I am a big fan of Amazon. I read Jeff Bezos first “letter to investors” back in 1998 (a year after they went IPO) and was super impressed by his focus on customers above all else. I paraphrase, but he said, we are a one trick pony – our trick is to keep customers happy.
The most amazing part of their culture is the way it permeates and allows each and every employee to be a part of the experience. I dont know how they do it.
There’s another part of the culture that amazes me. How can a company that’s 100,000 people able to get all its employees to sing off the same hymn book? I know companies that are 10+ people that struggle with this. At 100,000 employees (not including contractors), Amazon is humongous.
Let me give you an example. There are many people in the Bangalore office in India, who are part of Amazon’s foray into eCommerce who I know well. Most, if not over 90% of them are not related to AWS in any way at all. Well, they may be users of it for their applications, but not evangelists by role or title.
The previous weekend we had 2 events, which I happened to be at. One was at our accelerator and another at a location in a local college.
I know the key evangelists from AWS fairly well and expected to see them at these events in full force. Except I saw more than 2 people and none of them from the AWS team.
I walked up and talked to them before the events and was surprised to hear that they were “all hands on deck” to support startups on AWS. Many of the folks in the Bangalore (and other offices as well) volunteered to be at these events to help startup developers understand AWS and be evangelists for it. And this was not part of their MBO or their job description. They were doing it because they liked it.
Try getting that from any other large company. Most large companies operate in “silos”, with each team focused on their own turf.
Startups as well for most parts have people “responsible” for certain roles. Getting a developer to support customers can be a challenge but that’s what you should as a startup founder aim to build as a culture. Similarly getting your marketing folks to help with testing should be par for the course.
This is possible to do when the company is 10 folks or so and even possible at 50 people. Beyond that is very rare.
At 100,000 that’s near impossible.
If Amazon’s done that, then it is something to learn from, admire and find a way to emulate that.