Up until now, most of what I knew about Zappos was that they were passionate about selling shoes. Selling shoes with a personal touch. I also knew that they were famous for paying off employees to leave the company, if they were not prepared to live and breathe the company’s values (see picture below). However, I recently read Scoble’s blog post which made me go Wow! I’ve shared the Wow! moments and key messages coming out of Zappos below.
What can all businesses learn from Zappos? Scoble recently found out the following:
1. Focus on culture and build something for the long term. Tony’s first company, Link Exchange, was sold because it wasn’t fun anymore.That’s why he focused so much on culture when he got involved with Zappos. I see so many companies who focus on growth and get exactly what they want: an unfun fast growing company that falls apart later.
2. Get rid of assholes. Zappos has a filtering system before, during, and after hiring to make sure they get rid of people who “don’t fit the culture.” That is the nice way of saying they get rid of assholes and they get rid of them quickly. They even pay candidates $2,000 after they go through training if they can admit they don’t fit into the culture.
3. Get a coach. Zappos has its own coach. His name is Dr. Vic. He meets with every employee. Takes their picture. Learns what they are about and helps them get their career moving. Plus he writes a blog for everyone else’s company.
4. Share with others. Zappos gives tours to everyone to share what they’ve learned. You can take the tour too, I highly recommend it if you are in Las Vegas. firstname.lastname@example.org will get you a date and a time. Oh, did I mention they pick you up from the airport? And that they carry your bags? And that they are, well, um, nice?
5. Train, train and train some more. Zappos has a whole department that puts together classes. Your pay goes up the more classes you complete. Plus they have all those free books in the lobby.
6. Enable all employees to be spokespeople. Every single new hire at Zappos is asked to start a Twitter account and post a few times to it during training. After that they don’t care if you keep it up. Why do they do that? They want to rub it in that EVERYONE in the company is a public spokesperson for Zappos, not just the CEO or PR team.
7. Everyone lives by same rules. During Scoble’s tour he heard of a new hire that was fired during training for not showing up on time and giving some lip. This was a high level technical person that they really could have used. Silicon Valley companies would put up with that kind of behaviour. Not at Zappos. Everyone, from executive recruits on down are expected to live to the same rules.
8. The CEO’s office isn’t sacrosanct. Tony encouraged Scoble to throw peanut shells on his office floor. Why? That happens every day, we learned, as tours come through. But it’s a subtle message that Tony isn’t above anyone else in the company and that his door isn’t just open, but that you can come in and mess up his work space.
9. Create a welcoming culture. Every department, as we walked in, said “hi” in a different way. Here’s the casual department who waved these little clappy hands at us. Other departments had other kinds of noise makers. The Fashion department took pictures of us while they played music.
Picture Credit – Robert Scoble
10. Everyone is a VIP. Both internally and externally everyone gets the VIP treatment. This means all sorts of little things all across the company. Vendors, when they come to Zappos, get their bags carried. That wins them accounts. In our case we had our tripods and cameras carried and our every need catered to.
11. Create an atmosphere for both goofiness and brilliance. Every conference room was decked out with personal touches. It gets you in the mood for creative discussions. Here Rackspace employees are meeting with Zappos employees and learning more about Zappos. Notice all the weird touches on the table, the walls. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously there.
12. Root out hubris and kill it. This is mostly a note to myself, but I know lots of San Francisco companies who this could apply to just as well, too.
13. Follow your employee’s and customers’ passion. How did Zappos get into clothing? Their customers and employees were passionate about it.
14. Don’t be religious about what’s working. Having 400 employees on Twitter is clearly working for Zappos but Tony, at one point, told his employees to talk to me about friendfeed. They are always looking for the next idea. By the way, here’s everyone who is saying something about Zappos on friendfeed. I love this quote from Forrester’s CEO, George Colony (Tony is speaking at the Forrester Conference today): “When asked why he was on Twitter, Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO said: “People relate to people, not companies.”
15. Be religious about taking care of customers. Tony loves telling the story about when they got pizza ordered for them by Zappos help desk (they didn’t know who was calling). Every employee is empowered to take care of customers and get their problems solved.
16. Reward greatness. Every employee can give a $50 bonus to any other employee. Does it get misused? Not often and when it does it’s easy to solve.
17. Remember most policies are to take care of edge cases. They resist writing new policies at Zappos. When they do write a policy, they make sure it really is needed across the company. Usually policies get killed.