Many of the great disruptors have become multi-millionaires and, in the case of Jeff Bezos, the richest man on the planet. No one becomes that wealthy without completely embracing the capitalist system with all its opportunities for upward social mobility and large-scale transformation as well as the inequalities it can cause.
Bezos’ commitment to capitalism and his ambition fueled his years on Wall Street after finishing college. As a hedge fund manager, he saw the potential of the internet and decided it was the opportunity of a life-time.
In 1994 he decided to start own business, headed to Seattle and scraped together enough money from friends and family to fund his fledgling company. Using early and relatively primitive digital technology, he sold books over the internet and started making money immediately.
By 2000, Amazon had grown to $1 billion in revenue. It had also upended the global publishing industry by providing access to millions of books that could be shipped just about anywhere in the world, received within days of ordering and at a cost lower than ever imagined possible. He also made it easier for first-time authors to get published.
Bezos and his company went on to disrupt and dominate eCommerce and important segments of the consumer electronics and entertainment industries while pushing out many large and previously powerful companies who could not or did not want to take the threat seriously.
But at the beginning of 2019 the media’s attention was suddenly focused on another side of Bezos – his affair and subsequent divorce and the fact that Amazon had paid little or any zero taxes over the years. Indeed, one of the major building blocks of the Amazon strategy has been was that online sales were not subject to the same taxes as traditional bricks and mortar stores. This in turn allowed Amazon to offer deeper discounts that incentivized consumers to buy from them.
That’s because from day one Bezos understood the importance of two basic consumer-centric value propositions that have driven successful businesses from the beginning:
- Give people what they want – even if they may not know they want it at first – when they want it, how they want it and at the lowest possible cost.
- Eliminate or reduce the things in people’s everyday lives they don’t want, like wasted time, complexity, boredom, unhappiness, illness, poverty and on and on.
Bezos and his team then boiled them further down to a remarkably short, simple and very powerful mission statement – “to be the most consumer-centric company in the world”. This gives Amazon a lot of territory to work with.
Not content to rest on past successes, Amazon announced last year that they are going to work with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to disrupt and transform one of the most dysfunctional industries in existence – the U.S. Healthcare system. It is a chance for Bezos to achieve an even greater mission, not just as an entrepreneur and capitalist, but as a great transformer of the human existence.
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