The growth and success of Amazon.com is remarkable. There’s a good chance you’ve ordered something (or many somethings) on Amazon. You might even be a loyal customer taking advantage of Prime Membership with free 2-day shipping. But what you might not know is how Amazon created their organizational culture.
Recently I’ve been reading Change or Die by Alan Deutschman. In his book, Deutschman shares the story of David Risher, a marketing executive with Microsoft who interviewed with Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, in 1996. At the time, Amazon was was only one year old and losing money. They were renting space in “an old brick building on Seattle’s skid row, a dismal block with a needle exchange, a defunct pawnshop, a grocery store with barren shelves, and an outreach service for troubled youths” (p. 46).
Bezos was very frugal, refusing to spend money on things that simply were not important. His desk was a wood door from Home Depot with two-by-fours for the legs. Despite the glamour-less looks of Amazon’s headquarters, Bezos had assembled a team of 30 employees. They were just like Bezos…incredibly smart, frugal, risk-takers, and information analyzers. Bezos told Risher, “I’d rather interview fifty people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.”