shoesite.com was founded in 1999 by Nick Swinmum as arguably the world’s first online shoe retailer. Shortly after launching Tony Hsieh and Alfred Lin invested in the business and in 2001 Tony Hsieh took over as CEO of the business.
In its first two years, the company had revenues of approximately $1.6million and in 2001 that number jumped to $8.6million and in 2008 it had over $1billion in annual sales. In 2009 Zappos was acquired by Amazon for over a billion dollars.
In under 10 years, the business went from idea to sales of over a billion dollars annually and acquisition by one of the world’s most recognizable brands – Amazon.
While this is a truly remarkable story of growth, is how that growth was achieved, that is the real story.
The radical growth was achieved through an obsession for customer and employee experience.
Zappos was built on this enduring notion that company culture drives success.
The Zappos insights team, on their website, states – “We’ve learned that company culture is what makes the difference between success and failure. We’ve learned that if you identify your company’s core values, hire by them, onboard team members by them, and truly live them, then you can get out of the way.”
Even though Zappos only operates in the United States they are often cited as ‘best-practice’ across the globe and in fact, the stories of their success were what motivated me to travel from Sydney to Las Vegas.
That’s right I traveled over 7000 miles (over 12,000 kilometers) to spend time touring and hanging out at Zappos HQ. Yes, I am that passionate about deeply understanding how businesses have fueled their growth through, experience management – especially from a customer and employee perspective.
In the lead up to my visit the Zappos team helped me via twitter with recommendations on places to stay and see. On the day of my site tour I missed the complimentary shuttle from my hotel to the Zappos office – but not to worry, they sent another Team Member to come collect me. During the site tour people that I had been speaking to on social media showed up to personally greet me.
What I will always remember from that site tour is not the desks or office setup – but rather that you could feel the culture of the business – every single interaction was remarkable.
Now you might be wondering what all this has to do with the title of this post.
Well, that is simple all of this was achieved through the passion, vision, and leadership from Tony Hsieh- unfortunately, Tony’s life ended in November 2020.
Tony has inspired entrepreneurs and leaders around the world to lead with passion, purpose, and a commitment to company culture and customer experience.
In 2010 he published Delivering Happiness – A Path To Profits, Passion, and Purpose – if you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend it and you can pick up a copy here.
Of course, Tony’s legacy goes beyond creating amazing companies and inspiring leaders globally, he also changed communities and the lives of those in the community. Most noticeably his work through the Downton Project.
The stated mission of the Downtown Project is “We inspire people to live, work, and play through cultivating environments that encourage creativity, discovery, and WOW experiences.”
Even as Tony lead the rejuvenation of Downtown Las Vegas he was still focused on ensuring that the experiences were WOW worthy. It was one of his signature passions – to create experiences that were WOW worthy, that created positive word-of-mouth.
A few years back I had the opportunity to meet Tony and spend a few hours with him. It was remarkable to get a glimpse into the thinking of such a renowned business leader.
So in honor of Tony, I ask you this question – what will be your legacy? How will leave your mark, positively, in the communities you live, work, and play?
My personal desire is that my legacy is one that inspires my communities to love, serve, and grow more.
Jason S Bradshaw meets Tony Hsieh at his trailer park in Las Vegas.
Jason S Bradshaw tours Zappos first Las Vegas headquarters.