Since its inception, Amazon.com has been the Jeff Bezos show. The founder and CEO has directed the company for long-term expansion and market dominance, with a seemingly never-ending series of new businesses, whether selling everything under the sun, creating its own line of mobile devices, or providing cloud computing services. Even as investors and analysts grumbled, Bezos pulled a Frank Sinatra and did things his way.
And there's little doubt that the result had been good. The stock price from 2008 through nearly the end of 2014 was, on the whole, up. But at the end, it dropped. Shares fell 22 percent after shareholders got tired of money being poured into gadget development and expansion of warehouses. Wall Street wanted to see profits--an upside that would drive shares upward and offer a rationale for the massive amount of investing.
And Bezos has been learning a hard lesson. You may be the brightest guy in the room, or think you are, but the people who cut the checks and own the shares get to call the tune. Suddenly, Bezos is meeting with investors on the east coast--something he hardly bothered with before--and releasing a few details, at least, about its cloud services business, as the Wall Street Journal reported. In the past, the business line was tossed into an "other" category in the financials, making it impossible for investors to really know how much was being put into cloud services and, importantly, how much profit they contributed.
The stock is up 20 percent since the beginning of the year, so the steps Bezos is taking may be working. But the position is tenuous because, for such a long time, He arguably ignored investors, essentially telling them to be quiet and stay out of the way. But Bezos is not in the same position as Larry Page and Sergey Brin are at Google, or as Mark Zuckerberg is at Facebook. Bezos does not have a controlling voting interest in the company as they and a few other tech entrepreneurs engineered. In short, should enough big investors get sufficiently irritated at the thought that they're being ignored and any potential return wasted on speculative projects, they could potentially vote him out of leading the company.
Working with investors can be a difficult activity, particularly when they take a significant equity position. Suddenly, the business may be theirs and you find yourself answering to them. Managing those relationships means including them in your strategy. Even if they don't hold a majority stake, you have legal and ethical responsibilities toward them. And if they do and the business doesn't meet expectations, you could suddenly find yourself like tech news and analysis media company Gigaom, which was shut down just weeks ago.