What the Jeff Bezos Stakeholder Letter and Starting a Small Business Have in Common
For those of you who have read my books or my blog know how I feel about people who claim that starting a small business is easy. They sell their “dream” to unsuspecting people all over the world—usually for a price—and those people end up with nothing but busted dreams and empty pockets.
Starting a small business isn’t for wimps. It takes persistence, stubbornness, patience, know-how, planning, smarts, and a whole lot of stamina. So those who try to convince others about how easy it is are selling nothing more than a fantasy.
And today, I want to look at the words of the richest man in the world: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com. Amazon was started because Bezos saw a statistic in 1994 that the relatively new internet was growing 2,300 percent per year. So, he quit his Wall Street job, borrowed some cash from his parents and started a new book selling website, Amazon, in the garage. That same business is today’s largest online website in the world.
So when the man has something to say about how to grow a business, entrepreneurs everywhere should sit up and take notice.
Bezos just released his annual stakeholder’s letter where he talks about the state of Amazon and of business in general. And in this year’s letter, I found something fascinating: his view of persistence when running a business.
Here is an excerpt from the letter:
“A close friend recently decided to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand. No leaning against a wall. Not for just a few seconds. Instagram good. She decided to start her journey by taking a handstand workshop at her yoga studio. She then practiced for a while but wasn't getting the results she wanted. So, she hired a handstand coach. Yes, I know what you're thinking, but evidently this is an actual thing that exists.
In the very first lesson, the coach gave her some wonderful advice. "Most people," he said, "think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks.
The reality is that it takes about six months of not quitting." Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well.”
Aside from the interesting information about how to best learn how to do a handstand, Bezos also weighs in on what it takes to be a success. “Unrealistic beliefs on scope—often hidden and undiscussed—kill high standards.”
Did you read that? Starting a new venture, like opening a business, with unrealistic beliefs about how difficult it’s going to be has the potential to affect your standards. And because there is so much competition in just about every industry, the entrepreneur who has lower standards is not likely to reach success.
But wait, take a look at the next line: “To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be…”
And that’s what I’m talking about. Starting a business is hard, but one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. And if you go into it knowing that—and being willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed—you’ll be ahead of the pack.
So don’t fall prey to those who would try and convince you that starting a business is easy. Instead, listen to the words of a man who has built one of the largest businesses in the world!
Have you started your own business yet? If so, I would love to hear about the experience in the comments below. Was it difficult? Did you expect it to be? What would you do differently if given another chance to start again?
Until next time,