“Do I need to go down and get the certificate that says I’m CEO of the company to get you to stop challenging me on this?”
Those are just a couple of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ “greatest hits,” as detailed in “The Everything Store,” the new book about Amazon and its founder, by journalist Brad Stone. The first excerpt was published online this morning by Bloomberg Businessweek, in advance of the book’s release next week.
So far it’s looking like a real page-turner, not only shining a light on Amazon’s brutal culture but also uncovering new details about Bezos’ background, including his biological father, a former circus performer and unicyclist who had no idea his son was Jeff Bezos until Stone showed up at his bike shop and informed him.
By providing new insights into Bezos’ approach, the book helps to explain behavior that outsiders can find baffling when dealing with people who work at Amazon. In short, the company is an extension of Bezos’ brain, Stone explains.
Some Amazon employees advance the theory that Bezos, like Jobs, Gates, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, lacks empathy. As a result, he treats workers as expendable resources without taking into account their contributions. That in turn allows him to coldly allocate capital and manpower and make hyperrational business decisions, where another executive might let emotion and personal relationships figure into the equation. They also acknowledge that Bezos is primarily consumed with improving the company’s performance and customer service and that personnel issues are secondary. “This is not somebody who takes pleasure at tearing someone a new a–hole,” says Kim Rachmeler, an executive who worked at Amazon for more than a decade. “He is not that kind of person. Jeff doesn’t tolerate stupidity, even accidental stupidity.”
One of the most wicked anecdotes in the excerpt explains how Amazon engaged in a price war with Diapers.com parent company Quidsi and then put out a press release unveiling a competing service called “Amazon Mom” when Quidsi’s top executives were in an acquisition meeting with Bezos — leaving them unable to respond to employees to discuss a public response to Amazon’s new service. Amazon ultimately acquired Quidsi, beating out Wal-Mart thanks to some shrewd negotiating tactics.
The excerpt is here, and “The Everything Store” is available for pre-order now (on Amazon.com, of course). Stone, who moderated the raucous Future of Retail panel at the GeekWire Summit, will be discussing the book at Seattle’s Town Hall on Oct. 22, and we’ll be interviewing him about the book on GeekWire, as well.