Leadership | The Secrets Behind the Success of Zappos


Imagine being offered $2,000 by your boss to quit your job just because he wants to make sure that you are working for other reasons rather than the money, or having to try matching a name with a randomly selected colleague photo before logging on to the office computer. Well, this sounds surreal, almost unrealistic to other people, but is ordinary to employees at Zappos, an online company that initially sold shoes but has now added handbags, pots, and pans.

According to Zappos’ chief executive Tony Hsieh, the company’s success is attributed to its tight workplace environment and its focus on customer relationships. It is no secret that the company employs out of the ordinary measures that contribute to its popularity. Here are some of them.


1. It must be in the name

The name Zappos is derived from the Spanish word ‘zapatos’ that actually means ‘shoes’. It is no wonder that Zappos was carved out for success in shoes selling right from its inception. In its formation stages, the company was kept running by Hsieh who had to dig into his pockets and pay for the company’s expenses.


2. Reading Culture

Zappos has an on-site library so that workers are encouraged to read books with the hope that some of the knowledge will trickle down to their work performance. A new employee cannot develop culture shock at Zappos as it has a culture book that entails the culture of the company. This is done so as to familiarize themselves with the company’s ways of doing things. The company maintains a culture of humility and insists that no matter how talented an individual is, they may not be hired if egotistical traits are detected.


3. Ask us anything

“Why are men’s and women’s shoe sizes different?” These are some of the questions that are posted for the monthly newsletter “Ask us anything”. Employees are encouraged to field any question that comes to mind. They believe this will pave way for open communication. The newsletter also features short essays from employees, therefore creating a homely environment and loyalty among the workers, as the workers share issues in their own perspective.


4. Customer Care

The company has a long record of customer care relations, literally. One inbound sales representative was engaged in a phone conversation with a customer for six hours. We can only hope that the customer bought enough products to cover the phone bill, but the founder does not seem to mind. He asserts that on average, every customer has previously contacted them at some point, and the quality of the customer service received encourages the customer to come back for more. The company even goes to the extent of recommending competitor websites to customers in case they lack what the customer requires.


5. Two-way free shipping policy

Being a Zappos customer comes with unique benefits, nothing short of being a rewarding experience. It has an unbelievable two-way free shipping policy. Shoes are shipped without any cost to the customer and in the event that the customer is not satisfied with them, they are also returned free of charge.


6. Blessings in Disguise

It is said that blessings come in disguise, and the company’s blessings presented themselves in form of tough economic situations. The company could not afford advertising and had to source for creative ploys to draw in customers such as having customer care round the clock and opening the warehouse 24-7 so that shoes get to the customers as quickly as possible. This has been beneficial to the company, as its growth has been the result of repeat customers and word of mouth. The company is guided by the motto ‘Chase the dream, not the money’.  Hsieh asserts that once you are passionate about something, money will follow.


Though Hsieh describes himself as just average, there is nothing average about his company. The methods utilized by Zappos may be outrageous to say the least, but they seem to be working. The company grew from attaining sales worth 1.6 million to achieving over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales within a span of ten years. A bright future seems to be looming over the company, as it braces itself to further push boundaries, and establish itself as a force to reckon within the competitive market.