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Amazon is a behemoth in the retail marketplace. Continually evolving and getting more precise. And people love it, too. Nearly half of all American citizens have a Prime account. We're willing to wait the two extra days for the convenience of not having to get off the couch and turn off the next episode of Jack Ryan. We love it.
The market has changed so rapidly because of Amazon. In the early 2000's you would have opted for the in-store experience over ordering online, but through time and fantastic service, they have changed the consumer mindset.
So what does all of this have to do with construction? Turns out, quite a bit.
Perfection was not the name of the game for Amazon in the beginning; the goal was to start something they knew would change the way the world purchased goods.
Tyler: Welcome to the Construction Brothers Podcast. I'm your host, Tyler Campbell, and with me like he is every week: My brother, Eddie Campbell.
Eddie: Hello, Tyler.
Tyler: Hello, Eddie. Well, this week: What can builders learn from Amazon?
Tyler: So Eddie, you've gotten to talk about your blog posts in a couple of episodes so far, and I wanted to talk about one of mine this week.
Eddie: Yeah, the Amazon method.
Tyler: The Amazon method. So I was listening to a podcast that kinda sparked this idea in my head. It was called “Business Wars,” and it's Amazon versus Walmart.
Tyler: ln this show, basically, it's kind of a—it's a little bit cheesy because, you know, the guy does voices and stuff for like Jeff Bezos and like Amazon execs and Walmart execs, it's kind of cheesy in that way, but—
Eddie: Like he voice acts them?
Tyler: He voice acts them.
Eddie: What does Jeff Bezos sound like?
Tyler: (changes voice) He kind of sounds like this. (Normal voice) Well, basically in this show, he's talking about the progression of Amazon and how Walmart started to react to them as they were growing up. But one of the sequences that really just piqued my interest was he was talking about Amazon's first Christmas season, and how they didn't have the infrastructure to be able to ship everything that they were selling. So they had everybody from Jeff all the way down to the marketers and the coders, everybody in Amazon, they were all lined up and they were packing boxes to make sure that they had all of their orders fulfilled. That just kind of made me chuckle a little bit.
Eddie: Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but they don't do it that way anymore.
Tyler: They don't do it anymore, and I'm going to get to that. I'm going to get to that, but you know, this is how Amazon started, right? They had people packing boxes for them and doing this stuff. And now, like you said, everything's a little bit different. So the question that I'm asking is, why did Amazon get permission to struggle, but we don't give ourselves permission to struggle in the same way?
Eddie: Interestingly enough, and I don't think that you did this on purpose, but I saw something the other day that said it was like the 25th birthday of Amazon. So this is kind of landing after 25 years of Amazon developing as a company.
Tyler: Very interesting. All right. That happened by chance.
Eddie: It was just dumb luck, right? And so, I saw the website in its early form, and it was cool. I'm sitting there looking at it, and I'm like, “Hey, kids, check it out!” And they're like, “Whoa, nuh-uh,” ‘cause it’s very early website design, and you know, just what you would think of something back in that era on the web. They've been through a lot. Amazon wasn't even, well, 15 years ago, what Amazon is today.
Tyler: No, not at all. Yeah, back when I started using it, it didn't even look anything like— I don't think Prime existed not too long ago, you know? And it's so integrated into our culture now, like you say, “Oh yeah, I'll just get it two-day shipped from Prime.” Like that's just part of our thinking nowadays. It's so shocking to see how much they've integrated into our culture. Especially here in the U.S. I'm not sure what it's like for everybody else, either overseas or in Canada, but I would assume it's probably pretty dang close.
Eddie: You're arguing that they might've had their struggles, too, and that we shouldn't feel like this should be smooth sailing from day one for us.
Tyler: Uh, yeah. I am guilty of this, and this is the reason that it struck a chord. I feel like I have to have all of my ducks in a row before starting a project. Perfect example of this is Barbie's episode that I just worked on. I felt like I had to have this microphone before I could start. I had to make sure that I had this software or this thing or that thing, and I would drown myself in research, and I should have just started it. I should have just got going, got on the horse and started to ride.
Eddie: We had somebody come in and kind of talk about that a little bit on our podcast, interestingly enough.
Tyler: Didn't we though? And that's the reason Charlie coming in, Charlie Gilkey came in and started talking about head trash and thrashing. Man, that hit me at a perfect time. Because I needed that kick in the butt to say, all right, you know, it doesn't need to be perfect. Just start. Start. You know, it's gonna work itself out, and focus on the story because that's the one thing that you can really, really control.
Eddie: Funny too, how this was a long edit for you. You busted it on this thing for months. And when I listened to kind of like the first rough edit, it was amazing to me how much personal growth was displayed from one end of the episode to the other where— I mean, guys, it's 50 minutes.
Tyler: Yeah, it's going to happen.
Eddie: But in that 50 minutes, there was a pronounced difference in the first edit between like the first 20 and the last 30. Because of development.
Tyler: Yeah, and kind of my philosophy as I was editing it, it changed. And that's what I'm arguing, is that if Amazon gets this opportunity to flail a little bit and figure stuff out, that we need to cut ourselves the same slack. You know, whenever you start something, it's not going to be pretty. It's just not, but it's part of learning. So just give yourself that grace, you know, go out and start it, try it out.
Eddie: You know, what's painful, let's say as a business owner, but as anybody who's in charge of anything, it's painful to have somebody come and pick your processes. It's painful for somebody to come in and say, “Hey, why do you do this this way?” Because you want to buck that. You want to be like, ”Well, we've developed this system and it's working for us.” Like, you don't want that feedback. We say we want feedback. We say we want people to challenge us.
Tyler: We don't, though.
Eddie: But we really, it's hard, man. We might even actually mean it. But in the moment it's hard. It's hard to get challenged, especially when you worked hard on something. And that is where growth comes from.
Tyler: It's funny, too, because that even happened last week. You know, like you went through and you did some picking on the episode and you're saying, “Hey, why did you do this? Hey, why'd you do that? Hey, why is this here?” And me, I could feel like, was it my hackles? Is that what dogs have? Like when their hair goes up on their back or whatever, it's like their hackles start standing up?
Eddie: I don't know. It may be hackles. I gotta Google.
Tyler: So yeah. Let's Google that really quick, but I'm pretty sure it's hackles…
Eddie: Hackles up. There you go. You went hackles up.
Tyler: I went hackles up like a dog when it gets mad, and you know, I had to step back and away and process and be like, okay, well here's the thing though, is that I asked for that. And now I'm getting, not even offended, but just kind of like “ugh” about it, you know? And I'm getting frustrated and like, I got to go back and change this. I gotta do that. You know, it's, it's hard to hear that criticism, but it's gonna happen. It just is.
Eddie: Well, it's hard within your organization to have newer people come in and say, “Why do you do it that way?” And it's unfortunate, too, for young people. Maybe they know about tools. Maybe they've been through, they've just been through college. They've just been through an apprenticeship. They've just been through some other company and now they come in and they go, “Why?” And they ask that question, and then you bristle and you miss an opportunity for growth.
Tyler: Yeah. Perfect tie-in for this, in “Business Wars,” they talk also about really struggling with the logistics part of Amazon. Jeff finally reached out to somebody at Walmart and brought in their top guy, paid him a bunch of money and got him to come over. Completely reimagined how they ship things. And they talk about him coming in and just looking around the Amazon facility and just be like, “Yeah, what you got here is trash, and I'm going to need a lot of money and a lot of time to make this work, but we can make it work.”
Eddie: I bet Jeff got his hackles up.
Tyler: I'm sure he got his hackles up, too. You know, it's funny, like he's not even immune to it and the dude's a billionaire. Amazon had a big task to get to where they're at today. But now when we talked to Donnie, Donnie Williams, we got him on the phone and we're chatting a little bit, and he had mentioned Kiva robotics being implemented into the Amazon warehouse. So I'm waiting the other day. And I say the other day—about a month ago, whenever we were doing our final edits on Donnie's episode. I'm waiting on Austin, our editor, and so I just started doing some research. I'm like, I'm wondering what this Kiva robotics thing is. Now Amazon bought out Kiva, so it's now Amazon robotics. But they brought in these small little robots that will roll around autonomously on the floor, go up underneath shelves and then pick them up and then move them over to a person, an actual person that will pick the merchandise off of the shelf and put it in a package, put the shipping label on it and put it on a conveyor belt so it can get sent out. And I was just blown away by how advanced this stuff is now. I'm like, they thought through, “I don't want people walking over. That's a waste of time. Why can't I bring the shelves to the people?” And some of the innovations that they've done are just incredible, but it took 25 years for them to get to that point. But it's 25 years of pressure, 25 years of trying to push the snowball up the mountain until they finally got to the top and it started picking up snow by itself and getting bigger and self-sustaining. It took so much time for them to do that. Often, I feel like we get so caught up trying to do the thing that we could get done at the 25 year mark right now, and in reality, we just need to pick the low hanging fruit and just start.
Eddie: Yeah. And kind of echoing that argument: It's a whole lot easier to move like one degree per day for 600 days than to move 600 degrees in a day. I use degrees as any degree of measure you have. You’re gonna move an inch, you're gonna move a yard, you're gonna move, you know, whatever it is. You're gonna move system to system. You're going to change the way you process an RFI. You're going to change the way you put a block wall together. You're going to change how you buy something. You're going to change how you manage a thing. You're going to change how your team relates to one another. It's easier to make slow, calculated steps again and again, day after day, over the long haul toward a thing to get those 600 steps then to try to commit to taking all 600 steps today.
Tyler: Oh yeah. That's not going to last, you're going to burn out.
Eddie: Let's face it, that's dieting. That’s, come on. Anything we do, we are better off establishing a new way of doing things, and making that just such an integral part of who we are and how we do it than to just try to yank that steering wheel and just say, “All right, everybody, we're going this way. We're doing a new way.” It's funny, you know, we talk about decision makers in business, and even like the higher ups, the CEOs we think, “Oh, they can just dictate anything to shove it down on everybody.” Not really. Those people have to think about how the people under them will react. We have to change by degrees. We'll never do it if we're like, we want all of it in order to get started, as what you're saying.
Tyler: Exactly. And you don't need it. You just don't. In Atomic Habits, he talked about going 1% better every day, and how over the span of a year, if you think about that, if you get 1% better every day in the gym or running or anything like that, can you imagine how far you would be in the span of a year? You would be doing amazing things if you just focused on that 1%. But that 1% is not that much. It's really not much day to day.
Eddie: We go back to this analogy from Shawshank Redemption a lot around here. At the end of the movie, when the main character Andy Dufresne has taken a gem hammer and etched his way through this thick masonry wall over the course of years and years. And the hammer’s down to the nub, and Red, his friend, talks about how it was just time and pressure. And so we talk about that around here, time and pressure. Another one is having a long obedience in the same direction, which is focusing on a thing from way back here and actually continuing to refocus your goals towards that end, by means possible for 25 years. That's how you make it. That's the Cathedral effort, y’all.
Tyler: Yeah. Obviously, you and I love running. Like that's one of our shared passions is running. How can this tie in to running a marathon? How did you train for running a marathon?
Eddie: Little by little. I didn't try to go out and run a marathon the first day, fail, try to run a marathon the second day, fail, try to run a marathon the third day, fail. I had a training plan that ratcheted me up to a place where I wasn't running 14 miles at the beginning. I had only run 13.1. Half a marathon. I had only run that half. I had to ratchet up. I had never gone beyond that. I needed something by degrees to ratchet me up to that point. So yeah, it was a week by week thing that took months. And you read stories about people just like, “Hey, I decided to run a marathon. I went out and did it.” And they’re super in shape. That was not me.
Tyler: That's not most people, too. You know, like some people are gonna have a jump start on it. You know, like if you're a really good runner and your 5k times are incredible, you can get a marathon done probably in your sleep. You know, like if you, if you're running 14 minute 5Ks or something like that, you could probably hit a marathon pretty easily.
Eddie: Yeah, you got to slow your pace down, make your applications and go. But if you're not accustomed to doing that— Some of these programs like Couch to 5K and things like that. I feel like a new one that you've found, Noom, is that way. It's trying to march you through degrees of change that make sense and are sustainable.
Tyler: Great example is Noom. Full disclosure, I feel like I've kind of battled my weight for a while and just kind of like, I want to stay healthy long term. I've tried the dieting and all the other stuff over time, and you know, the yoyo effect happens. And I've been really excited by Noom lately because it really is just that, “We're going to teach you just how to eat, how to eat right, how to eat well, what you're screwing yourself on.” You know, like I would go out and grab like three handfuls of almonds, like roasted almonds. I love roasted almonds and I just eat those jokers, but I didn't realize how many calories almonds had in them. I just, I guess I processed it, but I didn't fully realize it. So small changes like that are helping and, you know, I’ve lost some weight as a result of it and I'm feeling really good. You know, there are many, many tie-ins that we can make with exercising or with eating right and everything, but—
Eddie: It’s the tortoise and the hare. There really are a billion ways of describing this. But what you're advocating for through your article is start, and then you achieve great change by time and continuing with these small changes over a long period of time.
Tyler: Well, I’m seeing people get crippled. They have this anxiety around starting something, like it has to be this grand launch and then every loose end has to be tied up and X, Y, Z. It's really keeping people from chasing down amazing ideas instead of just forming a plan like we would with a marathon, like we would with a diet plan, like we would with a budget. Dave Ramsey talks about this all the time, you know, get a budget in order, that way when you're 65, you can be a freaking millionaire because time and pressure will affect you. It's not going to happen overnight. And we put this pressure on ourselves as business owners, as leaders, as project managers, architects, engineers, you name it, interns, that everything has to be perfect. It doesn't. What you have to have is an open mind in saying, I respect the feedback that I'm given, and respect the growth process. You know, respect the people that are in the middle of that growth process, too, older generation that are teaching. Like we had talked about a couple of weeks ago, you know, respect us in that learning process. Don't try to tell us everything. Sometimes we've got to burn our fingers on the oven in order to learn something, you know?
Eddie: It can't happen. And it's, it is a thin line because I want you to be able to make mistakes, but I don't want those mistakes to be so costly and discouraging that you lose heart as a young person. So that, for me, with the people that we train, is the line. I need to check you, I need to go behind you. And I have a responsibility that in good faith, I need to be that kind of like a safety net for you for a while. All the while, I do know that if I just keep shoving you down and shoving you down, but preaching innovation. Shoving you down, shoving you down, saying, “feed back.” Shoving you down, shoving you down and saying, “I really want you to be a part of this team and take leadership.” What am I really giving you to go on? Nothing. I'm just frustrating you, which means I also need to grant you a level of autonomy. I need to grant you a level of decision-making ability. I need to allow you to do wrong every once in a while. I have to put that risk out there that you would make a decision and then not always have Monday morning quarterback rights to just say, “Well, I wouldn't have done it that way.” Rather saying, “Why did you do it that way? What have you learned?”
Tyler: Yeah. Was it a lack of understanding of a system or, you know, what was it? Kind of steering the conversation into something else, too, and something that I've experienced a lot is staring at other people's successes. You know, seeing somebody who's out there absolutely killing it. And this is easy to do in the building industry a lot, is you see your friend or you see, you know, we'll call it a “rival company” or something like that, doing a thing that you really wish that your company could have done. And the head trash that comes with that, you know, like you're telling yourself that maybe I'm not good enough for it. Or maybe it's the reverse of that of, “Oh, they suck, I need to be the one to do it.” You know? They shouldn't have gotten that, they’re horrible. They don't deserve it, yet I do.
Eddie: And yet, they got it and that's life.
Tyler: Yeah. You win, you lose. Welcome to life. This is just part of the process. And I mean, that's something that I've realized through even the podcast, too, is that you get so wrapped up in the numbers. You get so wrapped up in the numbers of like, how's this week performing? How's this week performing? Are we growing? Are we not? What's wrong? What about Instagram? Is it growing? I'm really trying to reframe. And it's hard, it's hard. And I'm still learning this. I'm really trying to reframe and say, you know, I'm just going to focus on encouraging the people around me. I'm going to just focus on that. I'm going to try to focus on the content that I'm putting out and talking about what I'm passionate about, what you're passionate about. And the rest really doesn't matter all that much.
Eddie: It's a matter of motivation, isn't it? What's motivating you?
Tyler: Yeah. Is it the recognition? And in a lot of cases I feel like I get caught up in that trap. You know, just, I want people to recognize me. I want them to say, “Oh yeah, Tyler does a great—“ You know, I need to just shut up, put my head down and work. Full disclosure. I struggle with that. I really do. It's hard.
Eddie: The core motivations—if your core motivation is to, you know, make a killing. You know, I want to make a lot of money. You know, I want to do the biggest, coolest thing, I want people to think I'm awesome. Those are horrible motivations that are going to lead you into known traps in life that everybody and their brother warns you against.
Tyler: That leads to anxiety.
Eddie: And guess what, these aren't secret things that we're telling you right now, these are traps. They're known traps, and they will lead you down paths that you don't need to go down. There was a post the other day I read where somebody was like, “Is there anything better than a happy customer?” It was like a LinkedIn thing. Is there anything better than hearing a happy customer? I'm like, no, I get it, man. That's cool. It's cool hearing somebody's feedback to you and saying, “Man, I really appreciate what you did,” but I can't think of things that are better than that. Like a happy family, a happy wife. And I've had to learn these things the hard way. Sometimes those two things are in combat with one another. What are you going to pick? Which one are you going to do? That's a matter of your motivation. What is your core motivation? Mine have not always been pure. And as a result of those things, yes, anxiety comes, stress comes. My motivations are key to whether I'm going to be able to function in a reasonable and happy way, whether I'm going to feel fulfilled. Because if my motivation is to go make a mint at anything, like bunches of money, bunches of money, and that doesn't happen, where am I at? If my motivation is to do what I do as well as I can, to help as many people as I possibly can, to serve the people around me, well guess what? Great customer service comes out of that, great leadership comes out of that. Monetary gain will follow. And if it doesn't, guess what?
Tyler: Who cares?
Eddie: I'm not disappointed, because that wasn't my motivation anyway.
Tyler: Well, the core motivation is to provide, it's to be there for your family and put food on the table, have what you need. It's not to build up this kingdom. I feel like there lies some demons. There's some, there's other parts of this, you know? We can talk about Amazon all day long and how great it is and how innovative it is. It came at a cost though. Like, for those of you that watch the news: Jeff Bezos, he just had a divorce. His wife of many, many years. It had a toll. And so, you have to ask yourself, is that worth it? Priorities slip, I think happens, you know?
Eddie: This has taken a dark turn. The Amazon method: Do you want to do business like Amazon?
Tyler: (laughs) Is it worth this?
Eddie: Which, I think we've kind of rambled down the hill and run off point a little bit.
Tyler: As we do.
Eddie: But I mean, point being that, I think what we're preaching is much more of an old school mentality. Like when you come to work, show up. You know, don't be an empty chair. Show up, do your thing. Do it well, have some pride. You know, Tyler, you've taken on this new thing about, “We get to build today.”
Tyler: Yeah. I think that's a multifaceted approach. Yeah, we get to build buildings. We get to build sheds. We get to remodel, you know, we get to build, but also we get to build into each other. And I think I'm kind of taking that on myself is that I want to build into people. I want to encourage people, and I know you feel the same way. And I hope that this isn't something that you walk away from—and I say “you,” the listener—you walk away from feeling like, “Oh, well that didn't help now. I feel like crap.” No, I want to encourage you. Like, there's hope. There's hope.
Eddie: The key and core of what we're doing is being able to encourage you guys. Y'all. I am in the South. To be able to encourage y'all and to be able to give you ideas. Like, Tyler and I— Very seldom can I remember a mission in life where I could just nail it and say, “This is what I'm doing right now.” And for this one, ideas and encouragement. Boom. There it is. Why are you doing what you're doing? Ideas and encouragement. That is what Construction Brothers Podcast is about: We want to encourage you as a person, as a builder, as a leader. We want to encourage you in every way we can. And then we see all these cool ideas and we're like, “Hey, what if we can encourage the whole industry? Like what if we could encourage the industry to move by just creating a platform for conversation?”
Tyler: And that was one of the things that I had mentioned to David Moody is, is technology the answer? And it was something along those lines. And he was like, “Heck no.” No, it's not.
Eddie: Well, and he even said something there that I disagree with. He was getting at things maybe a little different way than I was, but I heard what he was saying. He was calling us to kind of go back and hold on to like the craftsmanship, pride, just kind of that mentality of getting in the same room. Like, I was very much thinking of Eric Reinholdt with his whole thing, like, architect and engineer sitting across from each other, just actually coordinating their work, talking through the process, understanding each other, like saying, “I need this.” “Well, I need that.” “Okay, we're going to work together to get that this way,” and having this real time conversation. I heard it loud and clear, and though maybe I had this little like, eh, yeah, maybe not for me. Like, that's the way he's working, cool. But maybe not for me. I heard the point. I heard the core of it.
Tyler: And the core of it is to build up the people around you, you know, it's to work well with the people around you, it’s to bring in that collaboration. And even “collaboration” is kind of becoming a little bit of a sad word these days. You know what I mean?
Eddie: We joke about that one. Yeah, it's like “synergy.”
Tyler: It's turning into “synergy” at this point. “We collaborate!” Okay, good for you. What does that mean, really?
Eddie: “We collaborate”. You mean you work together with other people to try to achieve a goal? I think we are all doing that.
Tyler: You have a Slack channel and you've never actually heard each other's voices and been in the same room? Good job. Like, there's something to be said for actually seeing each other's faces and talking. So man, I want to end this on just kind of a charge. So basically this is to, if you've got something that you've been mulling over and you have been trying to figure out how to start it, and you've been caught up in shopping for the thing that will help you and looking around for the best tool for the job and you haven't actually started the thing, here's your permission to just start it without the tool. Just do it. Just go, it's worth it. I've been there. I know what it's like. And Barbie's episode was definitely that task for me. It's worth it on the other end. I promise you that. And so I think we'll wrap it up and I think I'm going to leave you with this note: Go build something awesome today, and we'll catch you next week.
Tyler: Hey guys. Thanks for joining us today. I wanted to take a second and point you at a couple of things before you go. Number one, make sure that you go check out our website, it is www.brospodcast.com. We're constantly posting new blog updates on there and thoughts of things that we're seeing in the industry. And then also make sure while you're there, go check us out on social media. We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. We're constantly asking questions there, trying to get people involved and engaged, and learn more about what's happening in the industry so we can keep bringing stuff to you that's relevant. And also, share it with somebody. If there's something in here that you thought was valuable, forward it over to your friend, let them know about the show. Again, that's going to help us out a lot. And finally, please leave a review. If you found this interesting or helpful at all, you could help us out in a big way by just hitting a review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. So thank you so much for joining us this week. Have a good one.