The full program

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A few lessons from this program

I wasn’t allowed to record the talk that Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, gave on Sunday. The group that invited him to speak wanted to keep the conversion intimate and private. In fact, I’m not sure I’m allowed to even tell you the group’s name. But we all took notes, and I’m happy to share mine.

They created missionaries.
A turning point for Zappos was when the company decided to be about more than selling shoes. Shoes was a sensible business, but creating a “wow” customer service experience became a mission. And once Zappos took on that mission, everyone from their suppliers to employees to customers became missionaries for the brand.

They pay new hires to quit.
Tony told us that he sold his previous company, LinkExchange, because he stopped enjoying going to work. As the company grew, no one paid attention to the culture and it stopped being a meaningful place to work. Now he’s relentless about hiring people who fit the Zappos culture. To ensure that the people he hired want to be a part of the Zappos culture, he offers every new hire $2,000 to quit. Hardly anyone takes the money.

They don’t write up elaborate rules.
Tony told us about a customer who forgot to take out her $150 before returning a wallet to Zappos. An employee found the money and sent it back. Tony explained the conventional way of avoiding employee theft is to write up rules or search employees as they leave work, but all of that is too cumbersome. Because Zappos nurtures its company culture, it doesn’t have to do any of that.

They spend less time looking for new customers.
Tony told us about a woman who bought shoes for her husband. While she waited for her husband to come home so she could surprise him with the shoes, he got into an accident. After she called Zappos for help returning the shoes, the rep she talked to sent her flowers. The way Zappos treats its existing customers ensures that they’ll recommend them to new customers.

They pursue a passion.
Someone in the audience asked Tony if he had any productivity tips for us. Tony’s answer was that if you’re passionate about your work, productivity will come naturally. You won’t be able to stop yourself from working. When I interviewed John King, he told me that he studied Zappos and watched people who loved their jobs so much that they were dancing at work.

If you’ve ever bought anything from Zappos, I’d love to hear your experience. Send me an email or add it to the comments.