Work hard, have fun and make history at Amazon
Amazon is the world biggest retailer with $61 billion of sales in 2012. On February 13th 2014, a group of 30 students from Grenoble EM and SFU had the opportunity to meet one of the management teams at their Head Quarters in Seattle. Sarah Borowski, founder of Amazon Art, and some of her other colleagues, gave a very interesting pitch on Amazon’s corporate culture and its business innovation processes.
Amazon’s corporate culture
Today Amazon is a really successful company, which innovates a lot and target new niche markets such as wine, art or fresh product delivery. What Sara Borowski emphazied is that the corporate culture and thus its 14 leadership principles helps creating the right atmosphere for employees to be even more creative and efficient.
First and foremost the key principle is customer obsession. Every product manager and her/his team has to deeply understand the needs of the customers and to continually validate every assumption that is made. Another part of the corporate culture is that decisions are based upon data. Quite obviously Amazon is able to collect a lot of information about its users either because of their activities on the website or because of a smart SEO strategy. Strong analytical skills are definitely an asset to get a job at Amazon. Even when it comes to change one color on their website, they look at customers’ reactions. Knowing customers and business perfectly enables employees to be fully trusted by the Amazon’s executive from day 1. This is called the “ownership” principle. Last but not least, brilliant ideas have to be executed and the company put great emphasize on “thinking big AND executing”, especially by making three-year plans. All ideas that can really improve customer experience are explored, even the craziest one like home-delivery by drones. That’s why Amazon keeps being one of the most innovative company in the world even if it spends less in R&D than some of its competitors like Apple or Google.
Business Case: Amazon Art
It has been six months, precisely August 2013, that the product development department has launched its new project: Amazon Art. It is an online retail of fine art for inspiring collectors. They can make purchase of paintings, drawings, photographs, etc. You can find artworks for less than $250 and up to several millions!
One feature of Amazon Art is to enable you to recreate the atmosphere of a real room and display the piece of art at real scale. Users can then really see what they intend to purchase will look like at their own place. You may think that it would be really difficult to sell art online because people would rather see the piece of art for real before buying it. But as one of the guest speaker said: “art is for. vsual consumption” so it is not really an issue for customers.
With the business case of Amazon Art mrs. Borowski wanted to show us that within the large company that Amazon is there are many projects that are managed as start-up companies giving the staff full control of the development and allowing them to fully express their creativity and innovative mind.
In entrepreneurship, failure is not fatal
We also had the chance to meet Bert Tong, founder of Crate Away, a shirt up which was a innovative self-storage company. Not only it offered storage facilities to its subscribers, but also a pickup service and a smartphone app to manage the storage. Even though this business seized all activities he made a point at explaining why it failed and how he managed this failure. Indeed the startup was making profit but the business partners didn’t share the same view regarding how the activities should have been run. Bert Tong also told us that even if his business failed it is not dramatic nor impossible to overcome.
Ultimately we all understood that in order to succeed in business the most important thing is people, whether it is business partners or customers.
Written by Teddy Beau, Yann Chevalier and Neomie Frohn.