Jeff Bezos started up the giant internet shopping platform Amazon in his early thirties. Since then, he’s gone on to become the richest man in the world (at least briefly), in the summer of this year. In other words, he knows a thing or two about earning a solid pay packet. What’s more, his company is still growing. And some analysts, including venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya – one of the founding investors of Facebook – has suggested that the company may go on to become a $3 trillion outfit. That’s about ten times larger than it is today.
So what skills does Bezos swear by? And why do his employees manage to supercharge their pay packets whereas those of other companies don’t?
Think Like An Owner
Employees often complain that the expectations of the owners of businesses are unrealistic. They expect their employees to work as hard as they do, despite the gulf in financial incentives. But this is where Bezos differs from the majority of business leaders. Instead of treating the people who work at Amazon as employees, he tries to give each person ownership over the company. As a result, every individual in the business has a vested interest in its success, and the costs of leaving are higher.
Not all businesses are as forward-thinking, but the principles still remain. If you treat a business like you have some form of ownership over it, that will be detected by senior management. They’ll then view you as leadership material and put you on the path to promotion.
Learn To Operate Equipment Which Requires A License
There’s a reason people who learn to operate equipment earn more than those who don’t: certification. Certification is a barrier to entry, pushing up wages in the affected industry, helping you to make more money. In Bezos’ empire, warehouse workers who can drive forklift trucks earn more than those who can’t. The same goes for truck drivers. Those with the relevant skills earn more than those who are only authorized to drive lighter vehicles. It’s important, therefore, to learn about driving test requirements, says Bezos, and build skills that are rare in the company.
Prove You Can “Get Things Done”
Today’s businesses are, arguably, overly complex and bureaucratic. As a result, it’s often really hard to get things done. Bezos and other employers are looking for individuals who are able to manage and reduce that complexity and deliver projects on time. They’re not so interested in the “how” but then “when,” which is why developing your leadership skills is so important. Great leaders don’t try to manage complexity. Instead, they accept it and take a more Bayesian view of progress in their work. Instead of believing (naively) that there’s a right answer, they strive “to be less wrong” in what they do. This approach, over time, helps individuals get closer to the truth and manage their teams better.
Amazon understands that its teams don’t work with perfect knowledge. That’s why it trains its managers and leaders to accept that they are always going to have data problems, and any decision they make will always be flawed in some way.