Lessons we can all learn from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh 

The following article was originally posted in an guardian article, written by Jeffrey Hollender.

At just 39, the millionaire entrepreneur Tony Hsieh is world famous for creating a business that is both highly profitable and fun to work for.

Hsieh’s account of his transformation from a Harvard student entrepreneur through his years as a dot.com wunderkind to the creator of a formidable brand is not unique. But he deserves a lot of credit for building his first internet company LinkExchange in just over two and a half years and then selling it to Yahoo! in 1999 for $265m.

Then, as the tech boom burst and Hsieh confronted the dwindling pile of cash left over from the sale of LinkExchange, his story began to come alive.

One of his most promising startup investments was Zappos.com, a shoe retailer. Just as disaster struck the company, Hsieh stepped in. Recounting the stress of operating in survival mode, we get the inside story of how he revived the company, from the deliberations behind liquidating his assets to fund the company in its darkest days to the risky decision to seek out an 11th-hour loan.

By the time Zappos was acquired a decade later by Amazon for more than $1.2bn, Hsieh and his team had built a unique corporate culture dedicated to employee empowerment and the promise of delivering happiness though satisfied customers and a valued workforce.

Hsieh focuses on three critical areas that businesses typically fail even to consider in their strategic plan: culture, training and development, and customer service are at the heart of his success.

Most business advice books focus on issues like maximising profitability, ROI, product innovation, operational efficiency, and beating the competition, so it is a breath of fresh air that Hsieh barely even acknowledges these topics.

Over time, Zappos’ number-one priority, culture, became even more important than their commitment to customer service. The heart of their success story lies in the commitment the business made to consciously and intentionally build a culture that embraces the business’s key values. Culture is a tough topic. There are no road maps, and the path for one business is by definition unique to that particular company. Culture is a long-term investment. It cannot be regulated by a board of directors.

Zappos annually produces a “Culture Book” that’s shared with anyone interested in its content – from employees to vendors and customers.

If you were to visit the Zappos office, you’re likely to find a nap room, a petting zoo, a makeshift bowling alley, employees doing karaoke, or a popcorn machine dressed up as a robot. If you happen to visit on “Bald & Blue Day” you’d find employees shaving each others heads.

Zappos has what’s called a “Face Game”. When you log into the computer system, after you enter your password, a face pops up of a fellow employee and you’re asked to enter the person’s name. Whether you answer correctly or not, you see a bio and profile – another way of getting to know your fellow workers and building culture.

Positive office culture assures you of passionate employees, outstanding performance and the ability to attract the best talent.

Have a read of the full article here.

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