Tony Hsieh & Justin Weniger

CEO Zappos

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 13, 2016

Discussion

Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
thanks everyone!
Jess Iandiorio@jessiandiorio · VP, Marketing at Drift
Hi Tony! I feel like Zappos made NPS famous. Is it as important of a metric today as it was a few years ago? Why/Why not?
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@jessiandiorio i think nps can be a useful tool if the scores are low (it's on a scale of -100 to 100) and an important part of nps (net promoter score) is not just the number (on a scale of 0-10 how likely are you to recommend xyz to a friend or colleague) but the follow up question (why or why not?)... for low scores then teams can work on improving but once it gets high (in the 85-95 range for us at zappos) then it probably is more of a vanity metric than something helpful to manage the company by..
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
Hi Tony and Justin! What advice on building company culture do you have for founders who are trying to bring technology to older industries (i.e. government)?
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@kingsongchen this is general advice for any startup -- if you're just starting out as a new company, then the easiest thing i would suggest is to figure out your own personal values (which is harder than it sounds) and then just make the company's values the same as your personal values, and make sure you hire people whose values match the company's values (and you fire people for values violations)...
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
Hi Tony, thanks for doing a PH LIVE! My question is: What made you want to create that kind of culture at Zappos? Was there something specific you saw before or as you were starting Zappos that made you want to embody that culture? Thanks!
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@mrsharma at my previous startup (linkexchange 1996-1998) we didn't know any better to pay attention to company culture and the culture went completely downhill by the time we sold to microsoft in 1998. i wanted to make sure we didn't make that same mistake again at zappos so culture has always been important from the beginning. in 2003 i emailed all of our employees and just asked them what our core values should be, and we went back and forth for a year and then rolled out our 10 core values in 2004 that serve as a formalized definition of our culture - 1) Deliver WOW Through Service 2) Embrace and Drive Change 3) Create Fun and A Little Weirdness 4) Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded 5) Pursue Growth and Learning 6) Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication 7) Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit 8) Do More With Less 9) Be Passionate and Determined 10) Be Humble
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What does the future of brick and mortar retail look like? Further, what will our shopping malls look like in 10 years? 20?
Kazuya Nakamura@kzynakamura · Catapult Suplex
Hi Tony! I am really curious how holacracy is changing the way people work at Zappos. Also When do you think is the best timing for startups to embrace holacracy?
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
Holacracy just happens to be the technology that we are using today, but our ultimate goal is that we want to structure Zappos more like a city and less like a top-down bureaucratic command and control organization. Our march towards self-organization and self-management isn’t an experiment. It’s the future of work and it’s the only structure that has stood the test of time. It’s the only structure that can become more innovative as it gets bigger (vs. typical corporate structures that become less innovative as they get bigger). Self-organization and self-management isn’t a theory. It exists in nature, and it exists in human-created cities.
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@kzynakamura i don't think there's ever a good time to adopt holacracy... it's a completely different mindset and way of thinking that will take time to learn... but i would say if you're going to do it, you should do it as early as possible as the transition later will only be harder the more employees you have. if i could do it all over again i would have made the switch to holacracy sooner.
Kazuya Nakamura@kzynakamura · Catapult Suplex
@tonyhsieh Thank you so much! I have been studying holacracy for the day to come. I had worked for big company and managed big team before. I felt so unnatural. Your answer helped me realize "unnatural" is the perfect word to describe my uncomfortable feeling toward traditional model!
DRFarrell@d_r_farrell
Hey Justin and Tony! Zappos has a fantastic story... what a great example of starting from qualifying a minimum viable product and scaling upwards from there. Two questions: what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs in college, and are there any examples of startups you could launch today with a similar strategy to Zappos' with the consideration of differences in technology from now vs. back in 1999?
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@d_r_farrell i think it's actually much easier and cheaper to launch a startup today because of things such as AWS, etc... i think there are very very few companies that are really focused on customer service/customer experience today (i don't think it was that different in 1999 either) so plenty of opportunity for any startup to take on a similar strategy today
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What has been the biggest "disruption" to e-commerce?
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi there. Thanks for joining us today, @justinweniger & @tonyhsieh. One of my favorite thing about Zappos (circa 2008) was the parade you took guests on and the conference rooms that the teams decorated. It was such an amazing demonstration of culture. Do those things still exist today? And if so, how have the evolved? And for those that may be reading my statement and thinking, "what is she talking about...", can you share a little bit about how those things came to be.
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@corleyh @justinweniger yes we still have parades but there isn't a parade committee or anything... they are usually just spontaneously done by a team and usually the new hire class as well when they are getting close to graduating from new hire training (5 week program)... our conference rooms are all decorated with different themes as well
Jeanne Markel@jeanne_markel · Technical Advisor, Zappos.com
@corleyh @justinweniger @tonyhsieh Hi Corley! I am a Zappos employee and I can answer your question from my perspective? Glad you got the chance to take our tour of our Henderson office, we relocated to our current downtown campus in Fall of 2013 (come visit us for an updated tour next time you are in Vegas!) I agree - the parades, decorated conference rooms, whacky employee events on campus, etc are all a representation of our culture and they definitely still exist. Parades are a little less frequent since we are now in a high-rise, but the layout of our new campus/building in an urban environment actually has a much better layout for us to host events in center plaza area multiple days of the week - benefit is they are typically open to not only employees but to the community as well. We've got jungle themed conference rooms with giant stuff animals, one is a "ballroom" with colored plastic balls all over the floor, etc. These ways of showing our creativity and types of events started in early days of Zappos very organically - one of our Core Values is "Being Fun and Weird"; what's really great about it is that we encourage our employees to bring their whole self to work - so not a "work" persona and a different "weekend/home" persona, people can be comfortable being themselves no matter who they are. Come on by for a visit!
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Zappos is famous for amazing customer service. What are the three most common shortcomings of other (tech) companies in regards to customer service?
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@tomstocklein in general, i'd say it's just about whether you view customer service as an expense to try to minimize or a branding-building/relationship-building investment that you try to leverage and figure out how to invest even more into. i think most people underestimate the power of a personal emotional connection that can happen over the telephone, and most tech companies probably try to avoid telephone contact.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@bentossell be unapologetically true to yourself (both in business and in life), and if you are constantly broadcasting who you are (the real you, the inner you) to the world, over time your people will find you.
Tejaswi R@tejazz89 · @AnaekHQ; Previously lead-gen @VWO
I personally followed your vision of making Las Vegas a startup mecca. It's rare to see successful founders go the extra mile to think of the larger community and contribute in a personal capacity - selflessly. After around 2 years, how far has your vision come? Do you believe Las Vegas could be a place leaving a mark in history as a cradle of innovation and entrepreneurship as much as dining, gambling, night life and parties?
Justin Weniger@justin_weniger · CEO, Life is Beautiful Festival
@tejazz89 I can chime in on this one as someone that was inspired by Tony & Co's vision and decided to move my company to Downtown Las Vegas (To be clear I do not work for Zappos, my company works with Zappos and Tony in the Downtown area to produce a 3 day music and arts festival called Life is Beautiful). In so many ways what we are doing down here is unique - of course Las Vegas in itself is a very unique market - but we also have a unique set of circumstances with a group of visionaries that believe that what we are doing will very much change the way cities operate and people organize. It's truly an amazing thing to be a part of.
Tejaswi R@tejazz89 · @AnaekHQ; Previously lead-gen @VWO
@justin_weniger thanks for the answer from your unique standpoint. I believe the place where a startup is born and grown is as influential in the long term. Hope to see Las Vegas set an example. Any specific place online where one can keep tab on the progress you guys make?
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@tejazz89 part of our goal at downtown project was to help make downtown vegas a place of inspiration, creativity, entrepreneurial energy, innovation, upward mobility, and discovery... it's pretty exciting to walk through downtown container park (which has had nearly 3 million visitors) and see all the kids and families there, whereas 3 years ago i would have felt unsafe standing outside what is now the entrance by myself at night... the area of downtown vegas we're focusing on is almost the complete opposite of what people usually associate las vegas with. the Life Is Beautiful festival (last weekend of september this year) is a big part of our strategy to help transform downtown (analogous to what sxsw did for austin)... we've actually been at it for 4 years now (not 2) and i'm pretty happy with how things have evolved over time. the one thing i would do differently if i could do it all over again would be maybe start building more residential a year or two earlier... we have a lot of people that want to live downtown but there aren't enough housing options yet, but we're working on getting that fixed (just broke ground on a new 4-story apartment complex this month).
Justin Weniger@justin_weniger · CEO, Life is Beautiful Festival
I would follow DTLV.com for a pretty unique blend of happenings in the Downtown Las Vegas area, Tech.co is primarily based out of this area so they have some great content as well. Keep LifeIsBeautiful.com on your radar as we will be adding a lot of content and have some big announcements coming up in the next 60 days as well.
Eileen B.@whichwayeileen
Hi Tony and Justin! If you could go back to the beginning, what is one thing that you would change or do differently and why? Also, any general advice for younger entrepreneurs?
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@whichwayeileen i would have rolled out our core values sooner. we were founded in 1999 but didn't roll out our core values until 2004
foods finest@foodsfinest
HI Tony and Justin. What is something positive that has happened to you today? What is something you are working on that you are excited about? Thanks.
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi Tony huge fan of yours, thanks so much for joining us today, would love to hear what you think the future of corporate management looks like in 20 years? Do you think management culture itself will change fundamentally? Would love to have you on @twentyminutevc would be a pleasure to hear the story in more detail!
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@harrystebbings @twentyminutevc there's a great book called "reinventing organizations" that i'd highly recommend reading and i think does a good job of showing what the future of work can look like. feel free to send an email to ceo@zappos.com after you've had a chance to read if you'd like to discuss further!
Gabriel Reynard@gabrielreynard · Business Lover ✌
Hello guys, my question is for both ☺ I live in Brasil and our country is current in a big crisis. I'm young, entrepreneur and have a lot to accomplish. Should I stay here and hunt for opportunities (they pop-up in crisis time) or should I move to a better place to develop my work? Thanks!
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@gabrielreynard i would say go wherever you can be around other entrepreneurs and creatives that can inspire you and that you can bounce ideas off off and eventually find the best people to add to your team
Gabriel Reynard@gabrielreynard · Business Lover ✌
@tonyhsieh Now I have a big question on my mind, where are all those people? :p Thanks for sharing!
Tejaswi R@tejazz89 · @AnaekHQ; Previously lead-gen @VWO
Hi tony. You are THE inspiration behind our culture at Pipemon. your quote is up there on our team page shinging light on our values :) My question is w.r.t to maintaining a genuine personal touch through customer support even at scale. How are you guys managing at Zappos. How do you guys manage to balance speed with quality customer support with love. how do you avoid sounding like a bot when interacting with customers at your stage of the company.
Zappos.com CEO -Tony@tonyhsieh · CEO - Zappos.com
@tejazz89 if by speed you mean how do we make the phone calls as efficient as possible, the answer is we don't. unlike most call centers, our reps are encouraged to stay on the phone as long as necessary (we once had a phone call that was over 10 hours long)... to avoid sounding like a bot, avoid scripts and just talk to the person on the other end of the phone as if you were talking to a friend or if you met in person...
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Guys! Tony - If you were writing "Delivering Happiness" today, what would you add?
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Can you tell us more about the Life is Beautiful festival? What can we expect this year?
Justin Weniger@justin_weniger · CEO, Life is Beautiful Festival
@eriktorenberg Sure, for those of you that are not familiar Life is Beautiful is a 3 day festival in Downtown Las Vegas with a focus on four distinct pillars; music, food, art and learning. We shut down 18 city blocks and turn it into one of the most unique and interactive festival venues in the world. The music program is 4 stages and 70+ artist (last years lineup included Stevie Wonder, Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Duran Duran and a surprise performance by The Killers). Famous street artist fly in from around the world to produce massive murals that live on to beautify our city far after the festival concludes. Last year we had a Banksy piece on display that got international attention. The learning series is made up of short form, 15 minute talks from people like Bill Nye, Coach Carter, and Rosario Dawson. Chefs from around the country are on site doing live cooking demonstrations and sampling items. It's a really incredible three days. We are going into the 4th year of the festival this year. We announced the dates (Sept 23-25) and sold a limited amount of pre-sale tickets about a month ago - the response was incredible and we sold out in just under 30 minutes. We are close to solidifying what is potentially our best lineup yet, we have more artist wanting to be a part of this show then ever before. The street art portion of the festival will continue to grow. I cant go too far in to specifics right now but please follow @lifeisbeautiful and lifeisbeautiful.com for updates. We have some big announcements coming in the next 60 days.
Jeanne Markel@jeanne_markel · Technical Advisor, Zappos.com
When you reflect on the current state of your respective companies, what keeps you up at night the most?
Justin Weniger@justin_weniger · CEO, Life is Beautiful Festival
@jeanne_markel Ideas and an overactive inner dialog ;)