There's little doubt that Amazon is the future of retailing. Its CEO, Jeff Bezos, is one of the most admired and scrutinized businessmen in the world. How did he build the company into what it is today? By being a penny-pinching ballbuster.
Which makes sense. You don't build an online retailer startup into a global conglomerate that can outprice Wal-Mart by being a profligate gentleman. It's an idea fleshed out in a new book by Brad Stone, The Everything Store, which is excerpted in the newest issue of Businessweek. There's plenty to chew over, but we can distill the important management lessons down to two. First, be a prick:
Among [Bezos'] greatest hits, collected and relayed by Amazon veterans:
“Are you lazy or just incompetent?”
“I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?” [...]
“If I hear that idea again, I’m gonna have to kill myself.” [...]
[After reviewing the annual plan from the supply chain team] “I guess supply chain isn’t doing anything interesting next year.”
[After reading a start-of-meeting memo] “This document was clearly written by the B team. Can someone get me the A team document? I don’t want to waste my time with the B team document.”
[After an engineer’s presentation] “Why are you wasting my life?”
Second, be a cheap bastard:
Parking at the company’s offices in South Lake Union costs $220 a month, and Amazon reimburses employees—for $180. Conference room tables are a collection of blond-wood door-desks shoved together side by side. The vending machines take credit cards, and food in the company cafeterias is not subsidized. New hires get a backpack with a power adapter, a laptop dock, and orientation materials. When they resign, they’re asked to hand in all that equipment—including the backpack.
It's a formula that really works.