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David's Macro Blog

Analysis and commentary on business, economics, real estate, financial markets, and other fun topics



Startup businesses are often toughest on the owners because they have to overcome so much adversity on the road to eventual success. Online shoe retailer Zappos, led by Tony Hsieh, endured about a decade of failures before its successful acquisition by Amazon Inc.

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
-Sir Winston Churchill

Inc. Magazine’s “10 Steps to Zappos’ Success” highlights Zappos’ struggles and eventual success:

  • Being in a bad business with a track record of failure.
  • Running out of money multiple times.
  • Tony selling his San Francisco home to pay for a distribution center.
  • Tony taking an annual salary from $24 to a high of just $36,000.
  • Rejecting Amazon’s first buyout offer of $370 million.
  • Eventually selling to Amazon after a decade of hard work for $1.2 billion and being able to remain as CEO and keep the company independent.

For entrepreneurs, even the path to success is filled with mostly failure after failure.

To learn what makes such a great company, listen to CEO Jeff Bezos talk about its recent acquisition of Zappos, innovation, and customer obsession.

Everything Jeff knows seems to be a very short list.

#1 – Obsess Over Customers

Put customers first because ultimately they’ll make or break your business.

Jeff doesn’t clearly state this, but it seems that the main reason for Amazon’s acquisition of Zappos is the fact that both companies (and CEOs Bezos and Tony Hsieh) share similar values, starting with customer obsession.

#2 – Invent

“Don’t accept either/or thinking”, instead invent your way out of any problem. 

Invent solutions on your customer’s behalf. You can invent your way out of any box if you think you can.

#3 – Think Long Term

For any company to be innovative or focused on customers needs, it needs to think long term. Some ventures will take 5 to 7 years to pay dividends. New inventions take time to be understood.

Applying the principle to think long term might pay dividends for customers BEFORE benefiting shareholders.

Note: Jeff candidly admits that Amazon has made a lot of mistakes along the way, with the result being Amazon has learned something.  You don’t get to know much without trying lots of things and making a lot of mistakes.

“Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.”

— Henry Ford

“If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.” 

— Thomas J. Watson

It’s important to note that innovation isn’t the result of focusing on next quarter’s earnings and short term gains.

In summary, if you want to innovate in your business, you need to obsess over your customers and invent new solutions for them, knowing that you’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way.

For more reading on Amazon’s innovation, visit: Whiz Jeff Bezos Keeps Kindling Hot Concepts

Please comment below – I’d love to know what you think.