Tony Hseih (pronounced shay) is the current CEO of Zappos. He is the son of Taiwanese immigrants and grew up in Marin County in California. Hsieh attended and graduated from Harvard University in 1995 with a degree in computer science in1995. His first job out of college was at Oracle as a software engineer. Unsatisfied with his job, he quit within a year and began building his own business with his business partner Sanjay Mandan. They began LinkExchange, an internet advertising network, which grew and was profitable. Within two years of its inception, Hsieh and Mandan were approached by Microsoft to purchase LinkExchange for $265 million. They accepted the offer and Hsieh worked there until he was unhappy working at the company that had changed after the purchase. According to Hsieh, “One of the main reasons for selling the business in 1999, according to Hsieh, was that the fast growth of the company, with its increasing number of employees, had had a negative impact on the organizational culture, and he no longer enjoyed working for the company “ (Hoffman, 2013). So, he moved on to being a venture capitalist, creating VentureFrog. He invested in many burgeoning companies to help build and fund entrepreneur’s dreams, and one of the entrepreneurs that he was working with was Nick Swinmurn, who had an online shoe company named Shoesite.com. Hsieh was skeptical of the idea of people buying shoes online without trying them, but decided to tap into the growing shoe market. They started by changing the name of the company to Zappos, which is a derivative of the Spanish word for shoes, zapatos. After working together to build the site, Hsieh and Swinmurn worked together to run the company together. Hsieh took over the reins of Zappos as CEO in 2005 when Swinmurn left.
Hsieh’s Leadership Style
In an online article for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences for his alma mater, Harvard, Hsieh says, “My role is about creating an environment where employees feel empowered to come up with their own ideas for fulfilling that vision and growing the culture,” (Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences). Hsieh’s style is based around living the vision, culture and values of Zappos and transferring that enthusiasm to the employees. Focusing on people rather than profit, “Hsieh valued the atmosphere of a small, intimate company. The company's corporate culture encourages employees to work in an informal environment, establish collegial working relationships, and have fun getting the job done” (Hoffman, 2013). He also says that his vision for the company was building a brand that was synonymous with excellent customer service “We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company,” (Stone, 2010).
Examine the CEO’s personal and organizational values
Compared to most companies, Zappos's list of core values is rater extensive, but they all hinge upon the idea of being different, tenacious, and committed and a team player. When building the company, Tony went in with the idea that he had to enjoy the company of the people that he was spending his time with at work. While reading the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, he found that great companies all had a great culture and that is what Hsieh strove to build. When asked in an interview how one chooses the values for their company, he stated that he’s found the best way is to just establish the core values of your company based on your personal values and beliefs, (Anyhoo, 2012). According to the Zappos website, the core values are “more than just words, they're a way of life. We know that companies with a strong culture and a higher purpose perform better in the long run. As we continue to grow, we strive to ensure that our culture remains alive and well” (Zappos). Zappos, like many companies with a strong culture, hires an individual, not just a set of skills. This is so that the