23 Apr Firms need good company culture to succeed, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says
After writing the book on how company culture can lead to success, the chief executive of online retail giant Zappos.com has set his sights on building a sense of community in Las Vegas and shared his vision Sunday during the final day of Young Professional Week in Milwaukee.
Zappos.com co-creator Tony Hsieh addressed several hundred people in the sold-out Crystal Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel downtown. Young Professional Week began April 14 with the goal of raising awareness of Milwaukee’s potential to attract millennials and entrepreneurs.
The week was organized by NEWaukee, a network of more than 40,000 young professionals in the city who want to make it a better place to live, work and play.
“I’m really excited to hear about what’s going on in Milwaukee,” said Hsieh, 39, who was squired by young professionals around the city Saturday night to Victor’s, Distil, Blu and Safe House.
He added that Young Professional Week is driven by a desire of people “who want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
During his talk, Hsieh described how his business priorities crystallized throughout his career. He co-founded LinkExchange, an online advertising network, which was sold to Microsoft for $265 million in 1999.
“The real reason we sold it is because it ended up not being a fun place to work,” Hsieh said.
As the company grew and added employees, little attention was paid to if and how new hires would fit into the company’s culture, he said.
As the boss at Zappos, Hsieh extols the virtues of fostering a company culture and wrote about it extensively in his 2010 book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose.” Hsieh continues to run Zappos even after Amazon purchased the company in 2009 for a reported $1.2 billion.
Until recently, he focused on what he calls the “Three C’s” — clothing, customer service and company culture. Now, he’s added a fourth C: community.
Zappos is moving from three buildings in Henderson, Nev., to the former Las Vegas City Hall. As he researched other corporate campuses, such as those of Nike, Apple and Google, Hsieh noticed they were isolated from their communities. He didn’t want that for Zappos.
So he created the Downtown Project, dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Las Vegas. He and his partners are investing $350 million in the project, with $200 million going to real estate, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education and $50 million in tech start-ups through the VegasTechFund.
Hsieh’s speech capped Young Professional Week, which had daily events and panels on topics ranging from sustainability to water to women in leadership. It was sponsored in part by JSJobs.
Mayor Tom Barrett described NEWaukee, which organized the week, as “a game-changer for the city.”
“It’s great to see the energy in this room,” he said Sunday.
NEWaukee president Ian Abston said Young Professional Week has drawn the national spotlight to Milwaukee for positive reasons.
“Young Professional Week was trending worldwide on Twitter. We hit the (Associated Press) wires,” Abston said.
People nationwide are hearing about Young Professional Week and “they are talking about Milwaukee and Wisconsin,” he said, explaining that “NEWaukee is really about showcasing the city.”
Tara Vandygriff, a Marquette University senior studying public relations and Spanish, said the week provided opportunities to hear from many innovative speakers.
Hsieh’s speech, in particular, inspired those in attendance, she said.
“The week has opened my eyes to the passion and opportunity in Milwaukee,” Vandygriff said. “I’m from central Illinois and yes, I plan on staying in Milwaukee after I graduate.”