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Why every startup should borrow from Amazon’s culture

I never worked at I never dreamed of working at Amazon. I do not even know anyone linked to Amazon in anyway.  But if there is a company's culture that I can relate to, it's Amazon's.

Amazon is a customer-obsessed company. And this, you can feel it in a lot of ways. From the hard-to-beat prices on products, to their great customer service and fast response time. Any complain is taken care of and the customer is always the winner.

What makes Amazon’s culture interesting is that by focusing less on profit and more on making the customers happy, they have built a love connection between the customers, the company and its employees. When employees love their jobs, it reflects everywhere, especially on the customers. How many times did you talk to a customer service representative that didn't show love for his/her job and you thought that you would never buy there again?

Amazon's success is not fortuitous. It is a culture established from the top management (aka Jeff Bezos) and it was successfully implemented everywhere within the company. Although it looks easy to do, this is a hard task that very few companies focus on or even succeed at.

This is especially true to startups. In a way, startups are stuck in between. On one side, they have to build a product quickly and market it.  On the other side they have limited resources. If you add investors to the mix, their hands are tied and you can be sure that the happiness of customers won’t be part of the business strategy.  Making a successful exit is usually the main focus of investors.

That’s unfortunate and that’s where a lot of startups should take a humility lesson from Amazon.  The fact is that building a business should never be about short term strategy.  In Amazon’s case, if Jeff Bezos had thought of making a quick buck and exiting, his company would probably have failed extraordinarily in its first few years of existence.  Amazon was never about short term vision, and I would say it was and will always be about long-long term vision.  By making the customer the core focus of its business, Amazon has built more than a company, it has built a brand recognized everywhere.

In our case, with Nimbb, we have followed a similar culture as Amazon, making sure that customers are our main focus and that each one of them feel right at home with our service and our products.   Any user that calls us or contacts us by email gets an almost instant response.  We make sure that all questions are answered promptly and that any problem is solved.  Our greatest reward is to receive simple comments from people such as "amazing service", "thank you for offering this nice product" or a "you guys rock".  Our thinking is that each customer should be taken care of like a friend.

Of course, this strategy does not pay up fast.  I would advise that it will take time, lot of it, before seeing a ROI.  The first few years will be slow, as you build your reputation.  If you are in for a quick buck, this is not the way to achieve it.  However, if you are in for the long run, the one that you can be proud of when looking back, then you won’t regret the time you invested in building a customer relationship.  Today, Nimbb is growing quickly.  And I can say that I’m very proud of what we have achieved over these years.  We are in for a long lasting business, and well underway with that target.

If there is one thing that any startup should learn, it’s how to create a great company’s culture.  Zappos has one of the best cultures out there, and Amazon didn’t take too much time to notice it.  After making sure that their unique culture would stay intact, Zappos agreed to be bought by Amazon.  The similarities with the two companies are strong and it represents the incredible long-term vision of Jeff Bezos. 

If your startup is lacking a basic set of rules that defines who you are and how you do business, then maybe you should take a pen and write them down now.  Knowing who you are will help you find your own unique identity and also help in the decision process as you make your company a real and long lasting business.  Now would be a good time to borrow some of Amazon’s culture; I’m sure this will help you in your quest towards success.