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We maintained several time horizons for our forward forecasts, from granular monthly forecasts to quarterly and annual forecasts to even five and ten year forecasts for the purposes of fund-raising and, well, strategic planning.
One of the most difficult things to forecast was our adoption rate. We were a public company, though, and while Jeff would say, publicly, that "in the short run, the stock market is a voting machine, in the long run, it's a scale," that doesn't provide any air cover for strategic planning.
It's your job to know what's going to happen in the future as best as possible, and every CFO of a public company will tell you that they take the forward guidance portion of their job seriously.
Because of information asymmetry, analysts who cover your company depend quite a bit on guidance on quarterly earnings calls to shape their forecasts and coverage for their clients. It's not just that giving the wrong guidance might lead to a correction in your stock price but that it might indicate that you really have no idea where your business is headed, a far more damaging long-run reveal.
It didn't take long for me to see that our visibility out a few months, quarters, and even a year was really accurate and precise!
What was more of a puzzle, though, was the long-term outlook. Every successful business goes through the famous S-curve, and most companies, and their investors, spend a lot of time looking for that inflection point towards hockey-stick growth.
But just as important, and perhaps less well studied, is that unhappy point later in the S-curve, when you hit a shoulder and experience a flattening of growth.
One of the huge advantages for us at Amazon was that we always had a fairly good proxy for our total addressable market TAM. It was easy to pull the statistics for the size of the global book market. One could be really optimistic and say that we might even expand the TAM, but finance tends to be the conservative group in the company by nature only the paranoid survive and all that.
When I joined Amazon I was thrown almost immediately into working with a bunch of MBA's on business plans for music, video, packaged software, magazines, and international.
I came to think of our long-term TAM as a straightforward layer cake of different retail markets. Still, the gradient of adoption was somewhat of a mystery.
I could, in my model, understand that one side of it was just exposure. That is, we could not obtain customers until they'd heard of us, and I could segment all of those paths of exposure into fairly reliable buckets: Awareness is also readily trackable through any number of well-tested market research methodologies.
Still, for every customer who heard of Amazon, how could I forecast whether they'd make a purchase or not? Why would some people use the service while others decided to pass?
For so many startups and even larger tech incumbents, the point at which they hit the shoulder in the S-curve is a mystery, and I suspect the failure to see it occurs much earlier.
The good thing is that identifying the enemy sooner allows you to address it. We focus so much on product-market fit, but once companies have achieved some semblance of it, most should spend much more time on the problem of product-market unfit.
For me, in strategic planning, the question in building my forecast was to flush out what I call the invisible asymptote: It's an important concept to understand for many people in a company, whether a CEO, a product person, or, as I was back then, a planner in finance. Amazon's invisible asymptote Fortunately for Amazon, and perhaps critical to much of its growth over the years, perhaps the single most important asymptote was one we identified very early on.
Where our growth would flatten if we did not change our path was, in large part, due to this single factor.
We had two ways we were able to flush out this enemy. For people who did shop with us, we had, for some time, a pop-up survey that would appear right after you'd placed your order, at the end of the shopping cart process. It was a single question, asking why you didn't purchase more often from Amazon.
For people who'd never shopped with Amazon, we had a third party firm conduct a market research survey where we'd ask those people why they did not shop from Amazon.
Both converged, without any ambiguity, on one factor.The table below presents an abbreviated geologic time scale, with times and events germane to this essay. Please refer to a complete geologic time scale when this one seems inadequate.
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The history of the roots of the Vietnam War. This exam was updated July 30, and includes new content and content outlines reviewed by the American Council on Education (ACE). Our essay topics have been closely modeled on those in the SAT.
You can also do the essays given in the first section of each of the tests in the Official Study Guide.. Each of the topics consists of a prompt and an assignment. The table below presents an abbreviated geologic time scale, with times and events germane to this essay. Please refer to a complete geologic time scale when this one seems inadequate.
As Donald Trump settles into the White House, elites in the political class are beginning to recognize that democracy is not necessarily a permanent state of political organization. “Donald Trump’s candidacy is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid,” .