253).
  • “If your constituents aren’t growing and learning in their jobs, they’re highly likely to leave and find better ones” (261).
  • Question: Do the people around you feel powerful?

Practice 5 – Encourage the Heart

9. The ninth step is to recognise contributions by showing appreciation.
  • “The climb to the top is arduous and steep. People become exhausted, frustrated, and disenchanted, and are often tempted to give up. Genuine acts of caring draw people forward. “recognition is the most powerful currency you have and it costs you nothing.” (23).
  • “Say Thank You” (294).
  • “Spontaneous, unexpected rewards are often more meaningful than expected, formal ones” (292).
  • Question: Do you say “thank you” enough?
10. The tenth step is to celebrate values and victories by creating a spirit of community.
  • “Leaders never get extraordinary things accomplished all by themselves” (30).
  • “Celebrate accomplishments in public” (307).
  • “Get personally involved…leadership is a relationship” (315).
  • “Make celebrations part of organizational life” (323).
  • Question: Who are you celebrating?

What is a Leader?

Simple answer: Someone with Followers.  You have to have Followers in order to be a Leader.

How do you get Followers?

2 things Make you a Leader with Followers:

  1. See a Change that is Required in the World
  2. Bring together Resources to Achieve this Change

When I run seminars on leadership, I often share the lessons learnt from the work Kouzes and Posner did to create their book “The Leadership Challenge”.  They identified the 4 most important characteristics of a leader that gets the greatest discretionary effort out of the people around them.

Number 2 on this list is “Competence”.  (You can find the full list on a past blog post here)

Identifying Competence

How do you know if someone is competent?  The simple answer: they have books on their desk.

The proxy for Competence is whether you have books on your desk.  If you care about being competent, you will be competent.  If you don’t take care of your learning, if you don’t have a plan for your own development needs – you might accidentally be competent now, but with the changes in the environment you will rapidly lose that competence.

Here’s a recent interview at UCD Smurfit Executive Development where I talk about the need for leaders to take charge of their personal and professional development.

What are the next development steps you will be taking for your own competence?

I’ve published two videos this week.  Both of these videos were inspired by Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders from last week.  (The text of the letter is available below).

2 Jeff Bezos Inspired Videos

  • The first: why do we fail to achieve our goals?
  • The second: how do we create high standards?

if you are reading this via email and don’t see the videos, watch them on the blog here: Jeff Bezos on High Standards and Why you don’t achieve your goals

Jeff Bezos on Why We Fail to Achieve our Goals

Jeff Bezos on Setting High Standards

The Most Read Post of All Time…  on Amazon:

If you liked this post, you will also like my all-time most read post Amazon Staff Meetings: They Banned Powerpoint.

Amazon’s Letter to Shareholders

You can read the letter as filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission here: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1018724/000119312518121161/d456916dex991.htm

or here is the full text for your enjoyment…

EX-99.1 2 d456916dex991.htm EX-99.1

LOGO

  Exhibit 99.1  

To our shareowners:

The American Customer Satisfaction Index recently announced the results of its annual survey, and for the 8th year in a row customers ranked Amazon #1. The United Kingdom has a similar index, The U.K. Customer Satisfaction Index, put out by the Institute of Customer Service. For the 5th time in a row Amazon U.K. ranked #1 in that survey. Amazon was also just named the #1 business on LinkedIn’s 2018 Top Companies list, which ranks the most sought after places to work for professionals in the United States. And just a few weeks ago, Harris Poll released its annual Reputation Quotient, which surveys over 25,000 consumers on a broad range of topics from workplace environment to social responsibility to products and services, and for the 3rd year in a row Amazon ranked #1.

Congratulations and thank you to the now over 560,000 Amazonians who come to work every day with unrelenting customer obsession, ingenuity, and commitment to operational excellence. And on behalf of Amazonians everywhere, I want to extend a huge thank you to customers. It’s incredibly energizing for us to see your responses to these surveys.

One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static – they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’. I see that cycle of improvement happening at a faster rate than ever before. It may be because customers have such easy access to more information than ever before – in only a few seconds and with a couple taps on their phones, customers can read reviews, compare prices from multiple retailers, see whether something’s in stock, find out how fast it will ship or be available for pick-up, and more. These examples are from retail, but I sense that the same customer empowerment phenomenon is happening broadly across everything we do at Amazon and most other industries as well. You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it.

How do you stay ahead of ever-rising customer expectations? There’s no single way to do it – it’s a combination of many things. But high standards (widely deployed and at all levels of detail) are certainly a big part of it. We’ve had some successes over the years in our quest to meet the high expectations of customers. We’ve also had billions of dollars’ worth of failures along the way. With those experiences as backdrop, I’d like to share with you the essentials of what we’ve learned (so far) about high standards inside an organization.

Intrinsic or Teachable?

First, there’s a foundational question: are high standards intrinsic or teachable? If you take me on your basketball team, you can teach me many things, but you can’t teach me to be taller. Do we first and foremost need to select for “high standards” people? If so, this letter would need to be mostly about hiring practices, but I don’t think so. I believe high standards are teachable. In fact, people are pretty good at learning high standards simply through exposure. High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true. If low standards prevail, those too will quickly spread. And though exposure works well to teach high standards, I believe you can accelerate that rate of learning by articulating a few core principles of high standards, which I hope to share in this letter.

Universal or Domain Specific?

Another important question is whether high standards are universal or domain specific. In other words, if you have high standards in one area, do you automatically have high standards elsewhere? I believe high standards are domain specific, and that you have to learn high standards separately in every arena of interest. When I started Amazon, I had high standards on inventing, on customer care, and (thankfully) on hiring. But I didn’t have high standards on operational process: how to keep fixed problems fixed, how to eliminate defects at the root, how to inspect processes, and much more. I had to learn and develop high standards on all of that (my colleagues were my tutors).

 


Understanding this point is important because it keeps you humble. You can consider yourself a person of high standards in general and still have debilitating blind spots. There can be whole arenas of endeavor where you may not even know that your standards are low or non-existent, and certainly not world class. It’s critical to be open to that likelihood.

Recognition and Scope

What do you need to achieve high standards in a particular domain area? First, you have to be able to recognize what good looks like in that domain. Second, you must have realistic expectations for how hard it should be (how much work it will take) to achieve that result – the scope.

Let me give you two examples. One is a sort of toy illustration but it makes the point clearly, and another is a real one that comes up at Amazon all the time.

Perfect Handstands

A close friend recently decided to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand. No leaning against a wall. Not for just a few seconds. Instagram good. She decided to start her journey by taking a handstand workshop at her yoga studio. She then practiced for a while but wasn’t getting the results she wanted. So, she hired a handstand coach. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but evidently this is an actual thing that exists. In the very first lesson, the coach gave her some wonderful advice. “Most people,” he said, “think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks. The reality is that it takes about six months of daily practice. If you think you should be able to do it in two weeks, you’re just going to end up quitting.” Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well.

Six-Page Narratives

We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structuredsix-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of “study hall.” Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum.

In the handstand example, it’s pretty straightforward to recognize high standards. It wouldn’t be difficult to lay out in detail the requirements of a well-executed handstand, and then you’re either doing it or you’re not. The writing example is very different. The difference between a great memo and an average one is much squishier. It would be extremely hard to write down the detailed requirements that make up a great memo. Nevertheless, I find that much of the time, readers react to great memos very similarly. They know it when they see it. The standard is there, and it is real, even if it’s not easily describable.

Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more! They’re trying to perfect a handstand in just two weeks, and we’re not coaching them right. The great memos are written and re-written, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind. They simply can’t be done in a day or two. The key point here is that you can improve results through the simple act of teaching scope – that a great memo probably should take a week or more.

Skill

Beyond recognizing the standard and having realistic expectations on scope, how about skill? Surely to write a world class memo, you have to be an extremely skilled writer? Is it another required element? In my view, not so much, at least not for the individual in the context of teams. The football coach doesn’t need to be able to throw, and a film director doesn’t need to be able to act. But they both do need to recognize high standards for those things and teach realistic expectations on scope. Even in the example of writing a six-page memo, that’s


teamwork. Someone on the team needs to have the skill, but it doesn’t have to be you. (As a side note, by tradition at Amazon, authors’ names never appear on the memos – the memo is from the whole team.)

Benefits of High Standards

Building a culture of high standards is well worth the effort, and there are many benefits. Naturally and most obviously, you’re going to build better products and services for customers – this would be reason enough! Perhaps a little less obvious: people are drawn to high standards – they help with recruiting and retention. More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the “invisible” but crucial work that goes on in every company. I’m talking about the work that no one sees. The work that gets done when no one is watching. In a high standards culture, doing that work well is its own reward – it’s part of what it means to be a professional.

And finally, high standards are fun! Once you’ve tasted high standards, there’s no going back.

So, the four elements of high standards as we see it: they are teachable, they are domain specific, you must recognize them, and you must explicitly coach realistic scope. For us, these work at all levels of detail. Everything from writing memos to whole new, clean-sheet business initiatives. We hope they help you too.

Insist on the Highest Standards

Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high.

— from the Amazon Leadership Principles

Recent Milestones

The high standards our leaders strive for have served us well. And while I certainly can’t do a handstand myself, I’m extremely proud to share some of the milestones we hit last year, each of which represents the fruition of many years of collective effort. We take none of them for granted.

 

Prime – 13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally. In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year – both worldwide and in the U.S. Members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items. We expanded Prime to Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and introduced Business Prime Shipping in the U.S. and Germany. We keep making Prime shipping faster as well, with Prime Free Same-Day and Prime Free One-Day delivery now in more than 8,000 cities and towns. Prime Now is available in more than 50 cities worldwide across nine countries. Prime Day 2017 was our biggest global shopping event ever (until surpassed by Cyber Monday), with more new Prime members joining Prime than any other day in our history.

 

AWS – It’s exciting to see Amazon Web Services, a $20 billion revenue run rate business, accelerate its already healthy growth. AWS has also accelerated its pace of innovation – especially in new areas such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and serverless computing. In 2017, AWS announced more than 1,400 significant services and features, including Amazon SageMaker, which radically changes the accessibility and ease of use for everyday developers to build sophisticated machine learning models. Tens of thousands of customers are also using a broad range of AWS machine learning services, with active users increasing more than 250 percent in the last year, spurred by the broad adoption of Amazon SageMaker. And in November, we held our sixth re:Invent conference with more than 40,000 attendees and over 60,000 streaming participants.

 

Marketplace – In 2017, for the first time in our history, more than half of the units sold on Amazon worldwide were from our third-party sellers, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Over 300,000 U.S.-based SMBs started selling on Amazon in 2017, and Fulfillment by Amazon shipped billions of items for SMBs worldwide. Customers ordered more than 40 million items from SMBs worldwide during Prime Day 2017, growing their sales by more than 60 percent over Prime Day 2016. Our Global Selling program (enabling SMBs to sell products across national borders) grew by over 50% in 2017 and cross-border ecommerce by SMBs now represents more than 25% of total third-party sales.

Alexa – Customer embrace of Alexa continues, with Alexa-enabled devices among the best-selling items across all of Amazon. We’re seeing extremely strong adoption by other companies and developers that want to create their own experiences with Alexa. There are now more than 30,000 skills for Alexa from outside developers, and customers can control more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands with Alexa. The foundations of Alexa continue to get smarter every day too. We’ve developed and implemented an on-devicefingerprinting technique, which keeps your device from waking up when it hears an Alexa commercial on TV. (This technology ensured that our Alexa Super Bowl commercial didn’t wake up millions of devices.) Far-fieldspeech recognition (already very good) has improved by 15% over the last year; and in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, we’ve improved Alexa’s spoken language understanding by more than 25% over the last 12 months through enhancements in Alexa’s machine learning components and the use of semi-supervised learning techniques. (These semi-supervised learning techniques reduced the amount of labeled data needed to achieve the same accuracy improvement by 40 times!) Finally, we’ve dramatically reduced the amount of time required to teach Alexa new languages by using machine translation and transfer learning techniques, which allows us to serve customers in more countries (like India and Japan).

 

Amazon devices – 2017 was our best year yet for hardware sales. Customers bought tens of millions of Echo devices, and Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa were the best-selling products across all of Amazon – across all categories and all manufacturers. Customers bought twice as many Fire TV Sticks and Kids Edition Fire Tablets this holiday season versus last year. 2017 marked the release of our all-new Echo with an improved design, better sound, and a lower price; Echo Plus with a built-in smart home hub; and Echo Spot, which is compact and beautiful with a circular screen. We released our next generation Fire TV, featuring 4K Ultra HD and HDR; and the Fire HD 10 Tablet, with 1080p Full HD display. And we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Kindle by releasing the all-new Kindle Oasis, our most advanced reader ever. It’s waterproof – take it in the bathtub – with a bigger 7” high-resolution 300 ppi display and has built-in audio so you can also listen to your books with Audible.

 

Prime Video – Prime Video continues to drive Prime member adoption and retention. In the last year we made Prime Video even better for customers by adding new, award-winning Prime Originals to the service, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, winner of two Critics’ Choice Awards and two Golden Globes, and the Oscar-nominated movie The Big Sick. We’ve expanded our slate of programming across the globe, launching new seasons of Bosch and Sneaky Pete from the U.S., The Grand Tour from the U.K., and You Are Wanted from Germany, while adding new Sentosha shows from Japan, along with Breathe and the award-winning Inside Edge from India. Also this year, we expanded our Prime Channels offerings, adding CBS All Access in the U.S. and launching Channels in the U.K. and Germany. We debuted NFL Thursday Night Football on Prime Video, with more than 18 million total viewers over 11 games. In 2017, Prime Video Direct secured subscription video rights for more than 3,000 feature films and committed over $18 million in royalties to independent filmmakers and other rights holders. Looking forward, we’re also excited about our upcoming Prime Original series pipeline, which includes Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan starring John Krasinski; King Lear, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson; The Romanoffs, executive produced by Matt Weiner; Carnival Row starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne; Good Omens starring Jon Hamm; and Homecoming, executive produced by Sam Esmail and starring Julia Roberts in her first television series. We acquired the global television rights for a multi-season production of The Lord of the Rings, as well as Cortés, a miniseries based on the epic saga of Hernán Cortés from executive producer Steven Spielberg, starring Javier Bardem, and we look forward to beginning work on those shows this year.

 

Amazon Music – Amazon Music continues to grow fast and now has tens of millions of paid customers. Amazon Music Unlimited, our on-demand, ad-free offering, expanded to more than 30 new countries in 2017, and membership has more than doubled over the past six months.

 

Fashion – Amazon has become the destination for tens of millions of customers to shop for fashion. In 2017, we introduced our first fashion-oriented Prime benefit, Prime Wardrobe – a new service that brings the fitting room directly to the homes of Prime members so they can try on the latest styles before they buy. We introduced Nike and UGG on Amazon along with new celebrity collections by Drew Barrymore and Dwyane Wade, as well as dozens of new private brands, like Goodthreads and


Core10. We’re also continuing to enable thousands of designers and artists to offer their exclusive designs and prints on demand through Merch by Amazon. We finished 2017 with the launch of our interactive shopping experience with Calvin Klein, including pop-up shops, on-site product customization, and fitting rooms with Alexa-controlled lighting, music, and more.

 

Whole Foods – When we closed our acquisition of Whole Foods Market last year, we announced our commitment to making high-quality, natural and organic food available for everyone, then immediately lowered prices on a selection of best-selling grocery staples, including avocados, organic brown eggs, and responsibly-farmed salmon. We followed this with a second round of price reductions in November, and our Prime member exclusive promotion broke Whole Foods’ all-time record for turkeys sold during the Thanksgiving season. In February, we introduced free two-hour delivery on orders over $35 for Prime members in select cities, followed by additional cities in March and April, and plan continued expansion across the U.S. throughout this year. We also expanded the benefits of the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card, enabling Prime members to get 5% back when shopping at Whole Foods Market. Beyond that, customers can purchase Whole Foods’ private label products like 365 Everyday Value on Amazon, purchase Echo and other Amazon devices in over a hundred Whole Foods stores, and pick-up or return Amazon packages at Amazon Lockers in hundreds of Whole Foods stores. We’ve also begun the technical work needed to recognize Prime members at the point of sale and look forward to offering more Prime benefits to Whole Foods shoppers once that work is completed.

 

Amazon Go – Amazon Go, a new kind of store with no checkout required, opened to the public in January in Seattle. Since opening, we’ve been thrilled to hear many customers refer to their shopping experience as “magical.” What makes the magic possible is a custom-built combination of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, which come together to create Just Walk Out shopping. With JWO, customers are able to grab their favorite breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and grocery essentials more conveniently than ever before. Some of our top-selling items are not surprising – caffeinated beverages and water are popular – but our customers also love the Chicken Banh Mi sandwich, chocolate chip cookies, cut fruit, gummy bears, and our Amazon Meal Kits.

 

Treasure Truck – Treasure Truck expanded from a single truck in Seattle to a fleet of 35 trucks across 25 U.S. cities and 12 U.K. cities. Our bubble-blowing, music-pumping trucks fulfilled hundreds of thousands of orders, from porterhouse steaks to the latest Nintendo releases. Throughout the year, Treasure Truck also partnered with local communities to lift spirits and help those in need, including donating and delivering hundreds of car seats, thousands of toys, tens of thousands of socks, and many other essentials to community members needing relief, from those displaced by Hurricane Harvey, to the homeless, to kids needing holiday cheer.

 

India – Amazon.in is the fastest growing marketplace in India, and the most visited site on both desktop and mobile, according to comScore and SimilarWeb. The Amazon.in mobile shopping app was also the most downloaded shopping app in India in 2017, according to App Annie. Prime added more members in India in its first year than any previous geography in Amazon’s history. Prime selection in India now includes more than 40 million local products from third-party sellers, and Prime Video is investing in India original video content in a big way, including two recent premiers and over a dozen new shows in production.

 

Sustainability – We are committed to minimizing carbon emissions by optimizing our transportation network, improving product packaging, and enhancing energy efficiency in our operations, and we have a long-term goal to power our global infrastructure using 100% renewable energy. We recently launched Amazon Wind Farm Texas, our largest wind farm yet, which generates more than 1,000,000 megawatt hours of clean energy annually from over 100 turbines. We have plans to host solar energy systems at 50 fulfillment centers by 2020, and have launched 24 wind and solar projects across the U.S. with more than 29 additional projects to come. Together, Amazon’s renewable energy projects now produce enough clean energy to power over 330,000 homes annually. In 2017 we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Frustration-Free Packaging, the first of a suite of sustainable packaging initiatives that have eliminated more than 244,000 tons of packaging materials over the past 10 years. In addition, in 2017 alone our programs significantly reduced packaging waste, eliminating the


equivalent of 305 million shipping boxes. And across the world, Amazon is contracting with our service providers to launch our first low-pollution last-mile fleet. Already today, a portion of our European delivery fleet is comprised of low-pollution electric and natural gas vans and cars, and we have over 40 electric scooters and e-cargo bikes that complete local urban deliveries.

 

Empowering Small Business – Millions of small and medium-sized businesses worldwide now sell their products through Amazon to reach new customers around the globe. SMBs selling on Amazon come from every state in the U.S., and from more than 130 different countries around the world. More than 140,000 SMBs surpassed $100,000 in sales on Amazon in 2017, and over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.

 

Investment & Job Creation – Since 2011, we have invested over $150 billion worldwide in our fulfillment networks, transportation capabilities, and technology infrastructure, including AWS data centers. Amazon has created over 1.7 million direct and indirect jobs around the world. In 2017 alone, we directly created more than 130,000 new Amazon jobs, not including acquisitions, bringing our global employee base to over 560,000. Our new jobs cover a wide range of professions, from artificial intelligence scientists to packaging specialists to fulfillment center associates. In addition to these direct hires, we estimate that Amazon Marketplace has created 900,000 more jobs worldwide, and that Amazon’s investments have created an additional 260,000 jobs in areas like construction, logistics, and other professional services.

 

Career Choice – One employee program we’re particularly proud of is Amazon Career Choice. For hourly associates with more than one year of tenure, we pre-pay 95% of tuition, fees, and textbooks (up to $12,000) for certificates and associate degrees in high-demand occupations such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, and nursing. We fund education in areas that are in high demand and do so regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. Globally more than 16,000 associates (including more than 12,000 in the U.S.) have joined Career Choice since the program launched in 2012. Career Choice is live in ten countries and expanding to South Africa, Costa Rica, and Slovakia later this year. Commercial truck driving, healthcare, and information technology are the program’s most popular fields of study. We’ve built 39 Career Choice classrooms so far, and we locate them behind glass walls in high traffic areas inside our fulfillment centers so associates can be inspired by seeing their peers pursue new skills.

The credit for these milestones is deserved by many. Amazon is 560,000 employees. It’s also 2 million sellers, hundreds of thousands of authors, millions of AWS developers, and hundreds of millions of divinely discontent customers around the world who push to make us better each and every day.

Path Ahead

This year marks the 20th anniversary of our first shareholder letter, and our core values and approach remain unchanged. We continue to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and we recognize this to be no small or easy challenge. We know there is much we can do better, and we find tremendous energy in the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

A huge thank you to each and every customer for allowing us to serve you, to our shareowners for your support, and to Amazonians everywhere for your ingenuity, your passion, and your high standards.

As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. It remains Day 1.

Sincerely,

 

LOGO

Jeffrey P. Bezos

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Amazon.com, Inc.

Often when people approach me to improve their communication skills, they are looking for tips and tricks to improve their charisma. It is much more powerful to work over the long term to develop your character as a leader.

Character is formed over many, many years as you work to remove the pieces that are not part of who you want to be. Character is chiselled out of the rock, slowly removing all the dirt and excess before revealing the statue below.

  • Charisma is “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”. (on wikipedia)
  • Character is “an individual’s stable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits.” (on wikipedia)