“Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” — Tony Hsieh, Zappos founder and CEO

Zappos is a great example of a company having very clearly defined vision and culture. The founder Tony Hsieh has been very clear and explicate about defining either from day 1.

“Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.”

If you hear anything about Zappos from a Zappos customer, chances are it will be positive. There are dozens of stories about their outstanding customer service, including delivering flowers to a customer whose mom passed away and talking to a customer for over 8 hours (a record that now has been broken).

It should come as no surprise that 75% of Zappos orders are from repeat customers. Hsieh hopes that, down the road, people won’t even realize that Zappos started by selling shoes. They want to be known and remembered as the best customer service and customer experience company. Hsieh envisions Zappos being something like Virgin (dozens of companies), but instead of being “hip and cool [like Virgin]… we just want to be about the very best customer service.”

Hsieh says that he may expand to disrupt other industries, like the airline business, which traditionally has had poor customer service. Zappos doesn’t compete on price. Instead, they focus on providing the best customer service. So if Zappos does expand into other industries, don’t expect them to be the cheapest. Expect them to have the best customer service. Zappos has been quite successful in providing the best customer service and consistently being one of the best places to work.

Hsieh always believes that a company;s culture is very crucial and should be established early.

In the early days of Zappos, Hsieh interviewed every job applicant. This was their way of protecting the culture and ensuring the right people were hired. Hsieh warns that this won’t scale well. He says that, when he got to about 40 or 50 people, he began to run into time issues.

In the interviews, a candidate would have to pass a normal interview (that is, their skills, experience, competency for the job, etc.), and they also would need to be a person that Hsieh would like to know personally. Hsieh says he would ask himself:

“Is this someone I would choose to hang out with or grab a drink with….if we weren’t in business together? If the answer is no, then we wouldn’t hire them.”

When asked about keeping work and personal life separate, Hsieh says:

“There are companies that focus on work-life separation or work-life balance and at Zappos we really focus on work-life integration and at the end of the day it’s just life…..and especially if you spend so much time at work you better enjoy the time that you’re spending there and people that you’re with….”

He expands on this in his talk at Stanford:

“We want the person to be the same person at home or in the office because what we’ve found is that’s when the great ideas come out, that’s when their creativity shines and that’s when true friendships are formed — not just coworker relationships. When people are in that environment, that’s when the passion comes out and that’s really what’s driven a lot of our growth over the years.”

It’s key that the people who are involved in establishing the culture (typically, the CEO) participate and vet each candidate that comes through, especially for those first few hires. The goal is that, once the company grows, it can build without needing the CEO involved in each hire. This can happen if the CEO hires people who are competent and a culture fit. The theory is that those people that were hired by the CEO will hire people who share the CEO’s vision.

(parts taken from blog.kissmetrics.com)

Entrepreneur, Growth Hacker, Business Model Strategist; Love for Startups, Entrepreneurship & Business Development.

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