Tell-alls about exceptional companies and their founders are commonplace. Amazon has had its share of coverage, including Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (2013). But this lean book cuts a different way. Rossman, an executive at Amazon who left to become a managing director at a consulting firm, weaves his own war stories around Amazon’s 14 leadership principles. While these principles are no secret (they’re posted on the company’s website), Rossman brings them to life with insightful commentary of his own. Each chapter begins with a salient “Leaders at Amazon…” statement, e.g., “Leaders at Amazon focus on the key outputs 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.” Rossman then offers observations and anecdotes illuminating the corresponding idea. For example, in Chapter 1, “Obsess Over the Customer,” he discusses Amazon’s three customer desires, which the company considers “its holy trinity”—price, selection and availability. Instead of generalities, however, Rossman shares specific insider details that make each principle more dramatic. He relates one instance when Amazon was told by Apple that the company couldn’t deliver 4,000 iPods in time for Christmas. “We were not the kind of company that ruined people’s Christmas because of a lack of availability—not under any circumstances,” writes Rossman, so Amazon purchased the iPods at retail and had them shipped to their warehouse to be repackaged and delivered to customers. At times, readers might glaze over details of Amazon’s inner workings, but Rossman’s focus on how the company applies its principles is fairly fascinating stuff. So too is Rossman’s characterization of Jeff Bezos, who comes across as a remarkably driven, if irascible, leader. As for the iPods, Bezos agreed but quipped, “I hope you’ll get in touch with Apple and try to get our money back from the bastards.”
Succinct, engaging and crafted from a high-level viewpoint; a rare open-kimono look at how one of the world’s most innovative companies executes its vision.