A CEO who can actually write

Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note via Medium

Each year, Amazon’s CEO puts pen to paper in his annual letter to shareholders: 21 to date. Unpack them and you’ll see not only a half decent writer at work, but as Jean-Louis Gassée explains in his regularly Monday Note newsletter, but a unique first-hand insight into how this business maverick’s mind works.

In his 2018 letter to Amazon shareholders, Jeff Bezos revealed, uncharacteristically, a key indicator of the company’s impressive achievements: Amazon Prime subscriptions have topped 100M. This was followed by glowing quarterly numbers that proclaimed $51B in revenue, more than 10% of which was garnered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), a genuinely amazing service that saw 49% year-to-year growth.

But what’s the most impressive facet of this litany? It’s this: Jeff Bezos is the too-rare CEO who writes to his shareholders every year…

Wait…what is that “too-rare” epithet supposed to mean? Don’t company CEOs duly and regularly pay their respects to company owners in the cover letters affixed to their annual reports? Ah, yes, they want us to think they do. But our gut knows better.

Blame attorneys, PR consiglieri, or a weak-spined CEO for yielding to society’s offensive demand that we not offend anyone ever. Whatever the reason, when we listen to typical corpospeak there is no music, no soul, no human reaching out to us.

There’s no such lack of soul in Amazon’s annual letters to shareholders. Founder & CEO Jeff Bezos rejoices, occasionally apologizes, and always expounds his company’s management philosophy and practices — and he does so with wit and good grace. Here’s a taste:

One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static — they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’.

At Amazon, Bezos practices what he preaches: He writes well, affirmatively, with grace (“angels singing”), and not infrequent humor.

Read the full analysis by Gassée at Monday Note