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Z6

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

In case you were wondering, Z6 stands for Zappos core value number 6:

I’m a huge Zappos fan and a VIP member (which means free overnight shipping for any purchase!). Thus, I get daily e-mails from zappos.com on special deals. The snippet you see above appeared at the bottom of one of those e-mails.

The joyful reason for this post is that Zappos is (rightfully) tenacious about promoting their 10 core values both internally and externally. CEO Tony Hsieh and his merry band truly understand how difficult it is to sustain and maintain a culture of joy and excellence – which is a pre-requisite to both financial and emotional success. Thus, with every chance they get, which includes the daily e-mail, they spread the word.

How about your company? Do you even know what their core values are, let alone “walk the talk“? Nah, an approach like Zappos’s won’t work there, right? It’s simply auto-assumed that writing down some inarguable altruisms and pontificating about them from time to time does the trick. There are more important issues to tend to, no?

All Hands Meeting: Open To The Public

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Check out this e-mail invite from Zappos.com:

I participated as a cyber-attendee at the previous Zappos.com online all hands meeting. It wasn’t scripted, and some topics were discussed that your grandfather’s company of yesteryear would never air in public. Of course, your grandfather’s company of yesteryear, stuck in its FOSTMA mindset, could never even conceive of the idea of broadcasting an all hands meeting online.

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” – Albert Einstein

Since clicking on the link in the above graphic won’t work, here’s a clickable signup link: Zappos All Hands Meeting Signup. Attend the meeting if you can and judge for yourself whether or not it’s a pure propaganda play.

Ya Can’t Put The Cat Back In The Bag

January 25, 2010 2 comments

Check out this snippet from “Can Larger Companies Still be Passionate and Quirky?“:

Writing for The New York Times, Adam Bryant conducted an interview with Tony Hsieh, the chief executive of Zappos.com. Part of the interview that intrigued me was Hsieh’s explanation of why he and his roommate sold their company LinkExchange to Microsoft in 1998.

Part of it was the money, he admits. But, mostly, it was because the passion and excitement that permeated the company in the beginning was gone, and he’d grown to dislike its culture:

“When it was starting out, when it was just 5 or 10 of us, it was like your typical dot-com. We were all really excited, working around the clock, sleeping under our desks, had no idea what day of the week it was. But we didn’t know any better and didn’t pay attention to company culture. By the time we got to 100 people, even though we hired people with the right skill sets and experiences, I just dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and was hitting that snooze button over and over again.”

To avoid this happening with Zappos, Hsieh says he formalized the definition of the Zappos culture into 10 core values; core values that they would be willing to hire and fire people based on. Read the interview with Hsieh for details on how they went about this.

With LinkExchange, Tony was wise enough to know that it was fruitless to try and restore the company’s original esprit de corps culture. Once the cat gets out of the bag, it’s pretty much a done deal that you won’t get it back in.

What’s mind boggling to me is that leaders of startups that grow and “mature” over time don’t even have a clue that the vibrant culture of community/comraderie that they originally created has petered out. They get disconnected and buffered from the day to day culture by adding layer upon layer of pyramidal stratification and they delude themselves into thinking the culture has been maintained “for free” over the duration. Those dudes deserve what they get; a transformation from a communal meritocracy into a corpo mediocracy just like the rest of the moo-herd.

Amazappos.com

July 23, 2009 1 comment

Amazappos

This morning, I stumbled upon a New York Times article announcing that purchase of Zappos.com by the behemoth that is Amazon.com (I’ve owned shares in Amazon.com for over 10 years). From the article:

  • “Amazon initially sought to pay cash, but Zappos asked for an all-stock deal, this person said.The extra cash and restricted stock for employees is meant to keep them on board and preserve the company’s culture, the person said. The deal is expected to close in the fall.”
  • “Zappos appears to engender friendly feelings even among some of its smaller competitors. Korey Buzzell, who runs the independent site Shoe-Store.net, said Zappos had been an amicable competitor in the past, sending customers to his site when it could not fulfill their orders.”

Since (because of its totally unique and far out culture) Zappos is currently my favorite company to externally watch and follow, I was initially bummed. However after reading Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s down-to-earth, understandable, and jargon-less letter to employees, I’m actually excited about the future potential of Amazappos.com.

Here are some snippets from Hsieh’s letter that rang my bell and changed my feelings toward the deal. Notice how many times the word “culture” is used.

  • “For Zappos, our vision remains the same: delivering happiness to customers, employees, and vendors. We just want to get there faster.”
  • Amazon supports us in continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Zappos brand and with our unique culture.
  • Our culture at Zappos is unique and always evolving and changing, because one of our core values is to Embrace and Drive Change. What happens to our culture is up to us, which has always been true. Just like before, we are in control of our destiny and how our culture evolves.
  • They are not looking to have their folks come in and run Zappos unless we ask them to. That being said, they have a lot of experience and expertise in a lot of areas, so we’re very excited about the opportunities to tap into their knowledge, expertise, and resources, especially on the technology side.
  • We learned that they truly wanted us to continue to build the Zappos brand and continue to build the Zappos culture in our own unique way. I think “unique” was their way of saying “fun and a little weird.” 🙂
  • Amazon focuses on low prices, vast selection and convenience to make their customers happy, while Zappos does it through developing relationships, creating personal emotional connections, and delivering high touch (“WOW”) customer service.
  • Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) made it clear that he had a great deal of respect for our culture and that Amazon would look to protect it.
  • Our mission remains the same: delivering happiness to all of our stakeholders, including our employees, our customers, and our vendors.
  • We do not have any plans to move any departments, nor does Amazon want us to because they recognize that our culture is what makes the Zappos brand special.
  • This is not a cash transaction. This is a stock exchange. Our shareholders and option holders will be issued approximately 10 million Amazon shares on a fully converted basis.

I was also stunned by the disclosure that Zappos.com, which grew into a $1B company over 10 years selling a commodity product – shoes, only has (had?) 100 shareholders. I wish I was one, but now I am!

BTW, Hsieh’s e-letter has a really great video of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ intro to Zappos employees embedded within it. He describes his values, and more interestingly, how Amazon got started. He also unembarassingly and openly shares some of the stupid mistakes that he made in piloting Amazon to where it is today.

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