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The Amazon Chief Who Obsesses Over Consumers

11 October 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

No matter how hard he works, Amazon.com Inc.’s chief executive of world-wide consumer is only the second most important “Jeff” at the company.

Still, Jeff Wilke’s supervision now spans many of the Seattle-based company’s core businesses, including retail, operations, technology and its marketplace and accompanying seller services. Part of the 18-year Amazon veteran’s role is to obsess about the wants and needs of the retailer’s customers.

. . . .

Now Mr. Wilke is in charge of integrating Amazon’s new subsidiary, Whole Foods Market Inc. and its roughly 87,000 employees. He also is part of the leadership team working on the company’s search for a second North American headquarters.

Wearing his traditional fourth-quarter flannel shirt, a nod to the company’s more than 250,000 warehouse workers filling holiday orders, Mr. Wilke talked about Amazon’s plans for Whole Foods, why it is splitting its headquarters in two and what it is like to disagree with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

. . . .

The Wall Street Journal: How do you approach major, company-shifting decisions like acquiring Whole Foods or creating a new headquarters?

Mr. Wilke: If the decision is reversible, we would prefer that people take a chance. You can walk through the door. If you don’t like what you see on the other side, you just walk back through and you’re fine. If it’s not reversible, we spend a lot more time thinking about those. We will argue the merits of whatever decision we are making.

WSJ: Amazon encourages employees to fail big. Tell us about a big, fall-on-your-face failure.

Mr. Wilke: When we were deciding whether to do Kindle, Jeff (Bezos) presented his idea to the board. I thought at the time, “We’re a software company that built a retail business. We don’t know anything about hardware.” I’d come from companies that built hardware, so I knew how complicated it was. I said, “I don’t think we should do this.” I predicted that yields would be hard, that we might miss our first launch date, etc. Many of the things I predicted ultimately happened. But it didn’t matter. Jeff at the time said, “It’s the right thing to do for customers.” I disagreed and committed, and I’m very glad I did.

WSJ: What did Mr. Bezos say to you after?

Mr. Wilke: Once we make a decision, we just move on. There are too many opportunities to invent for customers to keep score. All of us have been wrong at various times.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal


One Comments to “The Amazon Chief Who Obsesses Over Consumers”

  1. I’m glad Mr. Wilke was outvoted re the Kindle. Would hate to be without mine.

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