The secret to lasting success in business

The premise, while simple, is also easy to forget when innovation seems to be the secret of massive success. Catching the next wave, predicting the next trend, disrupting an industry, or hacking your way to near-immediate success, sparking change ... that's what works.

But it's hard to be innovative. It's hard to be truly disruptive. Shortcuts typically yield short-term benefits. Knowing what will change -- that's incredibly difficult.

Bezos doesn't worry about what will change. He focuses on what won't change. Bezos built Amazon around things he knew would be stable over time, investing heavily in ensuring that Amazon would provide those things -- and improve its delivery of those things.

Here's Bezos:

I very frequently get the question: "What's going to change in the next 10 years?" And that is a very interesting question; it's a very common one. I almost never get the question: "What's not going to change in the next 10 years?" And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two -- because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. ... [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that's going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection.

It's impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, "Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher." "I love Amazon; I just wish you'd deliver a little more slowly." Impossible.

And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.
Twenty years ago, Bezos said the same thing. In his 1997 shareholder letter, he wrote:

We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term ... Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies.
Focusing on things that won't change does not guarantee success -- but it provides as close a foundation for success as you will find.
There is more.

The most successful furniture and mattress store in Houston is that of "Mattress Mack" McIngvail.

He started by literally sell furniture on the side of the road on I-45 North.  But his business really took off when he started promoting his low prices and immediate delivery.  His commercial s showed him enthusiastically saying he would "save you money" and that you would never get a back order slip.  This transformed the local high-end furniture business.

It usually was done with big showrooms of furniture where you selected an item and the furniture store would then order it from the supplier and deliver it in a matter of weeks.

McIngvale promised that he would deliver the furniture on the same day you bought it.  He now has stores in several parts of the Houston market and is known not only for his commercials and service but also for his generosity to the Houston community.

His business was a success based on the same things Amazon focused on.


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