When it comes to prioritizing company culture, you’d be hard pressed to find a CEO who champions for it more than Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com, the largest online shoe store.
Hsieh is famed for being a very entrepreneurial leader who invested early on in Zappos and transformed it into the $1.2billion business it is today. And he attributes much of that success to putting culture front and centre.
“Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own,” Hsieh says of Zappos.
Hiring (and firing) for Culture
At Zappos, their commitment to hiring for that cultural fit can come at the cost of some great talent.
“We’ve actually passed on a lot of smart, talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line but if they’re not good for our culture then we won’t hire them for that reason alone.”
And it’s not just hiring, they’ll let go employees who are no longer engaged in the culture as well.
“Even if a person is great at their job, even if they’re a superstar at their job, if they’re bad for our culture we’ll fire them for that reason alone. And performance reviews are 50% based on whether you’re living and inspiring the Zappos culture in others.”
Would you go to the extreme for your culture?
Many business owners and industry leaders talk about the importance of culture and ‘making it a priority’. But would you go to the extremes of Hsieh?
At one point during Zappos training, new employees are offered $4,000 to quit and walk away. The goal is to weed out those candidates who are only looking for a pay check. Around 2-3% take the check, the rest become more engaged in the process, knowing Zappos is the place for them.
Hsieh knows the Zappos model isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely food for thought.
“We’re not out there telling people [that they should adopt the Zappos values] and culture because that would actually probably not work in most cases. Our message is more ‘you should figure out what your values are and then align the entire organization around them.”