Lessons from Amazon: How working at the tech giant helped this founder shape his new company

Perfect Loop co-founders Greg Rutty, Joseph Shao, and Anupam Khulbe. (Photo via Perfect Loop)

Amazon DNA flows deeply within Perfect Loop.

The Seattle startup, which helps match job candidates with employers, was founded in 2016 by three co-founders who have a combined 15 years of experience working at Amazon as product managers, machine learning experts, and business operators.

Perfect Loop uses a candidate sourcing and screening strategy fueled by technology that helps differentiates itself from other hiring platforms. The startup has bootstrapped its way to profitability.

Greg Rutty, the company’s CEO, worked at Amazon from 2010 to 2014, starting as a book merchandiser and working his way up to a product manager for Kindle. Along the way, he picked up numerous lessons that helped craft his leadership philosophy at Perfect Loop.

“When I first started and saw how deeply the company’s operations were rooted in the leadership principles, I vividly remember thinking, ‘I’ve found my place,'” Rutty recalled. “That’s because, for me, the leadership principles felt so natural and obvious.”

Rutty shared four lessons from Amazon that he and his co-founders, Joseph Shao and Anupam Khulbe, have applied in the early days at Perfect Loop. Read on for Rutty’s thoughts:


Rutty: “One of the first things I observed at Amazon was how seriously the company took hiring. Jeff Bezos’ quote that he would ‘rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person’ gives you an idea of his hiring bar. If he’s willing to invest 50 hours to avoid a hiring mistake, it tells you just how important he thinks hiring the right person is. Seeing that hiring was core to the Amazon machine. I learned about and participated in the interview process as much as I could, eventually becoming an Amazon Bar Raiser.

As I was helping teams across Amazon evaluate job candidates, I began to see some of the root problems that make hiring so messy. The more I thought about it, the more incredible it seemed that something so critical to a society’s health — jobs and employment — was so … inefficient. And as a result of this inefficiency, hiring remains costly and painful for everyone involved. As I started to deep dive these problems, I began to see a very large opportunity that wasn’t being addressed.

The other thing I learned about hiring is that when you get it right, a small team of the right people for the job can accomplish much more than larger teams that aren’t well formed. This is something we help clients with but it also applies directly to how we think about building our own team at Perfect Loop.”

Starting with the customer

Rutty: “Most companies, especially these days, acknowledge that you need to focus on your customers in order to succeed. What I learned at Amazon was how to operationalize this. For instance, most people take starting with the customer to mean you go and ask your customers what they want and then you build it. This is true to some degree, but what is often missed is that unless you build robust feedback loops between you and your customers, it’s very easy to become disconnected from reality in the product process. And even worse, if you’re not measuring the right things, you likely won’t know about this disconnect until it’s too late.

In Jeff’s first letter to shareholders he gets at this point when he talks about how Amazon measures itself (It’s All About the Long Term). We’ve applied the same thinking to not just how we build technology but also how we measure our success as a company.”

(GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Free Cash Flow

Rutty: “At Amazon there’s a phone tool that lets you explore the organizational structure of the company. On each person’s page there’s a ID photo, contact info, and ‘badges’ the person has earned. Some are silly, others were rare and difficult to earn. I noticed that most of the executives and Jeff had two badges in common: Bar Raiser and Free Cash Flow.

I’d already become interested in Bar Raising and the hiring process, but I had no idea what Free Cash Flow was about (embarrassing, I know). So I began to read everything I could — internally and externally — to understand Amazon’s economic model. This deep dive led me to understand how Amazon’s cash flow machine worked and how the big idea combined with sound first principles guided the company’s investment of that cash into a virtuous cycle. This was exactly the business education I was looking for when I left publishing.”

Applied science

Rutty: “At its core, Amazon is like a lab where a lot of smart people run experiments and try new things in order to improve the customer experience (the North Star). Amazon applies science and technology to solving customer problems, but they never make it about the tech. Very early on, Jeff had a focus on what customers cared about: price, selection, convenience. Amazon never promoted itself as, ‘The most high-tech bookstore ever!’ Instead, Amazon focused on being the bookstore with the most selection and lowest prices. They did this with high cutting-edge tech, often years ahead of the competition. But always in the service of customers.”

Source: GeekWire Startup

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