One of the best decisions that I ever made was attending a seminar on how to be an entrepreneur when I was about 27 years old.  The second best decision was that I would continue to attend trainings for Business and Personal development for the rest of my life.

I have just returned from a conference where I had the privilege of learning from a number of the most successful business people in the world.  While they were all amazing in their own rights, one stood out from all of the rest in my opinion.  That was Tony Hsieh (sic) the CEO of Zappos.

As many of you know by now, I am a very late bloomer when it comes to the Internet, so up until about 6 months ago,  I had never heard of Zappos or Tony.  That has changed dramatically as I have delved further and further into understanding the power of online business.  Zappos is one of the most highly regarded- if not the most highly regarded- company amongst the top circle of Internet marketing experts.

After hearing from Tony for about an hour, it is easy to see why.  He was interviewed by my friend, and master connector, Larry Benet.  Larry is actually an up and coming business phenom himself.  He has an amazing gift for persuading people of Tony’s skill level to share their business secrets openly with their peers.

Tony answered all of Larry’s questions calmly and coolly.  He gave us details about how he turned Zappos from a struggling company into the giant it has become, by telling us story after story of how he and his team treated people.

Tony is truly a master when it comes to culture.  As a matter of fact, culture is the absolute heart and soul of Zappos.  Tony told how his initial turn at being an entrepreneur ended less successfully than he had hoped (but pretty darn successful by most peoples standards selling his first company at the age of 24 to Microsoft for $265 Million) because he focused on his employees’ talents, as opposed to how they blended in with the team.  Tony learned from that experience and implemented the correct philosophy that he had discovered into Zappos.

They have 10 core components of their culture, and all decisions in the company are based on them!  Many people have great things written down on paper, but they stay on paper.  Tony and his senior management are relentless at making sure those core components are understood and followed by each and every employee in the company.

Here are the 10 Core Components of Zappos Culture:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

There is no doubt in my mind that developing a list like the one above will become common for companies that will dominate their industries in the decades that lie ahead.  Just like Henry Ford created a massive paradigm shift in the business world by creating the assembly line in manufacturing, Hsieh will create a similar sweeping change by ushering in the era of culture and customer service!

In his new book, Delivering Happiness, (which I highly recommend) Hsieh explains that their number one focus is customer service.  He goes on to explain that when Amazon made their offer to purchase Zappos, he was concerned because Amazon has attained their market dominance by focusing on offering the lowest price to its customers and Zappos had not.  He believes that price is not as critical to gaining and maintaining customers as customer service is.  He was concerned that if Amazon bought his company that ultimately, the culture that he had worked so hard to create and the resulting outstanding customer service would go out the window.

Tony explained that he was influenced by Chip Conley’s book Peak.  In that book Conley takes Abraham Maslow’s pyramid explaining the hierarchy of human needs, and simplifies it down to three parts.  Then he explains how it applies in today’s workforce.  The bottom line is that every person working for a company sees their work in one of three ways:

  • A Job
  • A Career
  • A Calling

Tony has done a remarkable job at getting the employees at Zappos to see their work as a calling.  He wanted to make sure that never changes.  He illustrated that point by telling a story about the company’s customer service that involved a bunch of late night drinking and pepperoni pizza.  I won’t get into the details of the story, but I will assure you that it’s a story that illustrated the point perfectly, and is a story that I will never forget!

Tony recently did sell Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 Billion.  He is still running the company and committed to making sure that his employees never lose their calling and that Zappos continues to thrive.

In a world filled with CEO’s that virtually nobody trusts and virtually nobody seeks to emulate. Tony Hsieh stands tall.  He is a phenomenal living example that nice guys can…and do finish first!

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