Every year, Jeff Bezos writes an open letter to Amazon’s shareholders. His 1997 letter is an absolute masterclass for any budding entrepreneur and should be mandatory reading for anyone in business. The letter oozes a laser focussed growth mindset.
To grow a business, fast and big, you need
to adopt a certain mindset. Often people talk about this mindset in character
terms – a person should be brave, inspirational, dynamic etc. But, what does that really mean? What’s the internal mindset that allows
leaders to be characterised this way?
Based on our experience of growing a business to $100M+ in under 3 years (and taking some inspiration from Jeff) we’ve broken down the growth mindset into 5 key qualities:
- Opportunity and urgency. Opportunities and risk go hand in hand. The growth mindset is about seeing the big opportunities, understanding and mitigating the risks and driving forward with urgency. The best opportunities won’t hang on the vine forever and other people will no doubt be eyeing them too, so go fast but execute strongly (or as Jeff puts it, crisply) so not to leave yourself vulnerable to fast followers.
- Long-term view. Creating real value is about taking a long-term view. Sustained sales growth and the ability to evolve (e.g. reach new markets/innovate) to help achieve long term sales growth is what will grow a large company. Short term decision-making – being focused on hitting yearly financial targets, short term profitability or shareholder value – will ultimately limit the potential of a company (and undermine long term profitability and shareholder value).
- Customer obsession. There’s no way you’ll ever drive sustained sales growth without being customer obsessed. Customers are sales – funny that! The growth mindset is about putting your customers first, because doing what’s right for them will also be the right thing for your business. When making any business decision first ask, “is this the right thing for our customers?”
- Bold decision making. Being half-committed to something will generally result in failure. Assess and analyse for sure, but once a decision is made, jump in with both feet. If failure often comes from a lack of conviction or investment to back a decision, at least give yourself a chance by being bold in your decision making and follow through. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll learn a valuable lesson and you won’t need to revisit that decision/strategy over and over (as you already gave it 100%). Instead, you’ll move onto more fertile fields, wiser than you were before.
- Put people at the forefront. A growth mindset needs to exist in the minds of many to achieve real momentum. You need talented people that share the culture and mindset of the broader company to make bold decisions, to obsess over customers and to operate with urgency. Your people are your company. The growth mindset understands this and by putting people first, you’re doing everything possible to motivate them and give them a sense of ownership.
If you’re looking for Jeff’s original 1997 letter to shareholders, you can read it here. Enjoy!