May 2, 2017

Defending Day 1

  • Subline: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos offers ways to avoid corporate Day 2

Jeff Bezos started Amazon back in 1994 as an online bookstore, filling orders from his Seattle garage. While other dot-com startups withered, Amazon bloomed. It’s still blooming. In 2016, the company had about $136 billion in revenue, and Bezos is involved in everything from consumer electronics to space exploration.

I read a story about his Day 1, Day 2 business philosophy. A Day 1 company is vital, nimble and focused. In time, however, companies can get bogged down, their creativity crushed under the weight of their own size.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1 (at Amazon),” he wrote.

Bezos mentions large companies often when he talks about Day 2 stasis, but small companies - even ad agencies - are just as vulnerable. If you get too hung up on processes, procedures, turfs and the internal pecking order, your customer focus can get lost. I’ve seen companies where filling out your time card is more important than doing good work.

How does Bezos and his Amazonians keep their focus? He offers what he calls a “starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense.”

Customer Obsession: You can focus on your competitors, on your product, on technology or even your business model. But if you stay focused on customers you can give them what they want -- even before they know they want it.

Resist Proxies: Proxies can be anything from consumer surveys and web analytics to corporate policy and process. If your company gets obsessed with its corporate process, then process becomes more important than the outcome.

Embrace External Trends: “The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind,” he writes.

High-Velocity Decision Making: Day 2 companies, he says, make decisions slowly. Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. “If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow,” he says. And large companies spend a lot of time getting buy-in. A nimble executive will disagree with a decision, but agree to “disagree and commit” to the chosen path.

Sometimes, executives get mired in the details of managing their companies, especially when it comes to marketing. If you need to step back, give tdg a call. We can help you get back to Day 1.