What We Can All Learn from Tony Hsieh of Zappos

small dulceA few years ago, Marti Powles and I had the incredible opportunity to tour Zappos’ headquarters in Las Vegas, NV. During the tour, Marti and I were immersed in the offbeat culture of this hugely-successful online shoe and clothing retailer. Zappos was created from the ground up by the humble, yet wildly successful CEO Tony Hsieh. Hsieh has inspired millions of individuals all over the world, myself included, with the introduction of cultural assimilation in the workplace.

Hsieh has perfected the art of work/life integration as opposed to work/life balance. While the concept of work/life assimilation may not be brand new, the way Hsieh has incorporated the idea throughout his company certainly is. Hsieh makes work fun. At Zappos, employees are encouraged to find entertainment and humor in their daily work. When people have fun, they are more passionate and emotionally committed to their jobs. Employees at Zappos believe in their culture and mission, so quality output is automatic.

It Comes From Within

Obviously New Benefits is far from a retail giant like Zappos. We’re 73 employees strong, providing non-insured benefits to brokerage and consulting firms, and Zappos is, well, you get the idea. But when you peel away the layers of each business, you’re left with several key similarities: one company comprised of individuals all working to provide superior customer service.

So how did we take what we learned from Hsieh and apply it our business? First, by defining our company culture. We know who we are.  We’re a passionate group of individuals striving to exhibit flexibility, leadership, integrity, innovation and passion to each other and our clients. We aren’t just working for paychecks – our work is our play. Our culture is intentional.  We invest a lot of time up front interviewing candidates who will live our core values with the understanding culture is everyone’s responsibility, not just management’s.  I sometimes hear specific departments say, “Why does that department always get to do fun stuff?”  The strongest, most cohesive teams organically create employee engagement, they don’t just wait for it to appear.

Next, we find creative ways to incorporate the culture into daily worklife. A couple of employees recently decided it would be fun to coordinate an offsite gathering where the only rule is you have to “speak” Spanish (inspired by a co-worker who was randomly speaking in a British accent for absolutely no particular reason). This is a perfect example of employees embracing our company’s belief in work/life assimilation, while simultaneously having some foolish fun along the way.

It’s simple. Happier employees produce better work. Regardless of the size or industry, every company can take Hsieh’s philosophy into consideration and I believe Hsieh’s philosophy of cultural integration is one that should be recognized by all. He (we) believes once you get the culture right, everything else—from first-rate customer service to long-term branding—will fall into place.

–Dulce Bozeman, Executive Vice President

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