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What Do Ford and Amazon Have in Common (and What Can You Learn from Them)?

What Do Ford and Amazon Have in Common (and What Can You Learn from Them)?

Josh Linkner is on a mission to make the world more creative. Named the “Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year” and as a “President Barack Obama Champion of Change” award recipient, Linkner both inspires and entertains: in speeches and workshops alike, he provides powerful and practical techniques to jumpstart creativity, getting people thinking out of the box in business and at home. In this column below, Josh looks at what two captains of industry — Amazon and Ford — can teach you about your business:

While both are giants in their respective industries, Ford and Amazon are very different on the surface.  One was the bellwether of the industrial era, while the other helped ring in the digital age over 90 years later.  The automaker conjures up scenes of three-piece suits, while the tech firm evokes images of jeans and T-shirts. Midwest conservative versus West Coast progressive.  Building things compared to selling other peoples’ stuff.

Yet surprisingly, these two distant companies are more similar than meets the eye.  Both are leading in their field, both are enjoying record growth and profits, and both continue to innovate at a breathtaking pace.  These two industry titans also share some common strategies.  While their tactics manifest differently in the marketplace, both subscribe to three similar philosophies that drive meaningful and sustainable success:

1. Always expand their role in customers’ lives. Amazon is an e-tailer while Ford makes cars.  Yet both companies continue to expand their worldview as it relates to serving customer needs.  Amazon, for example, recently launched the Amazon Dash Button, a simple device that connects to your home wifi, allowing you to re-order common items (detergent, garbage bags, pet food, etc.) with the single touch of a stick-on button. In Detroit, Ford is launchingMyFordPass – a mobile app platform that helps customers with all things mobility – from finding a parking space to monitoring safety indicators.  Both companies continuously rethink the role they play in their customers’ lives, pushing the boundaries and running far outside conventional industry norms.

2. Realization: We’re all in the technology business. Ford doesn’t just make cars. They deliver mobility solutions using the latest technology including ride sharing, autonomous vehicles, and alternative energy propulsion.  Amazon doesn’t just sell books.  Rather, they enable digital business in numerous ways – from drone deliveries to voice-command intelligent home systems to hosting other tech companies’ software in the cloud.  If you really think about it, nearly every business is now in the technology field.  From artists and musicians to financial planners and architects, embracing new technologies allow us to soar.

3. Less sizzle, more Substance. Amazon doesn’t run flashy or boastful ads.  Ford is…well… “Built Ford Tough.”  Too often, companies polish their veneer in the form of fancy marketing or slogans but fail to consistently deliver the basics for their customers.  Both Ford and Amazon let their quality and service do the talking, which yields long-term customer delight instead of short-term wins paired with buyer remorse like so many of their competitors.

In your field, you can apply the same ‘triple threat’ approach to driving growth, profits, and achievement.  If these strategies can drive results for two seemingly unrelated companies, think what they can do for you.  Borrow these philosophies, and pretty soon your doctor’s office, community bank, bagel shop, software startup, or hair salon will be compared to captains of industry.  The other thing you’ll have in common: jaw-dropping success.
Josh Linkner/January, 2016