As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos readies to transition from his role as CEO to executive chairman, it’s a timely opportunity to reflect on the business legacy he leaves behind.

After all, this was a man who started an online bookstore in his garage before going on to run one of the largest companies in the world.

With that in mind, here are five business lessons from Jeff Bezos time at the helm;

Know your customer

“When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to.”

Long before consumers realised we needed an e-commerce marketplace at our fingertips, Bezos understood the world of retail was changing.

With the internet at our disposal, time-poor consumers needed a virtual marketplace, with products at the ready and dispatch that could occur within a day, not a week.

Amazon’s power has largely been derived from knowing its customer, sometimes a little better than they understand themselves.

The experience is everything

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”

It’s not enough to offer a product or service, it’s how the customer feels when they access it that matters. Are they valued and heard, is there a safety net of a refund policy, or solid terms and conditions that ensure they are considered equal or important in that transaction?

Bezos understood that the customer experience matters. More importantly, it’s an essential foundation to any business because a brand advocate is worth their weight in gold for the stories they tell to their peers.

Think long term

“I’m thinking a few years out. I’ve already forgotten those numbers.”

While it’s critical to assess the here and now, it’s far more important to put that in the context of the future. What’s your plan, where do you intend to go and what needs to happen to get there?

Bezos’ results might be measured in the financial figures of today, but as this quote indicates, the attention should be fixed firmly on the future.

Your numbers measure what you did yesterday but your business vision and plan shape tomorrow.

Control what you can control

“Senior leaders that are new to Amazon are often surprised by how little time we spend discussing actual financial results or debating projected financial outputs. 

“To be clear, we take these financial outputs seriously, but we believe that focusing our energy on the controllable inputs to our business is the most effective way to maximize financial outputs over time.

Control what happens within a business day-to-day, such as customer service, and a quality delivery of products or services, and the financial results will ultimately speak for themselves.

This is where these all-important policies, systems and procedures come in allowing you to set the tone of what you expect to happen when.

It’s always Day 1

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Any business is only as good as its last interaction, and with success, comes the tendency to play it safe and stagnate. But around the corner there is always a fresh competitor, a new idea, a different option for an attention-deficit consumer.

That’s why it’s never enough to be the best last week or last year. Whatever your business, you should have a laser-like focus on the customer and their needs, with a growth mindset and plan that strives to meet them.

If you’re looking to better understand what separates the good businesses from the great, I’m available to assist.

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