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It’s doubtful that when Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, now the world’s wealthiest man, launched the company over twenty years ago he had every tactical move figured out. The Bezos of 1999 couldn’t have predicted how his company would come to dominate and diversify. While he may not have understood the exact next step on the journey, Bezos did have a mission and a set of guiding principles upon which he would build and lead his company.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of our first shareholder letter, and our core values and approach remain unchanged. We continue to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and we recognize this to be no small or easy challenge. We know there is much we can do better, and we find tremendous energy in the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Even if you don’t aspire to build the next Amazon, there’s a lot to be learned from their philosophy. A compass is more useful than a map when you’re navigating new terrain. You need to know why you want to go someplace before you can work out exactly how to get there.

My mother started working over sixty years ago. As the tenth child of a widow, with nothing more than a basic education she had very few choices. She could be a seamstress or a replaceable cog on the assembly line at one of any number of factories. Sadly the factory jobs won because those jobs were easier to get and didn’t involve apprenticing at a reduced wage. At the age of fourteen, she spent eight hours a day dipping toffees into icing at a sweet factory. She later graduated to standing guard over huge fryers of potato crisps. She and her friends lived for Friday’s brown paper envelope—the contents of which bought a little joy at the weekend.

A career needs to sustain us, and a business needs to make a profit to be sustainable. It could be argued that in recent times we’ve built our economies on the premise that profiting is the only function of business. But the businesses that are thriving have found a way to be about more than just a means to that end. Companies like Airbnb, Patagonia or Small Giants that put contribution and community at the centre of their business model and philosophy. Yes, your business needs to turn a profit, but that doesn’t have to be the only thing your company is committed to making.

My mother didn’t have a choice about how she could contribute. She didn’t have the privilege of thinking beyond earnings. We do. We have never had more power to take ownership of the present or to shape the future than we do today. We can start by figuring out what we intend to make besides money.

The tiny Italian restaurant in Carlton is in full swing. It’s 6 pm, and a couple of experienced chefs are cranking out meals. The kitchen is a well-oiled machine, the oven is at capacity, as diners and Uber Eats drivers converge at once. The food is good. It’s just not great—unlike the food served at the Italian place we recently discovered in Auckland.

On the face of it, there’s little to differentiate the chefs in the two restaurants. Both teams work mostly silently and efficiently. They are well prepared, and everyone understands the role they play in making sure diners leave sated and satisfied. But there’s one thing the chefs in Auckland do that makes all the difference. In Carlton, nothing is tasted before it’s plated. In Auckland, the chefs taste everything without exception before they plate it. They are making a hundred micro-decisions about how to delight their customers every few minutes and adjusting as they go. That single act means they have to put themselves in the diner’s seat for a second. They have to imagine what it will feel like to experience their product. And that makes all the difference.