A few months ago a little bird reminded me about the great selection and unique style of Zappos.com. I am talking of course about Twitter, the micro blogging social network. I don’t remember how I first connected with Zappos founder and CEO Tony Hsieh on Twitter, but once I did I realized Tony is not your typical CEO. First of all he’s on Twitter, secondly he’s funny and thirdly he is genuine.
I routinely checked in with @Zappos (Tony’s Twitter moniker) but I really got hooked after reading Tony’s account of getting ready for his CNBC panel interview with Jack and Suzy Welch. (Air date not set yet- check back for updates)
He fretted over his too big pants and limited wardrobe choices. He kept us tweets in the loop while he traveled and gave a us a brief recap when it was all said and done. He tweeted about the experience and then mentioned that Suzy Welch was quite put off by his non-financial take on employee motivation.
According to Jack and Suzy Welch, employees are motivated by “cash and plaques.” In Jack’s world of “20-70-10″ employee management, feeling good about your job and the flexibility to balance professional and personal demands is reserved for the top 20% of employees. For the middle 70%, the goal is improvement through a rigorous evaluation process. For the lowest 10%, it is don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Sounds like paradise.
As a (former) employment lawyer I got calls from people who worked at places like GE, some with the same initials as GE. Many were high level engineers and they were all miserable. The money was good but the corporate culture was brutal. They had financial success but at an incredible cost.
Tony Hsieh is a different kind of CEO and Zappos is a different kind of company, both in terms of customer service and management style. Zappos wants their customers to be totally satisfied. They have a postage paid, 365 day return policy. If they don’t have what you want, they will direct you to where you might be able to find it. They don’t time limit customer transactions. Employees are encouraged to take all the time they need to make the customer happy.
Zappos wants all their employees to do well, they want them all to feel loved. If someone comes on board and doesn’t like the job or the culture, they are given the opportunity to leave with a severance package. Employees are encouraged to express their creativity on the job and off the job. Managers are urged to develop relationships with their employees. There are silly celebrations and raucous events, but the work gets done, and done well.
Zappos has enjoyed phenomenal growth, expanding their offerings to include clothing, electronics and accessories. Sales have increased from $1.6 million in 2000 to a projected $1 billion for 2008. Employees are loyal and vocal about their love of Zappos even though salaries are at or below market, especially for higher positions. And at Zappos there is such a thing as a free lunch, as well as snacks and drinks, and most importantly, paid medical and dental insurance.
We spend much of our lives at work. Our most frequent personal encounters are with our co-workers. In a rapidly changing and stressful world, working with people who genuinely care about our well being and happiness makes for a better, healthier quality of life. And that makes perfect sense to me.
I don’t know everybody at Zappos, but I think if I did, I’d find the kind of folks I would love to hang out with. Is it any wonder that I want them to succeed?
So from this day forward Zappos is my sole shoe source. After all, I love shopping with my peeps.
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I Am CNBC Tony Hsieh Transcript
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