Don't think customer service, think company culture.
That's the motto of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who's a pioneer of both. His online-shoe company, now owned by Amazon, has been famously known to go to extremes in order to keep its customers happy. And in recent years, Hsieh has become known for some radical experiments in shaping the Zappos culture, by introducing a self-managing style.
For Zappos, Hsieh believes that the number one priority isn't customer service, it's the company culture. "A great brand is a story that never stops unfolding," Hsieh said Friday morning at the Inc. 5000 conference in Orlando.
Zappos' story has been closely watched by management experts in recent months. Hsieh is a proponent of Holocracy, which eliminates traditional corporate hierarchy, managers and staid business titles.
It can be a dramatic and often jarring shift from more common management styles, and Zappos' adoption of it hasn't been without speed bumps. Earlier this year, about 210 employees, or about 14 percent of the Zappos workforce, took a (generous) buyout rather than embrace Holocracy; a New York Times feature this summer explored some of the lingering transition pains.
"Holocracy is one way of enabling more self-organization, but it's not the only way," Hsieh said on-stage Friday, adding that offering "prize-based competitions" to employees was another option.
Community, rather than corporate leadership styles, was the main focus of his talk. In 2013, Hsieh moved Zappos' headquarters to downtown Las Vegas, where he led a $350 million urban-renewal project.
He concluded Friday by singing the city's praises: "I'm so proud and excited to be a resident of downtown Vegas right now, because i can't wait to see what unfolds next."