Zappos puts its culture first

Much like everything else they do, Zappos announced its acquisition by Amazon to its employees in its own style:

Q: Will the Zappos culture change?

Our culture at Zappos is unique and always evolving and changing, because one of our core values is to Embrace and Drive Change. What happens to our culture is up to us, which has always been true. Just like before, we are in control of our destiny and how our culture evolves.

A big part of the reason why Amazon is interested in us is because they recognize the value of our culture, our people, and our brand. Their desire is for us to continue to grow and develop our culture (and perhaps even a little bit of our culture may rub off on them).

They are not looking to have their folks come in and run Zappos unless we ask them to. That being said, they have a lot of experience and expertise in a lot of areas, so we’re very excited about the opportunities to tap into their knowledge, expertise, and resources, especially on the technology side. This is about making the Zappos brand, culture, and business even stronger than it is today.

That was question #2 of the “TOP 3 BURNING QUESTIONS” answered in an e-mail Zappos sent to employees and subsequently posted on its web site (The first was “Will I still have a job?”).  What I noticed most in this answer and in the rest of the message was a lot of collective ownership of the future.  The people at Zappos say “we” like they mean it, and “we are in control of our destiny” is repeated in the message.  It’s a rare that I would say this about a “corporate communication”, but I believe them.

After dealing with whether people will have jobs, the main priority was the company’s culture.  Most organizations talk culture, but this one appears to recognize theirs as central to their success, both financially and intangibly.  Culture is not something Zappos will get around to “when we have time” or “if there’s money left over in the budget”.  Culture is central to their success.

I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about how rare this is, or how many organizations don’t get it, or what a profound strategic asset such a strong culture is, but you’ve surely read all that before.  It would be like shooting fish in a barrel.  Culture is the values and norms of an organization:  what we believe and how things work around here.  Anyone who calls that “fuzzy” doesn’t understand that every organizational decision flows from precisely that construct.  Zappos gets it, and I’m going to buy shoes from them.

7 responses to “Zappos puts its culture first

  1. I completely agree with you, Joseph.

    In fact I was just reading the FORTUNE of February 2nd with an article on Zappos. The way how they stick to their values is amazing! Quite unmatched in today’s business if you ask me.

    The article states “Wowing customers us the top priority” & “The first core value is deliver WOW through service”, delighting callers and even ignoring official policies to ensure top customer satisfaction.

    Isn’t this a great example for many companies?

    On the future of manufacturing education

    • Thanks for that, Bert. For the second day in a row, I’m impressed with something Amazon-related: the Jeff Bezos Kindle apology. Honest, forthright, contrite. Maybe a little Zappos mojo is already rubbing off on them.

      By the way, very nice blog. The innovation chart and post are very informative. Where would you put organizational innovations on the chart?

  2. Where would I put organizational innovations on the chart

    I believe about everywhere, Joseph. All these current and coming ‘waves of innovation’ involve necessary underground changes in production processes & technology, employee skills and organizational structures.

    Besides the idea, the wave needs organizational innovations to move the energy to a higher level.

    What did you have in mind, when asking the question?

    On the future of manufacturing education

    • Curiosity, really. As I look at the chart, I would cite the usual: scientific management at the apex of the 2nd wave, management by objectives and participatory management at the height of the third wave, reengineering and “empowerment” toward the height of the fourth wave, virtual teams and employees at the height of the fifth… The interesting thing I note as I write this is the “chicken and egg” nature of the organizational innovations–they both enable and are enabled by the technological innovations. Maybe that’s obvious in hindsight, but I don’t think I had mentally coupled them as closely.

  3. And this is the reason I like Awesome posts.

  4. Pingback: Leitura da Semana: Tony Hsieh (Zappos) @ PEGN | Samuel Mota

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