A number of years ago I read an article while on an airplane about Tony Hsieh, a visionary CEO, who was selling shoes online at Zappos.com. Selling so many shoes online in fact, that Zappos had just reached $1 billion in sales. In the article Tony didn’t credit savvy marketing or low prices as the key to the company’s success, but instead on a culture focused on kindness, fun, and just trying to make someone’s day. I was intrigued.
When I got to my hotel room, I found Tony’s info online and fired off an email to him. To my surprise he responded, and even wanted to hear my ideas for creating happiness in my workplace.
Over the next several months I would continue to reach out to Tony, to get his opinion on a variety of business topics. His fame had started to grow, but that didn’t change Tony. Even after he appeared on Oprah, the Celebrity Apprentice with our future president, and his face was adorning more and more magazine covers, he continued to respond to all of my emails.
After about a year of this communication I got a call from someone at Zappos. Tony has passed along my information, along with a handful of others, and wanted to know if we would like to come to Las Vegas to help them with with a new project. Zappos had decided to share all they had learned in building their business with other companies, and wanted to do a dress rehearsal of sorts and get some feedback before rolling it out.
And so, I flew to Vegas and spent a week with Tony and his leadership team in the most amazing business atmosphere I’ve ever seen.
The week was a masterclass on how to run a business and create an amazing culture. On how valuing employees and leading with kindness, creates sustainable morale, gives employees purpose, and directly impacts growth to the bottom line.
If you Google Tony, you’ll find that he was a ridiculously successful businessman. In fact, the month after I visited Las Vegas, Tony negotiated the sale of Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 billion. But in the brief time I got to be with Tony I found that he was an incredibly shy and soft-spoken guy that just wanted to use his god given talents to bring a little more joy and happiness into the world.
Rest in Peace Tony. You will definitely be missed.