“Excitement at the opportunity is what keeps me awake at night.”
After years spent working across a variety of industries from Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), to Financial Services, consumer marketing, and product management, Richard joined Amazon in 2015 to become a Category Director working on a range of Hardlines categories. Most recently, he was Director of Seller Services for Amazon.co.uk. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge as leader of our Turkish team, which now includes more than 250 employees and continues to grow.
When describing his new role, Richard says, “Excitement at the opportunity is what keeps me awake at night. Excitement that although we have already launched amazon.com.tr, although we have increasing number of customers every week, although they like our range of products, our competitive prices and how we deliver, there are so many opportunities to make it better. ”
In this interview, he talks about his journey at Amazon, his role in Turkey, the importance of Leadership Principles, and his hiring philosophy.
Can you tell me a bit about your career at Amazon?
I joined Amazon four and a half years ago. I started as a Category Director in Hardlines in the UK, leading the Office products, and Home and Kitchen categories. Then after 2.5 years, I had the opportunity to move to run UK Seller Services and lead a very exciting young team who worked to help recruit sellers and make them more successful. Helping sellers build their businesses is a genuine win/win, which is inspiring and motivating. After a year in that role, I was offered the opportunity to lead Amazon Turkey and to bring the best of Amazon to Turkish customers and I’m very excited by this new challenge.
What is one thing you do every week to stay focused on customer needs?
It depends on where I am. In the seller service business, I used to try and meet a seller every week. Throughout my career, I have listened to what people are saying when I am on public transport or talking to a taxi driver. It is great to get direct feedback from customers. I’m always looking for customers complaints and ask neighbours what we can do better. I also keep an eye on social media, which is a great way of finding out the specific problems customers have, because that helps us to continually improve their experience. Here in Turkey I ask everyone I meet how we can get better.
How do you use the Leadership Principles in your daily work?
For me the two key Leadership Principles are Think Big and Hire and Develop the Best. I have a vision of being in Turkey after I retire, in many years’ time, and listening to people tell me how Amazon has made a difference to their lives, making shopping easier or supporting their creativity as entrepreneurs as Amazon currently does in the U.S, UK, and around the world. I’m thinking 20 years out to the legacy we are trying to create, and I’m hiring and seeking to develop people not only to deliver what we have to deliver next week or next month but to Think Big and create over multiple years. I’m looking at building a culture which is very Amazonian. I think the Turkish customer is already learning to love our focus on making their experience great.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have worked on and led lots of different challenging projects with different people, and whether over weeks, months, or years, each has been great. At Amazon the reward for solving a problem is to be given a bigger one. It’s very motivating. I’ve solved lots of problems at Amazon, and I’ve been given new ones which constantly challenge me. But actually my single biggest achievement is the lifelong challenge to be a great Dad for my three sons who are fourteen, twelve, and nine, and raise them to be good men. So far so good, but it is still work in progress.
You've recently taken a new role as Country Manager for Amazon.com.tr and moved to our Istanbul office. What keeps you awake at night in this new role?
My family and I are so excited to have the opportunity to live in Turkey. We have had summer holidays there regularly for the last decade and we feel it is our “happy place”, so much so that we recently bought a house in Bodrum in southern Turkey. I am also enjoying the challenge of learning Turkish, Türkçe biraz zor bir dil (Turkish language is a bit difficult) and I get a thrill when I can do something simple like order food in a café in Turkish. People are very kind and tolerant of my mistakes and terrible pronunciation.
Whilst the role and moving to Turkey is full of challenges, it is excitement at the opportunity that keeps me awake at night. Excitement that although we have already launched amazon.com.tr, although we are increasing the number of customers every week, although they like the range of products we offer, our competitive prices and how we deliver, there are so many opportunities to make it better. We launch and then we continuously improve, that is the Amazon way. I am excited about all the projects we have lined up for the next couple of years that will improve the Turkish customer experience.
Tell us about your hiring philosophy. What makes a great Amazonian?
We have 14 Leadership Principles (LPs) and we look for people who improve the quality of our team through these LPs. But typically, the difference between an Amazonian and somebody who’s great but who won’t succeed at Amazon, is the desire to be very humble, very data driven, and very open to challenge. There is a very high level of challenge within Amazon. We challenge each other constantly to get the right answer for the business and the customer. There is also a willingness to tolerate very high levels of ambiguity. It’s the job of Amazonians to be leaders and invent solutions to give the customer a great experience.
What is an example of a piece of advice you have received and what is an example of a piece of advice you have delivered to others?
A nice piece of advice I’ve got about Amazon is somebody who told me the power of the 3Ps. She said to me: “There is nothing you can’t achieve if you are positive, persistent, and patient.” And I have come to see that is true, inside and outside of Amazon as well. I think Amazon in particular rewards people who pick a customer vision and work hard over time to bring that to life. Jeff Bezos said “we like our problems because they are hard.” And hard problems yield big impact and aren’t solved quickly, so you need to be patient, persistent, and positive – with that attitude you can achieve incredible things.
What advice would you give to young professionals just starting their career?
Building a career is about building a set of experiences and a set of skills. And your focus should be all about what you are learning and what you are delivering. The more you learn and deliver the more fun you’ll have in your career. Actually, it doesn’t matter which direction your career goes. Each job should offer enjoyable challenge and open up other opportunities – what you’ve achieved in a job and how you’ve done it will open doors, and take you somewhere else. This will lead you to a wonderful career.
I would encourage people to be confident to succeed in their own way. I worked for and with many impressive people in the team who taught me a lot. I think it’s important that you be successful in your own way and not try to model yourself to be some kind of a standard person but find your own natural strengths, which will lead you to have great opportunities and career.
First thing you bought on Amazon?
I remember it was a book back in 1999 when I started to buy them on Amazon. Now I buy almost everything!
Here in Turkey my family buys on amazon.com.tr regularly: books, skipping ropes, electronics, and all sort of daily needs. It is the most convenient way to buy everything we need for the family.