Tony Hsieh

This week I wanted to talk about the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh. Zappos is an online shoe and clothing shop located in Las Vegas, with shoes accounting for around 80% of their total business. Hsieh graduated from Harvard with a degree in computer science, and after going to work for Oracle for five months Hsieh left and co-founded LinkExchange with his college friend Sanjay Madan. Hsieh has been involved with numerous companies and enterprises, but is best known for his role as CEO of Zappos. Hsieh was approached to invest in Zappos in 1999, and stayed on as its CEO through its buyout by Amazon in 2009 in a deal valued at $1.2 billion.

Hsieh is perhaps known mostly for his alternative lifestyle, not many billionaires live in a 240-square-foot trailer that costs around $1,000 per month in downtown Las Vegas. He prefers to live within this community as he finds it more enjoyable to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and enjoys finding time to wind down in this quiet community in which he lives. This lifestyle seems to blend into his corporate attitude as well. Hsieh is also known for his honesty and openness with his employees, often sending them personalized messages to let them know that yes, management is really listening to you. While Hsieh holds his company and staff to a high standard, he also encourages fun in the workplace. Zappos is known for the events that it puts on for its staff, both during and after the workday.

Earlier in the semester some of us talked about how admitting a mistake early on can be very influential in how a company handles a potential crisis. When Zappos suffered a huge loss due to a pricing mistake Tony stepped in and helped claim responsibility for what happened. He chose to allow customers to honor the discount that they received, rather than trying to recoup his losses. To me I think Tony Hsieh embodies some of the perfect qualities that a leader should have. Honesty and openness are very important qualities to have in a customer centered business, as well as the ability to admit when you’re wrong. A successful company needs to be able to admit its mistakes and maintain customer loyalty, and that’s exactly what Zappos did with Hsieh at the helm. I personally chose to focus on Tony because I have always admired Zappos’ focus on the customer. I remember reading a case study in school that discussed how great Zappos’ customer service was. The case discussed how a woman called Zappos to return a pair of boots for her husband who had just passed away in a car accident and how the next day she got a flower delivery from Zappos offering their condolences. While this seems like such a small example, I think it really shows how customer centered Zappos is, and I wanted to learn more about its CEO to see how he demonstrated these values in the company.





5 thoughts on “Tony Hsieh

  1. I have used Zappos in the past, and I have been overwhelmingly pleased by its customer service. As you mentioned above, Hsieh holds his company to a higher standard than most, and embodying honesty and openness with employees allows for a higher likelihood of customer satisfaction. You also mentioned that he has an “alternative lifestyle,” and I think that ties into some of the products he lists online. If a 240-square-foot trailer makes him happy, then that emphasizes his “different” lifestyle. All attributes have successfully allowed Zappos to become a billion dollar company, so maybe I should get a small, secluded trailer? Great post Ian!


    1. I’ve also heard great things about Zappos’ customer service. Zappos identified the primary driver to quality customer service – happy employees. If you’ve ever researched Zappos, you’ve undoubtedly come across the “Zappos family”. Employers are motivated to help customers because they have a great quality of work environment. Service representatives are much more likely to be friendly and personable if they enjoy where they work.


  2. Personally, I’ve never heard of Zappos. I believe that the reason for this is the fact that I am a little bit old school when it comes to shoes and I do not believe in buying them online. When I buy shows I want to have the ability to try them on before I buy them. This said, I did, however, check their page out. I am always interested in a good story, and Tony S. presents one of those stories that seems full of honesty and openness, two virtues that are much needed in today’s corporate environment. Thank you, for your post!


  3. I am not too familiar with Zappos but am personally surprised by its success. When I first learned of Zappos it was interesting that a company had become so popular just from selling shoes. I never looked much more into it but after reading your blog about Hsieh, I completely understand why the company has had so much success. I definitely think that customer service is the key to any good business as the business would fail to exist without the customer.


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