#SXSW2009 – Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com

photo by Roustem Karimov

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced “shay”) is a smart, friendly guy. In 1994 he started a business selling pizzas. Today, Zappos sells upwards of a billion dollars worth of shoes per year. Tony attributes much of Zappos success to one core element: company culture. Every Zappos employee, from the stock-room to the board-room, understands the company culture and it’s primary tennant: awesome customer service.

The slides from Tony’s SXSW presentation are here.

Some nuggets from Tony:

  • People may not remember what you did or said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.
  • It doesn’t matter what your core values are, but that you commit to them. Alignment is key.
  • Perceived control and perceived progress make people happier. An example: Zappos has a 3-year process in place for employees to reach a certain job position. They broke the process into 3 smaller segments. The only difference being that the interstitial steps have names. Employee satisfaction improves.
  • During the hiring process, prospective employees are asked “How lucky are you?” The answer to this question gives insight into how that person perceives the world and their life.
  • After completing initial training, new Zappos employees are offered $2000 to quit. Very few take the cash-out. The folks that remain have given more thought to “Do I want to be here?” and Zappos avoids losing hiring/training costs of people that don’t stick around. Tony says “Not enough people are taking the money. We may have to increase the amount.”

One Comment

  1. Posted April 24, 2009 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Loyalty can really boil down to an emotional attachment based on how you make someone feel. It’s great how little lessons we learned when we were in kindergarten translate into business.

    In my business I have found that there’s no magic system. Selling real estate, I am hounded with vendors and agents assuring me their selling system is best and it’s not true. Part of the process is typically emotional and keeping someone’s personality in mind when working for them is crucial. For example- There are several ways to get from my house to my office in 25 minutes. Sometimes I drive one way out of habit and other times I just feel like going a different way.

    Great post, Scott. I am going to google more about Zappos.