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Think Like Amazon

Author: Tyler Wallis

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Learn from Amazon executives how to apply Amazon's best principles and processes to grow your own business. Listen as Amazon's strategies, frameworks, and mechanisms are broken down in the personal experiences of senior Amazon leaders so that they can be replicated and applied in your work as manager, leader, entrepreneur, or digital innovator. As host of Think Like Amazon, Tyler Wallis, a former Amazon leader himself, takes you deep into conversations with business and technology leaders at Amazon to explore the management and innovation processes that catapulted the company's growth. You'll explore how principles such as working backwards, customer obsession, and fast decision making can help you take your business to the next level.Follow new releases and updates at https://www.linkedin.com/company/think-like-amazon-podcast/
26 Episodes
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Justin spent 10 years at Amazon where he helped lead Baby Registry to becoming the #1 US registry, reinvented the vendor negotiation process that led to $1B in profitability improvements, and received a "Just Do It" award from Jeff Bezos for inventing a new communication system for vendors and sellers. In 2019, Justin left his role as Director of Amazon Device Sales and Marketing Technology to pursue several entrepreneurial endeavors. Today, Justin is the CEO of Data Spark, a technology company bringing actionable insights to brands and sellers on Walmart Marketplace. In this episode, Justin returns to the podcast to discuss Amazon’s Earn Trust principle. As you listen, you’ll hear Justin share actionable steps to build stronger trust as a leader in your organization. A few highlights from our conversation include:·        Why Earn Trust is the principle that surfaces most as people move up in their career·        How one Amazon VP turned Earn Trust into a mechanism·        The 4 elements that make up trust·        Dealing with a blind spot and why Justin spent a whole day traveling for a 30-minute 1:1 meeting that made all the difference·        Taming the ego by remembering what you want the most and the power of option  Mentioned in the podcast:  Data Spark:  https://dataspark.co/Justin on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/justinmaner/ Follow us on LinkedIn! https://www.linkedin.com/company/think-like-amazon-podcast/
Chad spent nearly 16 years at Amazon which included roles as Director of Fulfillment by Amazon and Director of Global Sales. Having joined Amazon in 1999, Chad helped build and develop many teams to lead these and other core Amazon businesses. Chad left Amazon in 2015 to build and co-lead The Goelzer Home Team and improve the customer focus and use of technology in real estate.  In this episode, you’ll enjoy Chad’s passion for creating and communicating a business vision and building teams. Chad shares his framework for building a team and making key hires as well as his fresh approach to inviting deep questions about business health. You’ll be sure to enjoy Chad’s enthusiasm, candor, and advice throughout this episode.   Mentioned in the podcast: The Goelzer Home Team: https://goelzerhometeam.com/ Follow us on LinkedIn! https://www.linkedin.com/company/think-like-amazon-podcast/
Dave spent nearly 12 years at Amazon moving from a Development Manager to a Technology Director. In early 2020, Dave took on the role as Head of Technology for Bezos Academy where he spent over a year building their technology foundation. Since leaving Amazon and Bezos Academy in 2021, Dave has begun publishing regular leadership articles on his newsletter, Scarlet Ink. In this episode, Dave and I dive into the Frugality principle and how it is ingrained in the resource allocation, long-term thinking, and innovation engine of Amazon. Dave shares how frugality, when properly applied, can lead to better product roadmaps, higher profit, greater levels of innovation, and improved employee engagement and autonomy. Dave also shares a few of the needed ingredients an organization should include to mitigate the potential downsides of a constraints-based approach to assigning resources and defining roadmaps.    Mentioned in the podcast: Scarlet Ink: https://www.scarletink.com/ Dave on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scarletink/
Melissa spent 19 years at Amazon, progressing through over ten roles that included Technical Advisor to Jeff Wilke, VP of Sports, Outdoors, and Toys, and VP of Sales and Marketing for Amazon Devices. After leaving Amazon, Melissa spent a year as COO of Glossier and recently launched a venture-backed startup, Modern Age, to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives.  In our conversation, we discuss Amazon’s Learn & Be Curious principle and how consistent curiosity and focused learning have helped Melissa find success throughout her career while innovating for customers and developing others along the way. If you’ve found yourself wanting to live an invigorating career and stay excited about each day of work, you’re sure to find practical advice in Melissa’s wisdom and inspiration from her journey. Mentioned in the podcast:  Modern Age: https://modern-age.com/Melissa on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirmayer/
Kyle spent over 7 years at Amazon where he launched multiple billion-dollar programs, including Amazon Renewed and Amazon Exclusives – now known as Amazon Launchpad. Since leaving Amazon in 2020, Kyle has co-founded two companies, The Lab Consult, which helps e-commerce brands implement systems to scale profitably online, and Foundry Brands, an FBA brand aggregator that recently raised $100M to buy and grow consumer brands.In this episode, Kyle shares examples of how listening to his customers (Amazon sellers) helped him to Think Big and set a vision for programs that have grown into billion-dollar Amazon businesses. Kyle's methods of asking questions and uncovering opportunities, and his insights on when to bet big on new initiatives, offer usable tips for aspiring entrepreneurs both inside larger companies and setting out to launch the next big thing.Mentioned in the podcast: The Lab Consult: https://www.thelabconsult.com/Foundry Brands: https://www.foundrybrands.com/Kyle on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kyle-walker-a2697015/
Faisal spent over 7 years at Amazon as a Director over the early growth of several businesses including Mobile Electronics, Amazon Warehouse, Amazon BuyBack, Amazon TradeIn, and Amazon Basics. Building these programs  helped Faisal hone his ability to Dive Deep into business processes and health. Since leaving Amazon in 2011, Faisal held a number of VP and C-level roles for companies such as eBay, Groupon, Staples, and Google, before joining Fabric as CEO in 2020.  In this episode, Faisal shares key examples and insights about the Dive Deep principle and his approach to leadership and building an organizational culture. At Fabric – a fast-growing tech startup with two funding rounds in the first half 2021 – Faisal has pulled talent, practices, and values from Amazon, Google, and other top companies to form the current culture at Fabric. Listeners are likely to find valuable insights into how leaders can evaluate the best principles of past companies and apply them in their current work and team building.   Mentioned in the podcast: Fabric: fabric.incFaisal on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faisal/Faisal on Twitter: @FaisMasudCoffee + Commerce Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/coffee-commerce/id1546141800More from the episode: 1:40 – Faisal’s journey at Amazon and insights behind the businesses he led7:20 – Challenges to scaling Amazon TradeIn9:20 – Single-threaded leaders and document writing as key mechanisms to drive stakeholder engagement10:29 – Using customer-level anecdotes and asking uncomfortable questions to understand the health of a business20:00 – Dive Deep mechanisms from Amazon that have and have not transferred well in other organizations25:33 – Top leadership practices that Faisal picked up outside of Amazon29:16 – Establishing cultural values (i.e. leadership principles) at Fabric30:49 – Amazon practices and principles adapted at Fabric34:25 – How leaders can Dive Deep, regardless of the business culture they find themselves in
Elizabeth spent 15 years at Amazon where she grew multiple billion-dollar businesses and held several roles including Director of Lawn & Garden and Director and General Manager of Business & Technology for Selling Partner Success prior to joining Kraft Heinz as VP of Global eCommerce.  In our conversation, Elizabeth shares the people-leadership practices that she built throughout her Amazon career and continues to apply in her role at Kraft Heinz. We also dig into how to balance flexibility with having relentlessly high standards and how to develop operational excellence when leading nascent businesses. You’ll be sure to enjoy Elizabeth’s candid advice, stories, and mechanisms throughout this episode.   Mentioned in the podcast:  Elizabeth on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabeth-bennett-5b82361/
John Rossman joined Amazon in 2002 as Director of Merchant Integration where he led the launch of Amazon’s 3P marketplace business. John also went on to lead the e-commerce solutions business for enterprise clients such as Target.com and Toys R Us before leaving in late 2005 to advise many companies on innovation and digital strategy and write three books on applying Amazon’s principles and mechanisms in business.  In our conversation, we discuss the foundational considerations and steps to launching Amazon’s seller marketplace, including tradeoffs and key internal decisions to think long term about building a platform business. We examine the Invent & Simplify leadership principle and several practices leaders can take to better operate their businesses while continually innovating. Finally, we discuss Amazon’s newly-released leadership principles and what the next 25 years may look like for Amazon. Learn more about John:  On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-rossman/At Rossman Partners: https://the-amazon-way.com/rossman-partnersPublished Books: https://the-amazon-way.com/books/ More from the episode:  1:50 – What it was like joining Amazon in 20027:20 – Amazon’s early vision for its Marketplace business and focus on customer trust11:45 – The challenges to launching an integrated and seamless online shopping experience17:45 – Forcing functions to help leaders ensure simplicity and clarity21:50 – Early efforts to simplify selling on Amazon for brands and resellers26:10 – Clarifying and simplifying as hallmark attributes of Amazon28:50 – Learning from Amazon’s focus on measurement to create action and accountability31:26 – Thoughts on Amazon’s two new leadership principles
Godwin spent 5 years at Amazon as a senior leader of product, retail and program teams. In each role, he led new innovations or launches for Amazon customers. Post Amazon, Godwin spent two years leading a business turnaround and is currently the co-founder at a real-estate tech startup where he continues to leverage the innovation processes he practiced at Amazon.  In this episode, you’ll hear how Godwin uses customer focus and document writing to develop and refine new solutions for customers. Specifically, Godwin shares how he uses Press Release and Frequently Asked Question (PRFAQ) doc writing to clarify customer benefits and business requirements, which Amazon leadership principles he’s leveraged in businesses outside of Amazon, and why he continues to use written narratives in his startup work today.   Mentioned in the podcast:  Godwin on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/godwinpavamani/Vive: https://gotvive.com/
Dave spent over 10 years at Amazon where he was a Technology Director prior to being asked to build the technology foundations for Bezos Academy.  In Part 2 of our conversation, Dave shares his experience as a bar raiser and member of Amazon’s Bar Raiser Core team, a committee tasked with directing how Amazon’s bar raiser hiring program would operate and grow. In this segment of the conversation, Dave shares how Amazon thinks about managing both the quality and quantity of bar raisers to meet the organizations growing needs and demands. Any business curious about designing, managing, or optimizing a hiring control program will find great insights from Dave’s thoughts and experience in this episode.   Follow Dave:  On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scarletink/Leadership blog: https://www.scarletink.com/
Dave spent over 10 years at Amazon where he was a Technology Director prior to being asked to build the technology foundations for Bezos Academy.  In Part 1 of our conversation, Dave shares his experience and advice on how to develop leaders and accelerate their learning and career development. During his years at Amazon, Dave coached, mentored, and promoted many Amazon leaders and was also promoted three times himself. Throughout the conversation, Dave shares insights, lessons learned, and best practices for developing the best talent. If you are working to develop your leadership scope or building your people management skills, you’ll be sure to pick up some actionable steps from this episode. Follow Dave:  On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scarletink/Leadership blog: https://www.scarletink.com/
Colin spent 12 years on Amazon’s senior leadership team, including two years as “Chief of Staff” to Jeff Bezos. During this time, Colin had a front-row seat to the development and implementation of Amazon’s core operating principles and mechanisms, such as written memos, single-threaded teams, and the bar raiser program.  In early 2021, Colin, along with fellow ex-Amazon VP Bill Carr, released the book “Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon.” In this episode, host Tyler Wallis sits down with Colin to discuss questions submitted by podcast listeners. The ensuing conversation dives deep into Amazon’s innovation machine, what it was like shadowing Jeff Bezos, and how companies of various sizes and industries are applying Amazon’s operating principles to realize growth in their own organizations.   Check out Colin’s book:  https://www.workingbackwards.com/ Follow Colin on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/colinbryar/
John Olsen spent 7 years at Amazon as VP of Kindle Human Resources and VP of HR for Worldwide Operations. During these years of rapid global expansion for Amazon, John had to rely on proven principles and models to help ensure teams were making strong decisions, avoiding bias, and committed behind key goals. Since leaving Amazon in 2019, John has helped companies and boards learn to have backbone, disagree and commit in his roles as an advisor and investor.  During our conversation, John shares how the Have Backbone, Disagree and Commit principle integrates with the other Amazon leadership principles, mental models for how to determine when a decision needs to be debated further, how to foster healthy disagreement with remote teams, and much more.   Follow John:  On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-olsen-808650/  More from the episode:  3:40 – Why you can’t just disagree and commit without having backbone6:25 – How to recognize when it’s time to move a team forward with a decision7:49 – 6-page memos as a tool to facilitate having backbone9:40 – How to create a culture where it’s safe to respectfully disagree with other leaders14:00 – Decision or document bar raisers23:00 – How to encourage disagreement and speaking up with remote teams26:30 – When to commit and when to continue to disagree31:00 – Applying the leadership principle in advisor and governance work
Ethan Evans spent over 15 years at Amazon where he held multiple VP roles across Appstore, Twitch, and Amazon Gaming. During this time, Ethan led teams of over 800 people, launched Prime Video and Twitch Prime programs, and has been issued more than 60 patents. During Ethan’s time at Amazon, he helped craft part of the Ownership leadership principle and witnessed the S-team and countless teams demonstrate Ownership and long-term thinking.  In our interview, Ethan shares how leaders should act in behalf of the entire company and think long term. From examples of having to push back on a request from Jeff Bezos to working with Andy Jassy and other leaders at milestone moments in Amazon history, Ethan draws from his experience to illustrate how Ownership can be demonstrated and taught within an organization.   Follow Ethan:  On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ethanevansvp/Website: https://ethanevans.com/YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/EthanEvansVPPodcast: https://theezcoach.libsyn.com/  More from the episode:  4:30 – The story behind drafting the Ownership principle at Amazon13:02 – How a billion-dollar Merch by Amazon business came to be from leaders seeing beyond their job descriptions17:22 – The business model that Amazon has built to encourage ownership thinking21:25 – The time Andy Jassy (incoming Amazon CEO) exemplified ownership by looking out for peer organizations in a time of crisis23:16 – Example of 50 VPs and Directors lending their top talent to help Appstore deliver a key deliverable26:54 – How Ownership can be taught through example and taking an outcome-focused perspective30:00 – Fear as the enemy of Ownership, and steps to overcome this obstacle
Allon spent nearly 7 years at Amazon, holding senior roles across both Amazon’s e-commerce retail category businesses and as Director of Prime Now. During these roles, Allon refined his ability to dive deep into a business and understand its critical levers, a skill he first acquired as a management consultant and now applies post-Amazon as he leads portfolio operations in private equity.  In this episode, you’ll hear how leaders can continue to stay connected to the key details of their business as their scope increases, how to prioritize when to dive deep, and why being data focused is key to the Customer Obsession principle. Tune in to hear more great ideas and approaches from Allon in this episode.   Mentioned in the podcast:  Allon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/allonkatz/  More from the episode: 3:00 – How to stay connected to the details of a business as your scope increases7:50 – How diving deep can help unlock resources for your team8:35 – Ideas for being data driven in a nascent business10:10 – How Amazon leaders prioritize where to focus amidst large amounts of data13:25 – Finding balance between diving deep and operating at a high level15:57 – When to trust anecdotes over aggregate data [Prime Now example]20:34 – How a focus on data encourages an culture of ownership22:50 – Why investing in diving deep early in a role pays dividends later in effective problem solving24:01 – A mental model for pinpointing which data points to focus your time on25:44 – Applying the Dive Deep principle in private equity work
Kim spent 12 years at Amazon where she managed various retail functions across Books, Grocery, Outdoors, and Tools categories, ultimately serving as director and category leader over a multi-billion-dollar business. Over the years, Kim relied on a customer-first approach to quickly navigate new role transitions and grow successful category businesses. Kim now exercises her customer obsession as Chief Customer Officer at Microsoft where she has leveraged many of the practices picked up at Amazon to help her teams delight enterprise customers.Listen in to hear Kim share her experience with this core Amazon leadership principle and speak to the ways Amazon leaders use customer obsession to shape weekly business deep dives, team strategy sessions, partnerships with sellers and vendors, and mechanisms to empower frontline workers. You’ll likely come away with some new ideas to try and a renewed sense for how leaders can create value for customers through their work. Mentioned in the podcast: Microsoft Dynamics: http://www.dynamics.comKim on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kim-mathisen/ More from the episode:3:38 – How to use a customer focus to quickly learn a new business9:12 – Amazon’s internal practices to keep focus on the customer16:08 – How Amazon leaders view sellers as customers22:00 – What the difference looks like between just wanting to help customers and really obsessing over customers27:20 – What sugar-free gummy bears can illustrate about Amazon’s customer obsession and order volume28:40 – How Kim has applied Customer Obsession in her subsequent work at Microsoft32:40 – Tips for building a stronger customer-centered culture in any business
Skyler spent 8 years at Amazon in retail and data engineering leadership roles, including forming a team within Amazon Hardlines to identify and drive process improvements at scale to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings. Key to succeeding in these nascent and disruptive projects were the lessons Skyler learned that helped his team follow the Vocally Self-critical leadership principle.Whether you’re embarking on a new project, trying to earn trust with stakeholders, or continue to find your team running into roadblocks, you are likely to find valuable takeaways from Skyler’s examples and insights in this episode. Mentioned in the podcast: Skyler on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/skylerramirez/ More from the episode:4:37 – The history of the Vocally Self Critical leadership principle6:30 – How being self critical can produce faster problem solving12:00 – How to measure success on nascent projects18:15 – Why being vocally self-critical is always better than ignoring an issue22:53 – How to help your team become vocally self-critical27:45 – The growing value of self-critical leaders across top tech companies
Maju spent 8 years as Vice President for Amazon’s global logistics and fulfillment technology organizations. During his Amazon career, the scope of Maju’s role grew to oversee thousands of engineering, operations, and business employees across the globe. Earlier this year, Maju made the transition from Amazon to become CTO at Bolt, a startup that offers online one-click checkout technology to retailers.  Listen in to hear Maju describe how he leads innovation across large global organizations. From pivoting fulfillment systems amid the global pandemic to creating mechanisms for encouraging innovation from all levels of the company, this episode is full of stories, ideas, and practical tips that can help any manager think about institutionalizing innovation in their business.  Mentioned in the podcast: The Day One Syndicate: https://angel.co/day-one/syndicateBolt Careers: https://www.bolt.com/careers/Maju on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/majukuruvilla/ More from the episode:5:47 – Innovating fast to pivot Amazon’s air cargo operations during the global pandemic8:22 – How to know when to pivot quickly versus preserve existing automation when working under pressure 11:12 – Developing a future-focused mindset to prioritize innovation14:19 – How to encourage innovation at scale across a large organization15:50 – The blind spots to be aware of when working at scale, and how to address them18:42 – Why patience is often required to drive strategic innovation22:00 – The top two priorities you must have as a leader to create impact, and the key to scaling that impact 23:21 – One of Maju’s top mechanisms for increasing organizational focus on innovation and problem solving30:00 – Examples of Invent & Simplify alive at Bolt32:17 – Find innovative employees by incorporating this one question with candidates
Nick spent over 5 years at Amazon where he co-founded Amazon Game Studios and led teams to grow Amazon’s partnerships with game developers. During this time, Nick also became an Amazon Bar Raiser, interviewing over 350 Amazon candidates and mentoring multiple bar raisers in training before leaving Amazon to educate job candidates and enterprise clients on Amazon’s hiring process through his company, Amazon Bound.Listen to Nick share his tips on attracting strong applicants and developing strong performers from his time building Amazon Game Studios. You’ll also hear Nick explain what a Bar Raiser is and walk through this key role at Amazon, sharing best practices from his deep experience.Whether you are looking for tips to improve your own ability to make strong hiring decisions or curious about what your organization should consider when developing its own Bar Raiser program, you will find battle-tested steps and advice from Nick’s experience in this important space. Mentioned in the podcast: The Day One Syndicate: https://angel.co/day-one/syndicateAmazon Bound: https://amazonbound.today/Nick on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickdimitrov/  More from the episode: 7:12 – The origin of the Amazon’s relentless focus on hiring top performers8:45 – How to attract top performers to your business11:00 – Why you should develop fungible, general athletes and move them around the organization16:41 – The Bar Raiser role at Amazon19:26 – How to help a team make the right hiring decision by focusing on the atomic data points21:20 – When Amazon will decide to “recycle” a strong candidate23:00 – How Amazon centers hiring decision on data25:23 – What pre-requisites an organization should consider to successfully implement a Bar Raiser program28:53 – The role of the Bar Raiser in training and developing interviewers32:23 – What should managers be thinking about to improve their hiring
Andrea spent 10 years at Amazon where she led over 15 product categories, helped launch Amazon’s automated pricing system, and ran Amazon Prime for Amazon Canada. During this time, Andrea made and oversaw many decisions where speed was critical to grow nascent programs and delight customers. Since leaving Amazon in 2015, Andrea has consulted hundreds of manufacturers and helped grow an agency business while continuing to make quick, calculated decisions and learn from mistakes.  In this episode, Andrea shares several examples from key moments in Amazon’s history where speed was critical. You’ll hear how Amazon’s Bias for Action principle can help marketplaces, service industries, and manufacturers better serve customers and make smart decisions, and you’re sure to enjoy a few fresh ideas from Andrea’s examples and advice.  Mentioned in the podcast: Andrea on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreakleigh/Andrea Leigh Consulting: https://andreakleighconsulting.com/Ideoclick:  https://ideoclick.com/ More from the episode: 6:00 – A litmus test for when to lean on Bias for Action8:50 – [Amazon Fresh example] When it’s hard to experiment with an existing customer base11:12 – [Amazon Pricing example] How decisions can be both calculated and fast15:55 – [Amazon Grocery example] Acting quickly to unwind a decision19:27 – How Bias for Action can look different within a services business22:58 – The opportunity for manufacturers to have bias for action in understanding their competitive set25:25 – How creating an organizational tolerance for failure fosters Bias for Action
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