Tuesday, April 28, 2020

"23 Lessons From Jeff Bezos’ Annual Letters To Shareholders" (AMZN)

It's good to be king.

From CB Insights, April 27:
Each year, Jeff Bezos writes an open letter to Amazon’s shareholders. Over the last 2 decades, these letters have become an unparalleled source of insight into how the world’s richest man thinks about efficiency, online customer experience, retention, managing through crises, and more.

Amazon is a hugely successful, precedent-breaking company. The online bookseller didn’t turn a profit for 6 years — today, it’s the second publicly traded company ever to hit a $1T market cap.
Since founding Amazon in 1994, Jeff Bezos has run his company according to an unconventional set of core principles: don’t worry about competitors, don’t worry about making money for shareholders, and don’t worry about the short-term. Focus on the customers, and everything else will fall into place.
Bezos broke all the rules when he built Amazon. In doing so, he carved out a unique way of looking at the world, at companies, and at tech in general. And nowhere is Bezos’ philosophy of business, technology, and leadership better articulated than in his annual shareholder letters, which he has written every year since the company’s IPO in 1997.
Since 1997, Amazon’s stock price has risen from $5 per share to around $2,400 per share.
To read Bezos’ shareholder letters is to get a crash course in running a high-growth internet business from someone who mastered it before any of the playbooks were written.

Below, we analyze the letters and unpack the most important wisdom in each. We also include an appendix linking to each letter at the bottom of the post.

Together, these letters form a library of Jeff Bezos’ most distilled thinking on running a successful, high-growth company.
2019: In times of crisis, be aggressive and agile
“Reflect on this from Theodor Seuss Geisel: ‘When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.’ I am very optimistic about which of these civilization is going to choose.”

Bezos’ 2019 letter has a different tenor than letters of years past. Most of it is focused on the threat posed by Covid-19, both to Amazon and to the world.
But there are also some echoes of previous Amazon missives, especially the 2000 letter, which was designed to ease the concerns of Amazon shareholders after the huge sell-off that followed the dot-com boom.

This one is similarly designed to demonstrate resilience in the middle of a crisis, though in a dramatically different context — both in terms of Amazon’s scale and the scale of the unfolding situation around the company.
The key message of the letter is simple: Bezos wants the world to know that Amazon is acting aggressively to simultaneously create value and keep people safe.

The Covid-19 pandemic has generated waves of first- and second-order effects on the global economy, with millions laid off, furloughed, or ordered to stay home.

Meanwhile, the majority of Amazon’s nearly 800,000 employees cannot work from home. From warehouse stockers to delivery drivers, Amazon’s workforce is made up of mostly “essential employees” responsible for the company’s vital shipping and logistics infrastructure.
While Amazon has seen sharp increases in sales since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has also come under a corresponding amount of criticism for labor practices, poor handling of warehouse safety, and its climate record.

The challenge of this shareholder letter, for Bezos, was how to provide an update that would project strength and preparedness, despite the chaos.

In what is unconventional style for an Amazon shareholder letter, Bezos spends much of the beginning of the document running through a list of initiatives that the company has undertaken to support the efforts of healthcare workers around the world and protect employees.
Among these measures are the prioritization of delivery on essential goods, closure of non-essential Amazon retail stores, various social distancing measures, and internal work on building out greater Covid-19 testing capacity.

The clear message of the letter is that Amazon is responding to Covid-19 by acting aggressively to keep its workers healthy, hiring additional workers to meet demand, and helping governments, healthcare organizations, and others collect valuable data on how the virus works and spreads....