- Amazon turned 25 on Friday and the first job ad ever posted by Jeff Bezos tells you everything you need to know about his obsession with speed.
- He wrote that he was looking for someone who could perform tasks "in about one-third the time that most competent people think possible."
- Amazon's need for speed manifests itself in everything from its ambition to launch rapid drone deliveries, to setting tough productivity targets for warehouse workers.
Amazon's motto may be "customer obsession," but it has another infatuation — speed.
Amazon's brand identity has long rested on the promise of getting parcels to customers as quickly as possible. Last month, the company announced that its Prime service was offering one-day shipping on more than 10 million products.
Looking to the future, Amazon's starting to hype getting people their packages even quicker using drones. The Amazon Air drone programme has yet to launch, but Amazon's CEO of worldwide consumer Jeff Wilke said in June that the drones are going to start making deliveries in the next few months, and will apparently be able to do so within 30 minutes of receiving an order.
Acceleration is a logical progression for a company whose guiding light has always been speed for the sake of customer convenience — and this philosophy was on show in one of Jeff Bezos' first pieces of public communication after setting up Amazon 25 years ago.
Amazon's first ever job ad, posted in August 1994, is for a computer programmer who Bezos says should be able to build and maintain complex systems "in about one-third the time that most competent people think possible."
Doing things faster and better than other companies has turned Amazon into one of the most powerful firms in the world and made Bezos the richest man on the planet. It's an ethos that drives him on, because the alternative is death, as the CEO has made clear on numerous occasions.
But there is a human element to this story, which gives Bezos' remark in that early job ad a darker sheen. Numerous reports on Amazon's working conditions have described the intense pressure employees face to stay on rate, the company term for the number of items they're expected to process per hour.
This has manifested itself in stories about warehouse workers and delivery drivers skipping meals and bathroom breaks just to stay on target. One driver reported finding bottles of urine inside delivery vans, echoing a report from inside a UK warehouse where an undercover reporter similarly found a bottle of urine.
Amazon has said it is proud of its "great working conditions, wages and benefits, and career opportunities," even going into battle with "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver last week. Oliver said on his HBO show that Amazon "squeezes the people lowest on the ladder." Amazon's senior vice president of operations Dave Clark tweeted that the British comedian was wrong.
Whatever your view on the human impact of Amazon's need for speed, its relentless culture is set from the very top — and it was unambiguous right from the company's inception a quarter of a century ago.