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Brand

I’ve never bought anything from Zappos.

I don’t do a lot of online shopping, so that’s not a statement about my feelings about the company. On the contrary, I’m a Zappos admirer. If I wanted to purchase shoes or clothing online, Zappos would be one of the first options I’d consider. I’d even recommend – in fact, have recommended – Zappos to other people.

Why am I a Zappos fan, despite not being an actual customer (so far)? I’m inspired by the Zappos story, the journey from a little online shoe company to an e-commerce powerhouse.

The business results – financial returns, company growth, all of the other traditional “business” measurements – are impressive, of course. What I find particularly appealing, however, is what drives those results: the Zappos culture.

Until recently, the person leading the culture charge was Tony Hsieh. His perspective was (is) seen by some as radical, extreme, unsustainable. Encourage your employees to spend as much time as necessary to help a customer? Recommend a competitor if you aren’t able to meet a customer’s needs? Spell out company values and then prioritize those values over technical skills when hiring new employees? Crazy stuff, some might say.

But if you zero in on what’s really going on, what’s happening to build and sustain and expand the Zappos brand, the beloved Zappos experience, it’s not extreme at all. It’s very simple.

It’s people.

Zappos sells shoes and clothing online. That’s where the money comes from, and yes, the money is vital. A business can’t operate without it.

But – the reason Zappos exists is to serve people, both outside (customers) and inside (employees) the company.

Zappos puts people at the center of their business, treats them with care and respect and appreciation, trusts them to make good decisions, and listens to and learns from them. Customers and employees respond in kind.

This approach doesn’t guarantee that every day is full of unicorns and lollipops. Sometimes, mistakes get made, bad things happen, plans fail. Nobody’s perfect. That’s reality.

It’s hard to argue with success, however. The results are there; they tell a story that can’t be ignored.


Today’s cuppa honors Tony Hsieh, who passed away on November 27. Here’s to his brand of putting people first. I hope that his message continues to influence the world of business for generations to come.

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