Small business owners can learn a lot from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

That’s one of the conclusions that comes from reading Brad Stone’s fascinating biography, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

Amazon began life in 1994 as a small business start-up; today, it’s one of the greatest companies in the history of the world.

Much of Amazon’s success is due to Bezos’ personality. He takes risks and thinks long-term. He works hard and is committed to self-improvement. He believes in himself and perseveres in the face of setbacks. Small business owners would benefit from all those qualities.

But there’s another reason for Amazon’s success that, arguably, is even more important – the company’s relentless focus on keeping customers satisfied.

“Start with the customer and work backwards”

Amazon is so focused on customer service that ‘Customer Obsession’ is at the top of its list of 14 Leadership Principles.

“Leaders start with the customer and work backwards,” the principle begins. “They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

From day one, as The Everything Store explains, Amazon has focused on improving the customer experience. For example, while many businesses work out what they need to do to raise prices, Amazon has always worked out what it needs to do to lower prices. 

Other examples of Amazon’s customer-first approach include adding more products to ‘the everything store’, simplifying the ordering process and reducing delivery times.

Indeed, Bezos is so focused on customer service that he will often leave an empty chair in meetings – the empty chair being reserved for the customer.

This customer obsession does have a dark side: it partly explains why Amazon is so ruthless in its treatment of staff, suppliers and rivals. Every dollar or benefit Amazon can squeeze out of those parties is another dollar or benefit it can pass on to its customers (and, of course, its shareholders).

How can your small business make customers happier?

The question for small business owners, then, is what can you do to be more like Bezos and what can your business do to be more like Amazon?

That doesn’t mean you need to be a hyper-aggressive boss (like Bezos) or a cutthroat competitor (like Amazon). It doesn’t even mean you need to reduce prices. All it means is that, if you put your mind to it, you can probably think of new products or systems you could introduce that would improve the customer experience.

If there’s one lesson that shines through in The Everything Store it’s that every small business can achieve big things if it puts the customer at the centre of everything it does.

Does your small business need help with its marketing? Dump your problem on Hunter & Scribe. Contact us at [email protected] for help.