Leadership

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: Focusing on the present is no way to run a business

David Ryder | Getty Images

Amazon has taken the world by storm and shows no sign of stopping.

Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, now the richest man in the world, attributes Amazon's success in part to having a future-focused mindset — one that he works to instill in his direct reports.

"They need to be able to look around corners," explains the CEO at a recent Forum on Leadership panel.

Bezos notes that he now has the luxury of being able to look ahead because Amazon has scaled up. In fact, he says he performs very limited day-to-day operational work.

"I've constructed my job so I don't have to be pulled into the present. I can stay two to three years in the future," Bezos says. "I'm always advising my senior team that they should organize themselves in the same way."

As the CEO, Bezos says the only time he's forced to work on the here and now is when something goes wrong. "It's a fire-fighting exercise, and that's not how you should be running a business of this scale."

Based on his track record, Bezos may be onto something: The CEO's long-held emphasis on thinking ahead has helped Amazon to repeatedly disrupt the retail sector.

In the company's 1997 shareholder letter, Bezos said, "Because of our emphasis on the long-term, we may make decisions and weigh trade-offs differently than some companies."

He again discussed the importance of looking to the future in a 2013 interview with Four Peaks TV. "A lot of invention doesn't work," the entrepreneur said. "If you're going to invent, it means you're going to experiment, so you have to think long-term."

He also noted that Amazon remains one step ahead of the competition by investing in "risky initiatives" and continuously innovating.

Ultimately, Bezos says that getting to "work in the future" also makes his job at Amazon fun. "I love my job," he says. "I tap dance into work."

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