A Visit to Zappos

Every time my good friend Joe and I were talking about great companies to work for, we invariably talk about Zappos and its counterintuitive strategies: the company famously offers $2,000 to employees who have just completed its training course ... to quit! Turns out they save money long-term on "weeding out" people that aren't enthusiastic in working for them.

So it was with great interest that I read Robert Scoble's visit to the company's headquarters and the lessons that this quirky online company offers:

Anyway, so what can Silicon Valley learn from Zappos?

1. You don’t need to be in San Francisco to build a great company. Zappos actually started in the same building as Craig’s List. They moved to Las Vegas because it was cheaper and because they saw they could build a better company. The other half of the company is a warehouse in Kentucky. That’s there because that’s where UPS is, so they can take your order in the evening and have it on your doorstep the next day.

2. Focus on culture and build something for long term. Tony’s first company, Link Exchange, was sold because it wasn’t fun anymore, he told me. That’s why he focused so much on culture when he got involved with Zappos. I see so many companies who focus on growth and get exactly what they want: an unfun fast growing company that falls apart later.

3. Get rid of assholes. Zappos has a filtering system before, during, and after hiring to make sure they get rid of people who “don’t fit the culture.” That is the nice way of saying they get rid of assholes and they get rid of them quickly. They even pay candidates $2,000 after they go through training if they can admit they don’t fit into the culture.

Link | More about Zappos at World of Usability: Why Zappos Works


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Erm, okay, Gauldar. Will you send me a cheque for $2000, now?

"Not fitting in" would be a valid reason for getting rid of somebody, but what are the criteria for "not fitting in"? That's what makes them sound arrogant. If you don't fit in, you must be an "asshole". That's pretty arrogant, in my opinion.
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People who have only worked for one company (or who have never worked long enough for a single company) do not realize the importance of corporate culture. Not "fitting in" is a valid reason for firing.

What sticks in my craw is that every company with a culture assumes it is the best, if not only, one. For example, IBM and AT&T both have a corporate culture. Both are wildly successful. Their cultures are radically different.

For the individual, if you do not fit in. Find someplace you do. Unfortunately, part of your job is adapt to the company, not for the company to adapt to you.
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