He favors a nimble, loosely organized company in which “two-pizza teams” execute important corporate tasks, because a work group requiring three pizzas over a lunch meeting is inherently too cumbersome. And he often requires employees pitching new ideas to write mock news releases for their product’s imagined launch, a way of focusing their minds on what will most excite customers.
Annual salaries at Amazon are modest by the standards of the technology industry, with compensation weighted toward lucrative stock benefits designed to instill a sense of ownership and long-term purpose among employees. The key is measurable performance. His management team produces what some have called ruthless annual evaluations; top performers get larger stock benefits while laggards sometimes face pointed suggestions that they find new jobs.
“One thing I learned is when you got a meeting with him, you’d better be ready,” said Nadia Shouraboura, who until recently worked on Amazon’s senior executive team reporting directly to Bezos. “He will figure out something you haven’t thought of. . . . If you haven’t thought through exactly how to delight our customer, that’s a bad thing.”
There is an outwardly genial side to Bezos, 49, a father of four who has an outsize laugh and appears to revel in the salesmanship of a product launch as he strides the stage in jeans and a dress shirt. But inside is a drive for perfection, manifested by an unwillingness to waste time or energy.
The recruiting motto: “Work hard, have fun, make history.” Or, as Bezos put it in his first letter to shareholders, in 1997, “It’s not easy to work here (when I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three’).”
Kal Raman, a former top Amazon executive who is now chief operating officer for Groupon, recalled the consuming sense of mission instilled by Bezos. “When you try to rewrite history, it doesn't come without blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice. He doesn’t hold you to any standard he doesn’t hold to himself.”
In describing Bezos, the most common comparison is to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who was single-minded in his devotion to every new product. But while Jobs, who died in 2011, is often described as a design visionary, capable of discerning what consumers one day will want, Bezos has focused on delivering whatever they currently desire — as quickly as possible. Delays are not accidents or misfortunes but “defects” to be eradicated, he has said.