How Can AFFORMATIONS Help You Overcome Success Anorexia

Utilize Amazon Secrets to Crush Your Competition

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Mr. Biz Radio: Utilize Amazon Secrets to Crush Your Competition

Unedited transcription of the show is included below:


Welcome to Mr. Biz radio, Biz. Talk for Biz owners. If you're ready to stop faking the funk and take your business onward and upward, this show is for you. And now here's Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth.


All right, welcome to another episode of Mr. Biz Radio with me ,Mr. Biz, Ken Wentworth. And this week we're gonna talk with a guest who not only understands what you could argue, is the largest business in the world. He wrote a bestselling, international bestselling book about it. And that is none other than depending on what side of the fence you stand on. The big evil Amazon, or, oh my gosh, I love Amazon, right? Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, I think most people are on the, I love Amazon side. There are some people that whatever, for whatever reasons, I guess they have their own reasons. But I wanted to have Steve on, because the book that he wrote, "The Bezos Letters, 14 Principles to Grow Your Business like Amazon", is something is going to be applicable to each and every one of us, right? The vast majority of our listeners, our viewers, our business owners, entrepreneurs who better to learn from.


We talk about this on the show all the time. Find people who are experts in the field you're trying to get, be good at, right? And who's better at, at the, at the retail game than Amazon? Who, who understands all of this. And for a variety of reasons, not just because they sell like crazy and everything. And, you know, everyone goes to their website. Why did that happen? How did that happen? Et cetera, et cetera. So, I won't believe you that any further. So, our guest this week is a is a technology and risk expert, which might sound a little funny based on what I just said, Wrote in book about Amazon. We'll talk about that though. He helps businesses understand, integrate and leverage current and emerging technologies. He's been designated as a top voice for LinkedIn. He helps businesses understand and use risk to their competitive advantage.


You guys know I've talked about that before. Everyone's afraid of that R word risk. There's a way to make it an advantage, and Steve knows how to do that. You may have seen him in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes Top 20 business books, CEO Magazine or Investors Business Daily, his international bestselling book that I mentioned, "The Bezos Letters, 14 Principles to Grow Your Business Like Amazon" helps businesses apply these principles for their own success, which is exactly how he's gonna help us. And oh, by the way, cooking, cooking is a hobby. His wife of 47 years enthusiastically supports. Look, I would support that as well. Please, well, please help me welcome Steve Anderson. Steve, welcome to Mr. Biz Radio.


Dan, thank you so much for having me.


Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So let's get right into this. You know, I know you've done a lot of things in your career, and tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey, though. Like, you've done a lot of different things and you've pivoted here and there. Gosh, I hate that word. Everyone overuses it so much, But tell us a little about that journey. Yeah,


I'd be happy to. So most of that journey has been a part of the insurance industry early in my career, sold insurance to mostly businesses, and, you know, really kind of got the nuts and bolts of what that was like. And, you know, insurance, again, something most people don't particularly like, but they have to have it. And so how, how do, how do we do that? And, and kind of as part of that and this was literally in the early eighties and into the nineties, lots of technology was coming around to help businesses, including what, what I did. And I became really interested in how technology can help you sell. And so really started focusing in the nineties on that aspect. And then in 1999 left where I was working at an insurance agency, started my own business doing research, writing, speaking, and consulting around technology for the insurance industry.


And then have been, been doing that since. And and kind of that final piece is taking that business and actually starting a new business in partnership with several in state insurance associations to offer those resources that I had developed over the years to their members. And that's cata is the name of it. And so I kind of, I do that and also as you mentioned, the book is the other part of what I do, but it was actually the insurance and and risk that led me to start thinking about this question is the biggest risk businesses face today, actually not taking enough risk.


I love that. And again, I I've talked about that on a show man so many different times. And I think a lot of times, and I'm, I'm sure you get the same thing when I mention that or bring that up, most people are like, What? What are you talking? I just, I just did a I just was interviewed I don't know, a week or so ago, and someone was asking me about the recession and what should it be doing? And I'm like, I said, This is not gonna be what you hear from most people, but you should not get into the fetal position and go into your desk and, and whimper and cry like, this is not, There is so much opportunity during an economic downturn. Don't let it pass you by because you have this super scarcity mindset. Right. That aside though, I wanna ask you, Steve, so going way back, and you, you kind of embraced obviously the technology in the insurance industry.


So as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, we're always looking at what's the new thing and is it a fad or is it something that's actually gonna stick and actually be something of value that you really need to sink your teeth into? There's a bunch of 'em going on right now, you know, the NFT stuff and all that, that whole world and, and cryptocurrency and all that. How did you decide way back then, like the technology, especially I'm sure at that point in time, and you mentioned the eighties and nineties, it wasn't in the insurance industry at all. So how did you decide like, this is it, I gotta sink my teeth into this.


I, I think it was a natural interest. My dad actually worked for an early computer company called Burrows Corporation, kind of a major competitor with Ibm. Okay. And took some programming classes in, in college and, you know, just kind of got my fingers and it just intrigued me, you know, that, that these machines could do this stuff. And, and so I, I, I think it, it was just curiosity on my part. You know, I wonder what this could do. And, and even that question that I started asking is, you know, with technology continuing to change back then, certainly it was rapidly today, it certainly is rapidly, it's not slowing down. You know, businesses don't have the luxury that they, that they did in the eighties of sitting back for two, three or four years and going, Let's just wait and see how this is gonna work out.


Now it may be a month or two months and six months maximum. And unfortunately, some of those businesses that did try and wait actually are no longer here. Right. Once very successful. And so that, that kind of thought process is what started intriguing me. And kind of like you said, people look at me like, What? I mean, you're in the insurance business. It's all about reducing risk, right? Transferring it to a policy, reducing it, mitigating it, safety programs, Right? All of that stuff. And if you are not pushing the boundary, you're not asking those questions, you're not gonna grow up. And, and that's where I'm making that connection between risk and growth. And, and that's what I started exploring in the book.


Well, I think it's, it's very interesting now that you mentioned that, Steve, because, you know, just literally as you were saying that, I was thinking through my head, it's like, you know, as someone in the insurance industry, you're helping folks mitigate risk. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, but by the way, since I'm helping you mitigate it, that should allow you to put your foot on the gas pedal a little bit in accelerating it, because you do have this protection over here.


Yeah. And, and I, you and I really resonate with what you said in terms of economic downturns. I mean, you look back at the last one, right? 2008, 2009, there were all kinds of different businesses created during that time period because they were, and I'll use your words, they didn't go into a fetal position just trying to survive. They actually took steps that probably they thought were crazy at the time. But that's part of that risk taking. And, and, and we'll talk a little bit more about this, I hope, but it's also not stupid risk, you know? Right. It's not just throwing something up against the wall, seeing if it sticks. It's intentional, it's purposeful, it's strategic. Yeah. And, and I, I think those are key when you're starting to think about


This. Absolutely. Guys, we're gonna hit a break here. We'll come back and continue talking with Steve Anderson and give the Mr. Biz tip of the week.


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Got a question for Mr. Biz. You want answered on air, email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Now once again, here's Mr. Biz.


All right, guys, welcome back to the show. And by the way, I know you just mentioned that, but don't hesitate to send in questions. We're actually gonna do I think pretty soon here. We, we typically accumulate questions. And once we get some commonality to them, like, Oh my gosh, you know, several people have asked this same question, we'll come on and I'll do a, we call it an Ask Mr. Biz Show where I'll answer a bunch of questions that people, recent questions that people have been asking give you a shout out to your name if you want your business, if you want and answer your question on the show. So don't hesitate to send those in. We love getting questions. We love being able to help people and specific to what they're asking, a lot of times that's specific to the topic we're covering in the show.


So don't hesitate to do that too, because any of you guys have been listening to the show for any length of time, you know, that we'll have people back on, right? So we'll get a lot of questions about a specific guest, and we'll say, Oh my gosh, let's just have so and so back on the show to talk about some of those questions we got from listeners and viewers. So don't hesitate to do that. All right. Sign for Mr. Biz tip of the week. This one is a simple one, but is critically important. You cannot, and it's gonna sound a little harsh, you cannot fire bad employees fast enough. You cannot fire bad employees fast enough. They erode morale because the hardworking people around them get sick of picking up the slack form. And obviously they kill overall performance because some of those performers you have that are doing well, but they're maybe not super ambitious, but they're doing pretty well and are working hard at some point, if you keep that person around and you're not doing anything about it, that bad performer, that sort of middle ground person says, Why am I busting my butt?


Like, you know, Tom over here is, you know, doing a crappy job and, and nothing's happening to him, so I'm just gonna do a crappy job too. I'm gonna stop making the extra effort. You gotta get rid of these bad employees. I don't mean that in a harsh way. I'm saying, I'm not saying you walk in and just immediately get rid of them. You gotta give them action steps, a performance improvement plan. But you gotta make it quick. Like, here are the things that you're, you're not measuring up to. Here are the things that you need to be doing. Here are the action steps you need to take in the next 30, 60 days. And you, at that point, you meet with them every week. You know, when we, when I did this back in my corporate days, we, when we had someone in on a pip, we call it a performance improvement plan.


We met with 'em every Friday, and we went through that action plan. And it makes it an easy, easy thing at the end. And actually a lot less awkward if you have to end up letting them go, because after several weeks of them not performing, they know they're not doing a good job, and it's, it's not nearly as awkward. So anyway, I don't wanna belabor that, but it's super important, especially in these times we're in and within economic downturn that Steve and I had talked about a little bit during the first segment. So that is the Mr. Biz tip of the week. All right, So Steve, so I should mention, guys, if you wanna find out more, I, I've talked about the book again, "The Bezos Letters, 14 Principles to Grow Your Business, like Amazon". You can find out more at And by the way, LinkedIn and Twitter, follow Steve on LinkedIn and Twitter. Steve TN obviously has a very common name. So he is, Steve TN makes it super easy to find him on both social media platforms. So Steve, there had to be a reason, There had to be something a, a moment, an epiphany, something like that where you said that made you think I should write a book about this. What, what was that?


<Laugh>? Well, the story's actually a little bit different, so, Okay. That question I, in the last segment I said was, you know, is the biggest risk businesses face today not taking enough risk? That just kept resonating with me, and certainly as I was working in the insurance industry, not known for being forward thinking, at least in the technology arena. And so I started researching companies that were no longer around once very successful, and tried to understand why. Certainly Kodak, Blackberry, Blockbuster borders, Sears, you know, there's a whole list of them that at one point were hugely successful, the top of the game in what they were doing and are gone. So what happened that also led me to companies that are still around and still growing and still, you know, what are they doing? And trying to compare and contrast. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> came across Amazon.


I I say obviously now, I think at the time it was just like, Oh yeah, they're really successful. I mean, I wonder why came across Jeff Bezos letters to shareholders. First one he wrote in 1997, his actual last one he wrote as CEO was 2020. And then Andy Chassis took over as ceo and he stepped aside or into a executive chairman position. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, and I had heard about the letters. Typically, you see articles about them in April when they're normally published. What I did though, is I started reading them in order straight through. It took a couple days. Sure. There, there's a lot, you know, there. And I became really impressed, enamored, whatever other word you want to use with the letters and what he wrote first. He's a great writer. They were, anyway, I'll just say it. Leave it at that.


He's a great writer. Two, he he's a teacher. So these letters were somewhat typical in here's what Amazon did, and here's how we're great, and here's how we're growing, and those kinds of things. But that was not the focus of the letters. It was, here's how we did it. Here are the things that we do that's different. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. And that's, so that thought is what kind of started me. And I thought, you know what? This could be really good information for my clients, my audience. So actually, the first thing I did was an a one page executive summary of every letter published to date. I think there were probably to 2017 at that point. Okay. And, you know, kind of one page highlight, here's key metrics, here's some quotes, here's some takeaways that I thought were important, and I was gonna give it away as a legion, right?


Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> here, sign up for my newsletter, my whatever. Get this. And that could be great. Fortunately, I have, I have friends including my wife, <laugh>, who are in the book business, and I was kind of excited about this. So I showed it to a couple of different people, including Karen, and almost immediately they all came back and said, This is not a legion. This is a book. And then I went, Oh, no, <laugh>. What do you mean a book? I mean, I, Right. I don't, So I didn't set out to write a book. I think the book showed up. I, I, I wanted a book because it's it's helpful for positioning, right? For thought leadership, what, however you wanna describe that. But a book is a really good tool. And so that started the writing journey. And long story there. Took about 18 months, and I've been writing my whole career. That's was one of my major marketing tools, Right. Columns and industry publications and all that mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so there's a really big difference between a thousand or 1500 word article and a 60,000 word book. And I know, Ken, you've written books, so you're shaking your head going, Yes, there's a big difference. <Laugh>.




And, and my wife Karen, is a co-author on the book because she really helped, she's a marvelous book strategist, really helped put the book together and, and hone my thoughts and ideas into something. So we ended up with 14 principles to grow your business, like Amazon, as you said in the subtitle. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> grouped into four different cycles, test, build, accelerate, and scale. And I believe every business are going through those cycles all the time. Whether it's a product, whether it's a platform, whether it's a service, whatever it is. And so, and how do I wanna say this? It's resonating with people. I, you know, I think that's obvious just because of its success. And that success was a surprise to me more than anybody else, because I didn't set out to write quote a best selling book.


Yeah. I can imagine, Steve. I can imagine. So guys, we're gonna hit a break here. And I, I, gosh, I have so many questions for Steve. Come back after the break on Mr. Biz Radio.


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All right, welcome back to the show. Gosh, so much to cover, Steve. So, first of all, I wanna say before we even dive into this, cause I definitely want to get, I don't want you to give away the, the secret sauce of the book or anything like that, but I wanna mention a couple things from what you had mentioned. Last segment is before we get some tips from you, my first book was the same way. First of all all, and I won't go into all that whole story, but it was the same exact thing. I was compiling cash flow tips and just kind of throw, throwing them into a document to give away to clients. And as allegiant, same sort of thing, the exact same thing happened. Steve, my brother he said, Hey, by the way, you said you, you're compiling all those cash flow tips.


He goes, Can you send it to me? Cuz I got a couple guys I wanna share it with. I'm like, Yeah, sure. I sent it to him. He's like, Holy crap, this is a book. And I had the same reaction you had, Steve. I'm like, Wait, hold on. Time out. Well, I didn't set out to write a book. I'm not a writer. I, I, I don't even, I don't even love, I don't even like writing. Unlike you. I, you know, I don't like it. Anyway so that a hundred percent resonated with me. The other part about the shareholder letter. So when I was at JP Morgan, I ended up the last, I don't know, eight, 10 years of my career, I was part of that process of Jamie Diamond writing his shareholder letter and being one of the reviewers and one of the people that, you know, not, not necessarily had input, it's all his information, obviously, but let's say it this way, or let's say it that way, having a little bit of input into the house, Some of the things were shared.


And, and by the way, I love it. You know, I talk about success leads clues all the time. I love the process you went through like, holy crap, these companies went by the wayside. Why is that these companies are doing really well. Why is that? And going through those shareholder letters, they're, some of 'em frankly, are crappily written, doesn't even word crappily anyway, Crappy. Crappy, right? Crappy, I don't even know. Anyway, they're not written well. And most people don't go through 'em and even know how to interpret what's being said or pull out the nuggets like you did. So I can imagine you know, the treasure trove of information you came up with with going through, you know, 20 or so of those, you know, 20 years in, in a row of those. That all being said, what are some things, again, don't give away secret sauce, obviously. Again, guys, go out to, to find more out about the book and to buy the book. But Steve, give us, you know, again, most of our listeners and viewers are business owners, entrepreneurs give us a little taste, give us a little taste of some things that an everyday business owner can use and learn from Amazon.


So what I thought I'd do, obviously the 14 principles, we don't have time to go through all of them. Sure. But I think there are a handful that I picked out that are probably, if, if you as a business owner are thinking about these, it will, it can't help but improve your business. So in the test cycle, the first principle is called encourage successful failure. And typically you don't see those words together, successful and failure, right? But the idea here is if you in your business, and I think this is what happened to a Blackberry and a Blockbuster and all of those, they got successful, no question. But it's what I call the hubris of success. Meaning, okay, we got here. But what happens is they tend to protect what got them there and not think about what's next. Next. Yep. And so what's next is invention.


And invention requires experimentation. And if it's an experiment, you're gonna fail. Sure. Because if you're not gonna fail you and you know it's gonna be successful, it's not an experiment. Right? And again, Bezos talks about that over and over again. And in fact, he calls Amazon the best place in the world for an employee to fail because they don't punish failure. They encourage it. But again, back to what I said earlier, and I think the first segment, not stupid failure. So they're very intentional about how they go about that. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. So I think that's one. Yeah. I think the second one that is really core at Amazon is obsessing over customers. So he writes about that in the very first letter, 97, We will obsess over customers. Now every business has customers and they try and treat them well. And we call it customer service, customer focus, customer journey.


But obsessing has a whole different level to it. Some might say negative, right? Can you obsess too much over your customers at Amazon? They don't think you can. And they've got three customer pillars, wide selection, low prices, fast delivery. They focus on those. And everything you see around what they do is still focusing on those three pillars. So obsessing over customers, I think is another thought to keep in mind. Understand your flywheel. And these are sort of the five tips too, if you're not picking that up. Ken <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. But understanding your flywheel and there's a, a story behind that. I'll give you this very short version. Jim Collins book, Good to, Yep. Chapter eight is the Flywheel in the Doom Lube. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> published in October of 2001. Collins was invited to a offsite senior leadership team meeting for Amazon in August of 2001.


Just before that book was published. They spent the entire day talking about Amazon's flywheel and they actually sketched it out. And it's really this idea of you work really hard getting the momentum moving in your business. And once you do that, flywheel just starts working. And the as long as you keep it going, it's gonna keep producing. And for Amazon, that was growth. That was their key metric. So flywheel, really important piece. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> next in the accelerate cycle is generate high velocity decisions. So again, successful companies tend to slow down decision making. Think about it, you have multiple layers of approval to get anything done. All that does is slow down decision making, not speed it up. And Bezos describes two types of decisions. Type one, type two type one decisions are be the company big, massive decisions. You take those slowly with as much data and information as you can gather. Type two decisions, on the other hand, are easily reversible. That's sort of back to that experimentation. If we try it and it doesn't work, we can pivot to a different direction. We can literally walk back that decision and try something else. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, it's not consequential to the company. So those decisions should be made by the lowest level of employee that has the skills and abilities to make that decision and not have to go through multiple layers. So that keeps growth and speed together.


Yeah. I like


It. And then the, the last one I'm gonna talk about is principle number 14 and the scale cycle, right? So again, Amazon has scaled greatly over the last 26 years. It's called Believe it's always day one. So at Amazon, in the very first letter, Bezos said, It's day one for the internet. Now remember, this is 1997. Nobody knew what the internet was going to be at all. So it's day one for the internet and for if we execute well. And every single letter subsequent to the 97 letter always closed with some reference to it's still day one. It's always day one. In 2019. It closed with, even with all of the, ooh, and I lost the word he used, but all of the problems. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> of the pandemic that first year. It's still day one. And, and it's a mindset of, as a business owner, are you walking into your business every morning and thinking it's the first day we're in business. That excitement, that customer focus, that, you know, drive to keep going.


Yeah. And I think a lot of people lose that. Steve, look, if this doesn't wet everyone's appetite, <laugh>, I don't know what will, Like, I've got a whole page of notes here. This is fantastic. Steve, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate


It. Oh, my pleasure, Kim.


Yeah, absolutely. Guys, go off to to find out more about the book. Have a great week. Thanks for watching. And don't forget, as always, cash Flow is king


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