Jason and Matt worked sixteen hours a day, seven days, a week, for the first couple of yearsactually, for most of the seven or eight years that I ran the business, Jason says. Certainly we worked those hours when ours was a small company, when it was just me and my brother and my buddy from high school whom we were paying $7 an hour to do work for us.
When the company was small, our responsibilities were a little bit more intertwined. The key issues for our business were to improve the quality of our interface and make it more usable, to improve the quality of our back-end systems, to improve our delivery, and to come up with better cost-management and operational management systems that would also include things like customer service and shipping and mailing systems.
There was a tremendous operational product. The product was not CDs, but the Web site itself. Thats what we worked on. We didnt create CDs, we created a store. Our major effort was to perfect the operational aspect of the store, both in terms of peoples experience with the interface itself and our back-end systems to deliver the products that people ordered. And my brother largely took over that because he related to the programming. My responsibility was largely with the marketing and the industry side of the business.
Asked about his perfectionistic bent, Jason says, Not everyone is like me. I believe that the quest for perfection is sometimes a strength, and sometime it isnt. But it is just the way I am. I believe that the best way to create value in the marketplace is to have a great product. I would always say that a great product sells itself. But that isnt really a true statement. Still, having the resolve to improve the system until it exceeds customers expectations is the way I work.
There are other people in the world who are more focused on sellingand marketing: They believe that product should be good, but the marketing should be better. Thats fine when youre building a business, but it isnt in accord with my values. I think the most important thing is the quality of the product, and so Im never satisfied. I always want to make sure that I am improving the quality of the product to establish the highest level of playing field as possible. I dont want my competitors to be able to do the same thing I do, and so I have to do it better.