This post is dedicated to Tony Hsieh. He died on 27 Nov in a house fire. He is well known to be the CEO of Zappos which was later sold to Amazon for USD$1.2Billion. In his years, he made many impact to the world and these are the some I’m personally thankful for.
This is a non personal finance post. However, I believe we can learn from the actions and the values that he had. Here are 5 ways Tony Hsieh changed the world.
The Fore-Runner For E-Commerce
People would have agreed that Alibaba, Lazada, Shopee or even Amazon to be the success icon for e-commerce. To put things into perspective, Amazon started in 1994, Alibaba started in 1999 but only found success years later. Zappos started in 1999 and found resounding success by doing something that people thought was crazy then.
They sold shoes online and offered free 60-day shipping AND returns policy. In 2003, Zappos decided to give customers 365 days to return the shoes, as long as they were in “like new” condition and in the original box.
In 1999, this was a crazy idea. It was a time people bought shoes from stores because people could actually try them to see if it fits. Mind you, there was barely any online shopping and a lot of distrust buying things online. Many people also thought that the return policy would kill their financials as it was expensive then.
Fast forward 20 years later, you can buy almost anything online and return policies are a norm. They were certainly way ahead of their time. Do you have an idea that people thing is crazy?
The Focus on Customer Service
In an era in which we demand cheaper and better products, Tony focused on customer service. Many businesses become so focused on the product or service that they end up forgetting the most important factor that ensure their business prosper: their customer. Tony did not.
In 2004, Zappos’ customer loyalty team embarked their 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year shift. In a world where customer service is a cost center, Zappos employed 25% of their staffs (2004) as customer services. There are no scripts and no time limits on phone calls. It was just a full time job making sure their customers were happy.
Fast forward 20 years later, your business’s reviews online can make or break your reputation. Just look at how Lemonade is focusing on customer satisfaction now. Have you gave a good review to someone recently? Maybe you can do so for me =)
Quirky Corporate Culture
After Amazon bought Zappos over, the employees in Zappos was afraid that the corporate culture in Zappos would change. Amazon was known to have an intense corporate structure as compared to Zappos experimental, fun and quirky culture.
Tony maintained the culture and Amazon has been keeping a hand-off approach for Zappos.
In the famous CEO statement, Tony titled his speech “Zappos And Amazon Sitting In A Tree” and assured the culture will remain the same or better. It is one of the best CEO statement I have ever read. In it, he reassured that his employees will still have a job and the leaders will continue running the company. Please have a read.
Personally, I related to this strongly. I’m working in the Financial Services Industry where our performance are measured with sales. It is not a secret that the company I work for is profit driven (just like most companies). However, I’m blessed to be in a District (aka sales team) where we measure success differently. As a result, the culture of the district is one that focuses on delivering the best value to our clients in terms of strategic planning and also claim experiences. I’m very thankful as I don’t think it will be easy to find a company that is accepting of a culture like ours. It is much easier to focus on my client needs in such a very supportive culture. Does your company have a supporting culture?
When asked what was his greatest achievement, he mentioned:
“The relationships and friendships. We focus a lot on company culture, so these are not just co-worker relationships but true friendships, where people choose to hang out with each other after work or go on trips together. [That also applies to] the relationships with our vendors and other business partners.”
In an age where we are more connected digitally but disconnected physically and emotionally, his focus on relationship struck a chord in my heart. I have friends (whom I don’t hang out much anymore) who were constantly on their phones, checking their emails/Facebook notification/ Instagram notification during the time we were having lunch/dinner. Connecting with them was a struggle as they will be distracted every 3 seconds looking at their phone. The relationship that we have now are conveyed through a “like” on Facebook and it disturbs me greatly. I do treasure the Facetime I have with people now.
Tony’s focus on relationship (you can have the same with wealth) inspires me and I hope that it will be my greatest achievement in my life too. When was the last time you sat down with someone and look into him/her in the eye and talk?
One buzzword for the younger generation would be “Happiness”. Although his book is on business lessons, it is applicable to many life lessons. One of my favourite is “Go with your heart”. This statement is easy to say but not easy to practice. Sometimes, it would mean breaking expectations that has been subconsciously imposed on us.
In the world’s culture asking us to do more, earn more, it is not easy to go with your heart. I dare say that most parents want their children to be an engineer, doctor or a managerial job that is “stable”. It took me great courage to go with my heart by venturing into the financial services industry and also the investment industry. There were many heartaches, my parents felt it was a waste for a University Graduate to be an insurance agent, , many times they asked me to find a “real” job, many times I felt like giving up. Nevertheless, in every leg of the journey where I followed my heart, I learnt more about myself. It wasn’t easy but then again life never was.
Are you following your heart? What is your heart saying?
Final Thoughts By Wealthdojo
Things are never really the end. It is the start. Because of Tony, I believe many people have believed things are possible and we are living in their version of the world that they have dreamt up.
What’s your vision of the world? Are you participating in your vision or are you letting people fill it up for you? Are you the educated poor? If today is the last day you are living, what would you be doing?
Look forward to see your comments.
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Chengkok, Sensei of Wealthdojo.