Mediaplanet: You’ve been recognized for shaping a positive work environment and satisfied employees. How do you define a positive company culture?

Tony Hsieh: A positive company culture is one where the company’s corporate values (not just the stated values, but the actually practiced values) are aligned with the employees’ personal values. For Zappos, our 10 core values are: 

  • Deliver Wow Through Service 
  • Embrace and Drive Change 
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness 
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded 
  • Pursue Growth and Learning 
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication 
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit 
  • Do More With Less 
  • Be Passionate and Determined 
  • Be Humble

When we hire employees, we actually have interview questions for each and every one of our core values.

MP: How important do you think a positive company culture is for a business’ efficiency?

TH: In my book “Delivering Happiness,” I talk about the power of values’ alignment throughout the entire organization. Research has shown that companies with strong cultures tend to outperform their peers in the long run.

"You can inspire employees through a company vision that has a higher purpose beyond just profits or being number 1 in a market, and you can inspire employees by having corporate values that match their own personal values."

MP: How do you implement employee appreciation measures yet avoid a sense of entitlement among employees?

TH: While employee appreciation measures can help motivate employees, we really try to focus more on inspiring employees. You can inspire employees through a company vision that has a higher purpose beyond just profits or being number 1 in a market, and you can inspire employees by having corporate values that match their own personal values.

MP: What advice would you give to a new company owner to ensure its employees feel appreciated? How would that translate into efficiency and customer service/sales?

TH: While it’s definitely important for employees to feel appreciated, at Zappos we really believe that it’s important to create an environment where employees are comfortable being themselves, are able to express themselves, can develop true friendships with each other (as opposed to just co-worker relationships), and feel they are contributing to a vision that is meaningful to them and isn’t just about profits. We’ve found that when all of these things happen, communication is better, there are higher levels of trust, and people are more willing to do favors for each other because they’re doing favors for friends, not just co-workers. As a result, our managers tell us the efficiency and productivity of their teams increase from 20 percent to 100 percent.

MP: Could you explain what Zappos’ Insights program is, and what companies can hope to accomplish through it? What kind of companies could benefit from this program?

TH: One of our goals is to help other companies develop their own strong cultures. Zappos Insights is a separate entity and website that offers services such as a monthly membership subscription program to 1-day and 2-day seminars to help companies figure out their own corporate values that are right for them.