Founded twenty years ago, Amazon has become one of the behemoths of the internet age. It has survived one .com meltdown and continued to grow from its initial online bookselling origins to its current all-encompassing model. Itâ€™s founder, Jeff Bezos, has been at the helm since its beginnings in a small property in which he installed desks made from doors in order to save money. His drive and utter belief in his convictions have been central to Amazonâ€™s success, in fact itâ€™s likely we would be talking about Bezos now no matter what business he decided to create. It just so happened that at the time he was keen not to miss out on this new internet opportunity. He certainly didnâ€™t.
As has been mentioned several times on Roscoâ€™s blogs, many of the big online businesses either struggle to make a profit or actually make a loss despite their enormous valuations. For a long period, Amazon was very much the same. The company didnâ€™t turn a profit until 2001, five years after it was founded, and since then has generally made relatively modest profits. Often it still posts losses.
Perhaps this is still a reflection on Bezosâ€™s personality. He is utterly driven by innovation and reinvesting in the company, creating new revenue streams and expanding the business. If Bezos finally decided to stop growing the business and focus on consolidating, its profits would be huge. But that simply isnâ€™t what excites Bezos as anyone who saw his presentation of Amazonâ€™s delivery drones (currently in long-term development stage) would understand.
What can small businesses learn from the Bezos/Amazon approach? Well, belief in yourself clearly is a benefit if your initial business model is a good one. Also, although it is a huge clichÃ© â€˜thinking outside the boxâ€™ is perhaps typified by Amazon over the past 20 years. Nobody expected them to release a piece of hardware (the Kindle), but they did and it proved to be hugely successful. However, not every company has the resources to follow through its founderâ€™s whims to the bitter end and not everyone has his almost superhuman instinct for unexploited niches. What most people can at least attempt to emulate is his huge enjoyment in what he does. After all, in many ways, anyone with a small business has the world at their feet â€“ the opportunity is there, within reason, to do whatever they want without some over-promoted middle manager getting in the way. This can, and should, be fun!
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