Posted by: goalpath | August 18, 2009

Starting a New Business? To Succeed You Will Need Treat your Employees like Family

Business life and family life have always been separate entities. Kiss the spouse, hug the kids and the paradigm shift begins. By the time you reach the office, you have shifted gears into your business mode. Why? Because your business life and family life are mutually exclusive and have always been that way since the industrial revolution began. Work by its very nature should be serious and focused on the tasks at hand. Fun has no place in the equation. Work was never meant to be enjoyable or fun, right? You might need to rethink this strategy if you want to be successful in the new millennium.

In an earlier blog on happiness in the workplace, I wrote about the benefits of creating a culture of happy and engaged employees and how that can translate into higher productivity. According to a recent study by Alexander Kjerulf, happy workers work better with others, are more creative, have more energy, are more optimistic, are more motivated, get sick less often, learn faster, make fewer mistakes and make better decisions. Consequently, they are much more productive. But creating a happy workplace is just the beginning.  

Creating a family environment where the employees feel connected and engaged is the next step. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos, the highly successful online footwear retailer. At the Web 2.0 Conference last year he talked about the first company he started, Link Exchange, and how the workplace changed as it grew. He said it was a fun place to work in the early days, but once it reached 100 employees, he no longer looked forward to going to work. So he sold the company to Microsoft for $240M and walked away. He begin investing in web startups after selling that company. Zappos was a company he helped fund in 1999 and he liked the company and concept so much he later became the CEO. With Zappos, Tony had a second chance to build a company culture that embraced and engaged its employees in a good way.

Last year, Amazon bought Zappos for $920M, but Tony still runs the company and clearly has built a team culture like no other. It is all about aligning your brand with your company culture and seeing to it that the promise of your company is delivered by every employee every day. In my book, Marketing Alignment, I point out that if a company’s value proposition is based on customer service and the company isn’t delivering the very best customer service available, then the customers will see through the smoke screen and not do business with that company. Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on me.

Zappos prides itself on its customer service and apparently they not only deliver on that promise every day, they over deliver on that promise frequently. You order a product with standard shipping and they might just ship it overnight. So that pair of shoes you are just dying to have, might just get there the next morning. Maybe, you have a problem with your order. Just ship it back free of charge. They provide free shipping both ways on every order. Their call center reps are called Customer Loyalty Reps. Every employee of the company, be it an accountant, Vice President, or factory worker has to spend two weeks working in the call center answering customer calls. No exceptions.

All employees are offered $2,000 to quit at the end of their first 90 days. Tony believes that if any employee is not totally committed to the Zappos mission, it is better for all concerned if that employee takes the cash and leaves. On the other hand, once employees become permanent, they have a lot of freedom to control their work and their environment. They are expected to adhere to Zappos Core Values which are:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More with Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

I believe these values would fit into any corporate culture and make any company more successful. While Zappos is a shining example, other 21st century companies are finding ways to retain the best and most successful people. Google for example, provides onsite healthcare, childcare, recreation, massage therapy, food services, fitness centers and numerous other perks. While these perks will definitely attract employees to your company, only the larger corporate employers can afford them. But, you don’t have to provide onsite catering or massage to become very successful. Your team will make your company successful provided they buy into your company’s vision and mission.

Bottom line, to create a successful business in the 21st Century you will need to find employees who can not only sell your vision, but those that truly buy into it and will live it every day of the year. And to retain them, you will need to give them the tools and the freedom to do the job their own way. Treat them like you would treat a member of your family and make sure they are recognized for their contributions, regardless of what they do. Micromanage them or exert too much control over their work or their environment and neither your company, or your employees, will be around very long. It is about building a team.

Diane Crampton, a Linkedin member, recently interviewed Tony Hsieh and wrote about Tony and Zappos on her blog. Read her post at  

What’s your take on this issue? Inquiring minds want to know. Comment on Linkedin and/or on my web site, We are always looking for Baby Boomers with an opinion that don’t mind speaking out and can successfully complete a sentence.



  1. Goalpath, first of all, thank you for the article! Our culture means so much to us here at Zappos! It is always great to see that it is a model that may help others break the mold of ‘corporate life’.

    Check out for a closer look at our culture, and how it is reflected in our company. There is a subscription service also, if you want to look even deeper. gives a nice look into the everyday happenings at Zappos, and is a great way to see the culture at work too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: