by Meridith Levinson

20/20 HONOREES – Jeff Bezos

Oct 01, 20022 mins

Founder, Chairman and CEO Inc.

Skepticism is healthy,” says founder Jeff Bezos. “The abnormal thing was the year 1999 when all the skepticism got really quiet. Skepticism is the traditional role of investors. It’s the traditional role of the media. It’s a very healthy phenomenon.”

As one who’s confronted more skepticism than any other Internet-era entrepreneur, Bezos ought to be an expert on the matter.

And if all the skepticism?about his business plan, about Amazon’s ability to generate profits, about his leadership skills?has had any effect on 1999’s Time Magazine Person of the Year, it has been to focus him all the more on proving his detractors wrong.

His business remains today’s biggest Internet pureplay. It is the company that popularized the notion that profits are overrated, growth is to be pursued at all costs, and the customer is king. And even though he’s watched Amazon’s $100-a-share stock stumble?and then tumble?Bezos has stood his strategic course.

What buoys Bezos, 38, is his unwavering belief in Seattle-based and the long-term vision he embraces for it?an enterprise that has forever changed the face of retailing.

“If there’s a particular flavor we’ve added to the mix,” Bezos says, “it’s that we’re so obsessed over the customer experience; we take that into everything we do.”

But more than anything else, what he says has motivated him during tough times is that others are relying on him: his employees, his investors, and the customers who first made Amazon a cult and then proved that after all is said and done, a store without walls is a good idea.