Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's all about culture

When you enjoy what you do and where you do it, then you are more productive. It's simple. Maybe this means flexible hours, free food, choice of work projects, work from home, dress how you want, or Razor scooters (uh, hope not).

Zappos gets it. They were #21 of the Fortune's 100 best companies to work list and they are successful, says CEO Tony Hsieh, due to a focus on company culture. "Long term we want Zappos brand to be about the best customer service and company experience. We do that by focusing on company culture. We believe if we get that right, then company culture great customer service and building a brand will happen on it on".

Every comment I have heard about Zappos' customer service (which really is their product) has been more than glowing! Not just good customer service, but unexpectedly exceptional.

I know ..... it's even hard for me to stomach some of the encouraged zanniness and quirky office themes (ala pirate themed sales cubes) - one of the 'cultural' element at Zappos (and Google). It looks annoying and contrived. But it still has a positive impact - "it's not mundane and it's inspiring". I would bet this unique environment is envied by visitors and isn't it nice when you hear other folks talk about how cool your work is?

You create and maintain your culture in everything you do. How and who you hire, what and how you recognize accomplishments, how you treat attendance, and assign projects (or don't assign projects). Zappos has a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. After a week or so, they offer the new employees $1,000 bonus if they quit! If you’re willing to take the dough, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. About 10% of the new employee's take the offer - my guess those same 10% would be the clock watchers. The 10% where you'd likely be making up culture killing rules, like start times. Very rarely do you see a direct dollar exchange for cultural fit. Kudos Zappos.

How much do you value culture? How does it change your business?

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