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Book Review: The Everything Store by Brad Stone

April 24, 2014

The Everything StoreBrad Stone has written an excellent account of the building of Amazon. It appears to be a well balanced and not all pretty accounting of both Jeff Bezos and the company he built. The image Stone built in my mind was that of a focused to a fault leader who, in many ways, treated his customers better than his employees. Someone who distanced himself from the humans involved in Amazon by being buried in the numbers. Bezos is a leader who does not seem to care about building a safe environment for employees.

Kim Rachmeler shared a favorite quote she heard from a colleague around that time. “If you’re not good, Jeff will chew you up and spit you out. And if you’re good, he will jump on your back and ride you into the ground.”

Some Amazon employees advance the theory that Bezos, like other notable high tech bosses, lacks empathy and thus is able to treat workers like expendable resources without taking into account the contributions they have made. And, at the same time, this single minded focus on the customer has built an incredibly successful business, one that I personally use almost every day. And Amazon continues to innovate, delight customers and provide a highly valuable service.

Stone builds an interesting story, obviously based on personal interviews with people in and around Amazon. This well written book takes the reader through both the logic behind some of the decisions as well as some of the external factors more or less “forcing” those decisions. The conclusion I’ve drawn from the Amazon/Bezos story is that focus can frequently be an overused strength and that without a safe environment, our best talent will become disenfranchised and leave. Like the author, I am willing to leave it up to the reader to decide if that’s good or bad. The Everything Store is an excellent read.

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