How to really take care of your customer – A real story

This story is about how Richard Howorth, the owner of Square Books, treated his customers. Jeff Bezos took this story to heart when he founded Amazon.

One day at Square Books, he was called on by his managers to handle a difficult customer. The young woman was angry because “a kid on the second floor had knocked some dirt down on her car,” Howorth recalled. “She was saying, ‘My husband is a lawyer.'”

He went outside, saw the dirt on her car and blew off the dust, he said. “It was nothing.”

But she remained unsatisfied, he said. “I asked her, ‘Can I wash your car for you?'”

She said yes, and Howorth drove with her and her friend to the local car wash — only to find it closed for repairs.

She became more irate.
“Can we just go to my house and wash it?” he asked.

She replied yes, and so at Howorth’s house, he washed, rinsed and buffed her car.

He asked her if that was good. She replied yes. She became downright pleasant.

She dropped him back off at Square Books.

The next morning, he said someone overheard the young woman talking “about the nice man who washed her car, confessing, ‘I wasn’t that nice.'”

Later that day, the young woman returned to the store, this time with all her friends, and they all bought books.

Are you doing the best you can for your customers?

Source: One Click by Richard Brandt

How to build a billion dollars company from pennies is the second largest private employer and the most valuable retailer in the United States. Despite having a market cap of $766 billion with 2017 revenue of $177.86 billion and making a profit of $3 billion per year (source: wikipedia), Amazon is known for being frugal since its inception.

Jeff Bezos started in 1994 with $10,000. 24 years later (2018), Jeff Bezos became the richest man on the earth with $130 billion in net worth.

Jeff Bezos builds Amazon with the laser focus on customers. Being frugal is one of the main ingredients in the culture of the richest man on the earth and his company:

Frugality: We try not to spend money on things that don’t matter to customers. Frugality breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Following are some of ways that Amazon and Jeff Bezos show the culture of being frugal:

  • Nobody flew first class.
  • Everybody stayed in budget hotels.
  • The company did not pay for anyone’s cell phone bill.
  • No extra point is rewarded for headcount or budget size.
  • Nobody has an office with big desks.
  • No free Amazon Prime subscription for employees
  • All light bulb was taken out of the cafeteria vending machine in 2009.
  • No free soda.
  • The parking fee of $220 per month is only reimbursed for $180.
  • Conference room tables are a collection of blond-wood door desks shoved together side by side.
  • The vending machine takes credit cards.
  • Food in the cafeteria is not subsidized.
  • Employees are asked to returned all equipment including the backpack when they resign.
  • A coffee stand on the first floor of the Pac Med building handed out loyalty cards so customers can get a free drink after 10th purchase. Jeff Bezos often stood in line and had his card punched.
  • Jeff Bezos himself keeps his salary at $81,840.
  • Jeff drives a little Honda for years since founded Amazon.
  • When Amazon first had a $5000 day, his employees wanted to throw a party and Jeff turned it down: “There are a lot of milestones coming and that’s not the way I want to run things.”
  • In its early day, Amazon held business meetings at a local coffee shop (as they had no conference room nor wanted to rent one). All printing or copying was done at a nearby printing shop.
  • When Amazon went public in 1997, employees were handed inexpensive local beers and were told not to overcelebrate over its stock price.
  • In 2003, Jeff Bezos removed all new installed TVs in conference rooms as it’s an extravagant expenditure.
  • Jeff Bezos was mad when he found out someone shipped the company’s symbols to Europe.

Jeff Bezos took Sam Walton’s principles of building Walmart to heart. Bezos sticks to one goal: Being everyday’s lowest price retailer. He’s deliberate about cost. Jeff Bezos believes strongly that frugality drives innovation:

One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.

To Jeff Bezos, everyday is just day 1.

If you want to build a start-up successfully or want to figure out how to stay on top of the competition, learn how this giant built and runs: being frugal. And really start with the penny.

How to think BIG – the Jeff Bezos’ way

When Jeff Bezos announced to his boss that he would quit his job to start an online book store, his boss advised him to think about it for 48 hours. The important thing to know is that Jeff Bezos was working as a vice president for the famous firm D.E. Shaw. D.E. Shaw hired only genius (1% acceptance rate among math and computer scientists). Quitting his job would mean that Jeff Bezos would be leaving behind the high-paying job at one of the most famous firms on the Wall Street.
He did and outlined a framework to make BIG decision. This framework called Regret Minimization Framework centered around the question: “If you are 80, what will you think?”
For Jeff Bezos, leaving a stable, high-paying job with a big bonus was not a regret. He would be regretting if he did not take the opportunity to become an entrepreneur on the Internet.
Jeff founded Amazon in 1993 and as of this post, it’s a $761 billion company. Jeff is the richest person in the world with a $129.9 billion net worth.
Jeff Bezos’ words on decision-making:
I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, “Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have.”
I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this.
I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal.
I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried.
I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision.
And, I think that’s very good.
If you can project yourself out to age 80 and sort of think, “What will I think at that time?”
It gets you away from some of the daily pieces of confusion.
You know, I left this Wall Street firm in the middle of the year.
When you do that, you walk away from your annual bonus.

That’s the kind of thing that in the short-term can confuse you, but if you think about the long-term then you can really make good life decisions that you won’t regret later.

If you are facing a BIG decision, project yourself at the age of 80 and ask yourself: “What will I think?”, “Will I regret?”
Just remember that Jeff Bezos left behind a high-paying job with a big bonus as a vice president of one of the most famous firms on the Wall Street. He followed his dream and embraced a decision that he would be proud of when he’s 80 year old.
As you read this, you might say that only Jeff Bezos could do so and this does not apply to you, or this method does not work for you. You are absolutely right. The mere reason for your thinking so is what stops you from taking on something big.
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc, put the question differently: “if today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?”
In Steve Jobs’s most inspirational speech:
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?
Whenever my answer has been NO for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I will be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Because almost everything, all external expectations, all prides, all fears of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There’s no reason not to follow your heart.
Don’t let yourself regret at your death bed that you have not done something extraordinarily. Or as my mentor said, don’t die with the music still in your ear.
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Recommended reading:  The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman