business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Marketwatch has a profile of CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, noting that he has steered the company through enormous challenges, turning it into an institution that many believe is one of America’s best-run companies.

The secret, Marketwatch writes, “lies in a willingness to make big bets and stick to them, even when conventional wisdom fails to foresee a payoff. Of course, it helps greatly when they are the right bets.”

The story goes on: “Over the past decade, Bezos has placed (and cashed in) a wide array of successful wagers. He has expanded the company’s product base from books, CDs and movies to practically everything under the sun, from clothing to flat-screen TVs to garden supplies to groceries. This fall, he bought He allows competitors to use Amazon’s product pages to undercut the company’s own listings. He ships many items for free and prices high profile offerings at a loss to draw in customers.

“Bezos, who turns 47 in January, also has the cheek to compete with consumer-electronics giants such as Apple Inc. and Sony Corp. on their home turf. Not to mention that little Amazon side business allowing companies to forgo expensive investments in computer servers and data centers - and which may someday raise the ire of such tech titans as Cisco, IBM and Hewlett-Packard.”

But in the end, Marketwatch suggests, these are the reasons that Bezos has become one of the most successful and influential retailers of our generation: “His relentless focus on the customer, his long-term discipline in financial management and his willingness to make big bets, even ones that endanger current business lines.”

Perhaps the most important of these is the focus on the customer. As Bezos has said numerous times, he prefers to innovate for the customer rather than chase competitors.

Which ought to be a mantra for any effective retailer.

That’s our Wednesday Eye-Opener.
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