The Bezos Letters: 14 Principles to Grow Your Business like Amazon

Written By James King

5 min read

Steve Anderson and Karen Anderson - The Bezos Letters: 14 Principles to Grow Your Business like Amazon

Amazon is the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion in sales and they didn’t reach that landmark by staying in their comfort zone. Risk taking is the key that unlocked the door to growth at Amazon, but those risks were (and are) intentional, calculated, and strategic. Bezos has provided every business owner a "hidden in plain" sight roadmap for how he grew Amazon through his Letter to Shareholders (or as he named them, share owners) that he has written annually for the past 20 years. Technology and Risk expert Steve Anderson has analyzed and distilled these letters to reveal the key 14 Growth Principles that unlock the lessons, mindset, and steps Bezos has used to make Amazon the massive success it is today. - Amazon Product Description

In a nutshell description

The Bezos Letters is an interesting concept. Steve Anderson has mined each of Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder (shareowner) letters since the first one in 1997 to come up with a list of 14 Growth Principles that Bezos has employed in growing Amazon into the most valuable company in the world.

Anderson, an experienced expert in strategic risk and business growth, argues that these principles can be applied to any business and lead to positive results.

The Growth Principles are divided into four distinct ‘Growth Cycles’ as follows:


  1. Encourage “Successful Failure”
  2. Bet on Big Ideas
  3. Practice Dynamic Invention and Innovation


  1. Obsess Over Customers
  2. Apply Long-Term Thinking
  3. Understand Your Flywheel


  1. Generate High-Velocity Decisions
  2. Make Complexity Simple
  3. Accelerate Time WIth Technology
  4. Promote Ownership


  1. Maintain Your Culture
  2. Focus On High Standards
  3. Measure What Matters, Question What’s Measured and Trust Your Gut
  4. Believe It’s Always “Day 1”

Quotes to make you think

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” from Jeff Bezos’ 2016 letter letter to shareholders

As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures. Of course, we won’t undertake such experiments cavalierly.

We will work hard to make them good bets, but not all good bets will ultimately pay out. This kind of large-scale risk taking is part of the service we as a large company can provide to our customers and to society. The good news for shareowners is that a single big winning bet can more than cover the cost of many losers.” from Jeff Bezos’ 2019 letter to shareholders

Why I love this book

I’ve been fascinated by Jeff Bezos and the growth of Amazon for a while now. I loved The Everything Store and I approached The Bezos Letters primarily from the perspective that I was interested to learn more about how Bezos has deliberately grown Amazon into a giant.

Anderson certainly provides this insight but it goes much further than that. The 14 Growth Principles seem so obvious in many ways but if they were so obvious, every business would be following them. I love how clearly Anderson has expressed the principles in a way that encourages the reader to consider how they can apply these principles to their own business, job or personal life.

I particularly enjoyed the parts related to decision making in which Anderson shows how Bezos divides decisions into Types 1 and 2. Type 1 Decisions “are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible - one-way doors - and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation.”

On the other hand, Type 2 Decisions account for the majority of cases, they “are changeable, reversible - they’re two-way doors.” Which means they can be made fast and reversed if needed. I had never thought about decision making this way and it has definitely changed my outlook.

Read this book if…

You are interested in how elite businesses grow as a result of deliberate, coherent and intelligent risk-taking. Especially if you would benefit from learning a framework to grow your own business.

What others say about it

"In a world filled with success hype, this book shines with credibility and authenticity. Each of these letters contains principles that are the result of years of courageous testing, lessons learned through failure, and discoveries that have led to what Amazon is today.” — Ken Davis

"What if Jeff Bezos simply handed you the formula to Amazon’s stratospheric growth so you could do the same? He did, in his shareholder letters. In this remarkable book, Steve Anderson decrypts the 14 Growth Principles you can use to have your own ‘Amazon-ing’ success!" — Mike Michalowicz

Some good further reading/watching/listening

Watch an interview with Steve Anderson in which he talks about The Bezos Letters.

And here is a Q&A with Steve Anderson.

Where to get it

About the authors

Steve Anderson is an expert in strategic risk and business growth. Drawing on decades of experience in the insurance industry, he wrote The Bezos Letters: 14 Principles to Grow Your Business Like Amazon, which has become a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and international bestseller. With hundreds of thousands of followers, Steve has been handpicked by LinkedIn as one of the world’s most influential thought leaders.

Karen Anderson is an author, publisher, and direct response marketer whose fingerprints are all over New York Times, USA Today, and other bestselling books. For the past 30+ years, she’s helped entrepreneurs and businesses clarify and communicate their messages, grow their businesses, and increase their reach using the power of a book. She grew up as an “insurance brat” and spent weekends with her dad looking behind buildings and parking lots checking for potential risks.

Publication Date

July 23, 2019

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