[책] Jeff Bezos’s letters to shareholders

2017년 기준 제프 베조스의 주주서한을 동료의 추천 아닌 추천으로 읽었다 (뭔가를 읽고 감탄 중이던 형에게 물어본 것..). 매년 주주들에게 직접 편지를 쓴다는 것과 그 편지가 재계 인사들에게 highly valued 되고 있다는 것은 알고 있었지만, 언젠가 읽어봐야지 미루다가 처음으로 읽게 되었다.

무엇을 보고 그리 감탄 중이냐는 나의 물음에 동료 형이 보여준 단 하나의 문단은 이것.

-Perfect Handstands
A close friend recently decided to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand. No leaning against a wall. Not for just a few seconds. Instagram good. She decided to start her journey by taking a handstand workshop at her yoga studio. She then practiced for a while but wasn’t getting the results she wanted. So, she hired a handstand coach. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but evidently this is an actual thing that exists. In the very first lesson,
the coach gave her some wonderful advice. “Most people,” he said, “think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks. The reality is that it takes about six months of daily practice. If you think you should be able to do it in two weeks, you’re just going to end up quitting.” Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well.

핵심은 most people think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks. The reality is that it takes about six months of daily practice. If you think you should be able to do it in two weeks. You’re just going to end up quiting. Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. 라는 것.

목표를 추구함에 있어서 가져야 할 장기 관점에 대한 역설.

이와 함께 아마존에서 이뤄지는 six-pages 아침 회의에 대한 글도 인상적.

-Six-Page Narratives
We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of “study hall.” Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the
spectrum. In the handstand example, it’s pretty straightforward to recognize high standards. It wouldn’t be difficult to lay out in detail the requirements of a well-executed handstand, and then you’re either doing it or you’re not. The writing example is very different. The difference between a great memo and an average one is much squishier. It would be extremely hard to write down the detailed requirements that make up a great memo. Nevertheless, I
find that much of the time, readers react to great memos very similarly. They know it when they see it. The standard is there, and it is real, even if it’s not easily describable. Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more! They’re
trying to perfect a handstand in just two weeks, and we’re not coaching them right. The great memos are written and re-written, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind. They simply can’t be done in a day or two. The key point here is that you can improve results through the simple act of teaching scope – that a great memo probably should take a week or more.

원하는 수준의 결과를 얻기 위해서는 how much it takes 를 이해하는 게 핵심이라는 것. 나는 1)내가 원하는 것이 어떤 모습인지와 2)그것을 얻기 위해서 어느 정도의 devotion 이 필요한지 알고 있는가.

추가로 high standards 에 관한 네 가지 implication을 공유하고 있는데,

So the four elements of high standards as we see it: they are teachable, they are domain specific, you must recognize them, and you must explicitly coach realistic scope. For us, these work at all levels of detail. Everything from writing memos to whole new, clean-sheet business initiatives. We hope they help you too.

의역/요약하면, high standards 는 1) 타고나는 게 아니라 교육 가능하며 2) 전 분야에 공통된다기 보다는, 특정 분야에 국한되는 것이기에 겸손해야하고, 항상 배워야하며, 나보다 뛰어난 타인에게 항상 open minded여야하고, 3) 정확히 어떤 형태를 갖고 있는지를 알아야하며 4) what it takes to achieve를 현실적으로 이해해야한다는 것.

이번 letter 와 함께 1997년 첫 shareholder letter도 첨부되어 있는데, 멋있다. 1997년이면, 우리나라는 외환위기에 시달리기 시작할 떄인데 이미 주주자본주의가 완벽하게 진행되고 있는 듯한 모습.

첫 주주서한부터 베조스는 장기적인 관점에 대해 역설. 인상적이다.

It’s All About the Long Term
We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the longterm. This value will be a direct result of our ability to extend and solidify our current market leadership position. The stronger our market leadership, the more powerful our economic model. Market leadership can translate directly to higher revenue, higher profitability, greater capital velocity, and correspondingly stronger returns on invested capital.

성장하는 이커머스 시장 속 시장 우위를 장기적인 관점에서 얻고자 했고, 결국 시장 지위가 매출,이익, greater capital velocity로 연결되며 결국 stronger returns on invested capital 로 귀결된다고 생각.

We have invested and will continue to invest aggressively to expand and leverage our customer base, brand, and infrastructure as we move to establish an enduring franchise.

그러기 위해서 invest aggressively 할 거라는 내용인데, 실로 이십년간 그랬다.

Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies. Accordingly, we want to share with you our fundamental management and decision-making approach so that you, our shareholders, may confirm that it is consistent with your investment philosophy:

이러한 장기적인 목표 하에서 일부 회사들과는 다르게 전략적 판단을 내릴 것이라는 내용.

다음은 투자 철학에 대한 내용인데, 밑줄 부분은 정말 핵심.
• We will continue to focus relentlessly on our customers.
• We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term market leadership considerations rather than short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions.
• We will continue to measure our programs and the effectiveness of our investments analytically, to jettison those that do not provide acceptable returns, and to step up our investment in those that work best. We will continue to learn from both our successes and our failures. 

We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages. Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.

When forced to choose between optimizing the appearance of our GAAP accounting and maximizing the present value of future cash flows, we’ll take the cash flows.
• We will share our strategic thought processes with you when we make bold choices (to the extent competitive pressures allow), so that you may evaluate for yourselves whether we are making rational long-term leadership investments.
• We will work hard to spend wisely and maintain our lean culture. We understand the importance of continually reinforcing a cost-conscious culture, particularly in a business incurring net losses.
• We will balance our focus on growth with emphasis on long-term profitability and capital management. At this stage, we choose to prioritize growth because we believe that scale is central to achieving the potential of our business model.
• We will continue to focus on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees, and continue to weight their compensation to stock options rather than cash. We know our success will be largely affected by our ability to attract and retain a motivated employee base, each of whom must think like, and therefore must actually be, an owner. We aren’t so bold as to claim that the above is the “right” investment philosophy, but it’s ours, and we would be remiss if we weren’t clear in the approach we have taken and will continue to take.

핵심만 요약하면,

1) 시장 우위를 점할 수 있는 곳에 대해서는 과감한 투자를 할 것이며, 성공뿐만 아니라 실패를 통해서도 배울 것이다.

2) 우리 비지니스 모델의 핵심은 규모의 경제를 달성하는 것에 있기에 성장과 장기적 자본 배분에 집중할 것이다.

3) 인재들에게 현금보다는 stock option으로 보상한다. 우리의 성공의 키는 motivated 인재를 회사에 머무르게 하고 끌어 모으는 것에 있기 때문이다. 우리는 직원이 must think like, and therefore must actually be, an owner 해야한다고 생각한다.

마지막으로. We aren’t so bold as to claim that the above is the “right” investment philosophym but it’s ours, and we would be remiss if we weren’t clear in the apporoach we have taken and will continue to take.

From Day 1 부터 자신들이 뭘 하는지, 뭘 얻고자 하는지, 얻기 위해서는 뭘 어떻게 해야하는지를 정확히 알고 있었고, 그 철학을 지켜온 게 아마존 성공의 키인 듯.

그냥 쩐다.