Should You Imitate Success?

March 21, 2019

Why not? There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when the wheel has already been invented and works well. With the multitude of successful businesses located in any city or globally on the Internet, small businesses and SMEs have almost unlimited mentoring without even asking. 

Successful businesses, CEOs, and owners frequently possess the same skills and have the same business philosophy regarding customers, employees,and operations. These same elements that contribute to the success of one business can be implemented in another business. This is not to say that a small business or SME owner cannot have different thoughts or attempt to interject new ideas into the business. It does mean, however, that what proves to be successful in one business might prove to be successful in another business. It is valuable, at the least, to observe known success factors and consider what factors might be tried in another business.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about Amazon, it is beyond argument that Amazon is extremely successful. It is constantly seeking ways to expand its business with innovative approaches to business. There is no question that Amazon has changed the way customers purchase and will most likely continue to make advances that, perhaps, have not even been thought about. Businesses have definitely changed due to the “Amazon Effect.”

How does Amazon do what they do and do it so well? Amazon has a list of principles that they operate by. As stated on its website (, “We use our Leadership Principles every day, whether we're discussing ideas for new projects or deciding on the best approach to solving a problem. It is just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar.” In summary, these 14 principles are:

1. Customer Obsession - Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

2. Ownership - Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job". 

3. Invent and Simplify - Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here". As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

4. Are Right, A Lot - Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

5. Learn and Be Curious - Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

6. Hire and Develop the Best - Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

7. Insist on the Highest Standards - Leaders have relentlessly high standards - many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

8. Think Big - Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

9. Bias for Action - Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking. 

10. Frugality - Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.

11. Earn Trust - Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

12. Dive Deep - Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit - Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

14. Deliver Results - Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

Can these principles be applied to a small business or SME? Of course! If you’re a small business/SME owner or manager, study these principles and start applying some if not all to your business. Results count, so there is nothing wrong in imitating success.

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