November 2: A scene from a 2003 Amazon S-Team Meeting
“The answer to that question begins with a number!” - Jeff Bezos
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Source: The Amazon Way (introduction)
Published: June 2021
A scene from a 2003 Amazon S-Team Meeting
Setting: a conference room in Amazon’s Seattle Headquarters in 2003 during an S-Team (senior executives) meeting about the third-party marketplace business.
Context: Jeff Bezos is frustrated. He doesn’t think that Amazon is moving quickly to add Merchants (aka third-party sellers). Speaking to John Rossman, the Director of Merchant Integration, he asks a deceptively simple question:
Jeff: “How many merchants have launched since the first of the year?”
John: “Well, you see, as of right now—” but before he finishes, Jeff interrupts.
Jeff: “The answer to that question begins with a number!”
John: After taking a big gulp, “Six, but—”
Jeff: Pouncing like a lion tearing into the soft underbelly of its kill, says, “That is the most pathetic answer I have ever heard!”
Over the next five minutes, Jeff goes on a rant. Using the Leadership Principles, he describes the shortcomings of John’s work. John is “pinned to his chair as if by the force of hurricane winds.”
When the rant ends, Jeff simply gets up and leaves the room without another word—just like that, the S-Team meeting has ended.
“He likes you,” an S-Team executive explains to John with a pat on the shoulder. “Jeff wouldn’t take the time to embarrass you like that if he didn’t.”
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