Jeff Bezos' business advice: Think about what's not going to change

After a few days of largely inspirational AI programming at re:MARS, the Amazon CEO shared his practical advice for running a successful business.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Amazon's inaugural re:MARS conference is all about delivering a dose of inspiration to business leaders thinking about AI. On Thursday, Jeff Bezos added some practicality to the Las Vegas event with advice for executives and for entrepreneurs. For business leaders trying to build lasting success, the Amazon CEO said to think about "what's not going to change."

Bezos said people often ask him to predict what will change over the next decade, but asking what won't change over 10 years can offer potentially more valuable insight.

"The answer to that question can allow you to... work on those things with the confidence to know all of the energy you put into it today will still be paying dividends," he said on stage.

Furthermore, he said, it's an easy question to answer. "You don't have to do a lot of research," he said. "These things are so big and so fundamental -- you know it."

For Amazon, the obvious answer is that customers will always want low prices, fast shipping and a large selection. It's impossible to imagine, Bezos said, someone saying, "'Jeff, I love Amazon, I just wish you delivered a little more slowly."

Bezos continued, "When you identify those big ideas that are stable in time... they're usually customer needs."

As for entrepreneurs just starting out, Bezos similarly suggested focusing on customer needs. "Figure out how to absolutely delight them," he said.

He also said entrepreneurs have to be passionate about their line of business, or they'll lose business to those who are passionate. "You can't be a mercenary, you have to be a missionary," he said.

Lastly, Bezos said, "You have to take a risk. If you come up with a business and there's no risk, it's probably already being done well... At Amazon, we still take risks all the time."

Furthermore, those risks have to grow with the company, he said.

"We need to have billion-dollar scale failures and if we're not, we're not swinging hard enough," Bezos said. "In business, when you're inventing something, you swing hard."

The baseball analogy is imperfect, he said, because you can only get four runs when you hit a home run.

"In business, you can get thousands of runs," he said. "You really should be swinging hard, and you are going to fail a lot."

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