Those of you that read this blog regularly may recall my July 2009 post, which focused on online retailer Zappos, whose bottom line sales grew from “almost nothing” in 1999 to over $1 billion in 2008.
CEO Tony Hsieh is very clear about what has contributed to Zappos spectacular success – it’s their values based culture.
Zappos’ story clearly supports the main theme of my book Road to Respect: Path to Profit – that developing and living a strategic, values based workplace culture is a key ingredient to business success in today’s highly diverse, rapidly changing, multi-cultural business environment.
Turns out that culture can do more than produce great products, customer service and profitability. It can also become a product in and of itself. Consistent with its core value Embrace and Drive Change, Zappos culture has become its latest product with the launch of Insights 2.0, a membership site for companies that want to emulate Zappos winning culture in their workplaces.
Insights 2.0 is in effect a “culture school”. Members can experience Zappos culture on site, have access to Zappos leaders, participate in training, and have the opportunity to join a community of individuals all of whom are interested in building a better business through culture change.
Zappos “culture school” launched just prior to the release of Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. (Now that title has a familiar ring to it.) Currently #1 on the New York Times bestseller list as well as the Wall Street Journal’s bestselling book list, the core message of the book is simple – happiness is an essential ingredient for success in life and success in business. According to Hsieh, it is not only about your own happiness, but about creating happiness for others, becoming a Happiness Leader as Tony is at Zappos where Create Fun is a core cultural value.
I completely agree with Tony’s perspective on happiness. One of my goals in my work is to create workplaces where employees will be happier. However, I don’t spend a lot of time talking about happiness.
I spend my time talking and writing about respect because I know that without respect, there can be no true happiness in a workplace.
I have yet to meet someone that is on the receiving end of bullying or harassment that is happy. I have yet to encounter employees working in toxic, disrespectful environments that are happy. I have worked with numerous individuals that engage in power based disrespectful behaviours like bullying and harassment, and none of them are happy either.
After I wrote that piece on Zappos last year I heard from Derek Flores from “Tony’s team.” He thanked me for comparing Zappos to respectful values based employers of choice like Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “Although we don’t display respect within our core values or display the word around the office” he wrote, “respect is definitely an underlying message. We are all respectful to our co- workers and our customers and we do it in a fun customer service driven way!”
I was really excited when I learned about Zappos culture school. I do this work because I want to see change, real change happen in our workplaces and hey, I’m only one person. I appreciate my power to achieve my vision from a global perspective is somewhat limited.
The same cannot be said about Tony Hsieh and Zappos however.
You know that old expression “money is power”. Well Zappos is making tons of money and that is causing a lot of people, including those in positions of power, to sit up and take notice. It is causing a lot of senior leaders to become interested in the idea of culture change, change that will result in more respectful workplaces.
And I for one am very happy about that.