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Employee Fit Is Critical To Delivering On The Vision

Tony Hsieh is an interesting character. He sold his first company to Microsoft in 1999, for $265 million. Not bad credentials for a 24 year-old. Not one to sit idle for long, he joined Zappos, an online retailer of shoes and clothing, as CEO when the company was just starting up. In his time there he grew sales to over $1 billion, while at the same time making Fortune magazine’s list of Best Companies to Work For. He sold Zappos to Amazon a year ago for $1.2 billion, and has just published a book, Delivering Happiness.

The book’s title comes from Hsieh’s obsession to run Zappos by focusing on ways to "deliver happiness" to both customers and employees. That means that customer service employees, for instance, do not have to meet a certain call quota and are instead encouraged to stay on the telephone as long as necessary to handle a customer. The current call record is 8 hours and three minutes. It’s an extreme example that would find a call centre staffer in any other organization shown the door or at least reprimanded, but it’s a good illustration of a truly unconditional commitment to delighting each and every customer – and to giving employees the latitude to do so.

Visit their employment branding site and you’ll get a good dose of their culture – a passion for service delivered through a unique set of core values:

1. Deliver WOW Through Service

2. Embrace and Drive Change

3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

5. Pursue Growth and Learning

6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

8. Do More With Less

9. Be Passionate and Determined

10. Be Humble

It took the company a year to come up with the list, Hsieh said, because he wanted to be sure that the values would be principles he would be willing to judge people on, despite their job abilities. Hsieh came to the decision to let Zappos' core culture permeate all aspects of its operation, including employment decisions, after watching the company he sold to Microsoft become a less "fun" place to work.

According to Hsieh, a company should be willing to hire and fire employees based on how well they fit in with the organization's "core culture" and independent of their job performance. "We've passed on a lot of smart people who aren't good for the culture," he says. “Choosing employees that fit with and are dedicated to the company's stated culture leads to a happier work environment, more dedicated employees and, eventually, greater profits.”

Hsieh, a fan of motivational business books and studying "the science of happiness," also believes that companies and individuals should learn to focus more on deriving pleasure through goals that achieve some higher purpose instead of those that provide money or instant gratification.

"I like to say: Chase the vision, not the money," Hsieh said.

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