Wyoming Business Tips for April 22

April 16, 2012

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Mike Lambert, Wyoming Entrepreneur Market Research manager

"What are 10 things a business person should know to succeed in today's world?" Mark, Lander

To answer this question, I am going to plead the Fifth and look to the lessons Jeff Bezos, the founder, president, chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of the board of Amazon.com, has learned.

This is a person who walks the walk and has created one of the most innovative and game-changing companies ever. In an April issue of Forbes Magazine, George Anders talks about Jeff Bezos's "Top 10 Leadership Lessons."  The article is well worth reading but, to summarize, here they are:

-- "Base your strategy on things that won't change." In Amazon's case, this means that, in order to sell more things, offer wider selection, lower prices, and fast and reliable delivery.

-- "Obsess over customers. When you have a meeting of the important people in your company, who is missing?" At most companies, the answer is "the customer." At Amazon, the customer is always the prime consideration.

-- "We are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time. Most companies expect success in short order." Bezos is willing to stick with a plan for a long time if it makes strategic sense and if there is a good long-term payoff.

-- "There are two kinds of companies: those that try to charge more and those that work to charge less." Most companies talk about holding down costs, but Amazon lives for frugality.

-- "Determine what your customers need, and work backwards." At many companies, products flow from the engineers and reflect their tastes. At Amazon, the desires of the customer are considered first. If the customer doesn't like something, then Amazon gets rid of it.

-- "Our culture is friendly and intense but, if push comes to shove, we'll settle for intense." At Amazon, results and data count more than building a friendly culture. I am not sure I agree 100 percent with this idea because I think a friendly, cooperative culture has huge dividends, but it is hard to argue with Amazon's results.

-- "If you want to be inventive, you have to be willing to fail." Lots of books and experts say this, but Amazon has lived it. They have had numerous failed initiatives, but they learn from them and move on.

-- In the old world, you devoted 30 percent of your time to building a great service and 70 percent of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts."  In this age of viral videos, social media and consumers who talk about their experiences, the old way of advertising is dropping away. Instead, you need to work with your customers and get them involved in your company. Word of mouth (or keyboard) really is key in today's world.

-- "Everyone has to be able to work in a call center." Amazon managers, including Bezos, work at least two days a year in the call center handling complaints. Does your company president?

-- "This is Day 1 for the Internet. We still have so much to learn." Bezos said this in 1997 and it is still true today. Just look at the number of companies that have come and gone since 1997. Amazon is still here.

The lessons of Amazon and its success have bearing on us here in Wyoming. After all, JC Penney started in Kemmerer. Who is to say some Wyoming company won't be the next Amazon?

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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