Tony Hsieh Contemporary Leader

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Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com

Zappos is an online shoe and merchandise retailer that grew from a startup company in a San Francisco apartment to become a billion dollar company within a decade, while also being consistently ranked as one of the top companies to work for the past five (5) years. Zappos has 1,243 employees and had revenue of $2.2 billion in 2011. While the company cut 1,670 jobs in 2011, there was no voluntary turnover and more than 46,000 job applicants. (Vellota, 2013) This was accomplished by making good business decisions and adhering to a set of core values that everyone is expected to commit to. Amazon acquired Zappos in 2009 for $920 million, yet, it continues to operate independently to maintain their unique culture under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tony Hsieh. The evolution of the Zappos brand promise over the years has been follows: 1999 – Largest selection of shoes; 2003 – Customer Service; 2005 – Culture and Core Values as the Platform; 2007 – Personal Emotional Connections; 2009 – Delivering Happiness. (Hsieh, 2010) Zappos is currently located in Henderson, Las Vegas and in the fall of 2013, they will be relocating to the downtown Las Vegas area. This downtown area is undergoing an urban revitalization movement and is being transformed into “the most community-focused large city in the world.” (Kaydo, 2013) Visitors can arrange online for a free tour of Zappos’ headquarters that include transportation at no cost. Zappos has a library with an impressive list of titles that everyone is encouraged to check out free of charge to “Pursue Growth & Learning”. Zappos Insights was created to mentor companies and individuals and give them the chance to immerse themselves in the Zappos Family culture. (Hsieh, 2010) Tony Hsieh was born in Illinois, the oldest of three boys. His parents emigrated from Taiwan as college students. Later, the Hsieh family relocated to the San Francisco Bay area in California. Growing up, his parents placed emphasis on mastering musical instruments and academic and career accomplishments. At a young age, Tony fantasized about making money. In elementary school, he held garage sales; invested his time and money in an earthworm farm; sold advertising space in a self-composed newsletter; and in middle school started a mail order photo button enterprise that earned him $200 a month. (Hsieh, 2010) He got the idea for the photo button by reading the classified section of Boys Life magazine. He handed off his lucrative button business to his younger brother when he went off to college at Harvard University where he studied computer science. In college, Tony won a bid to run the college grille, which he invested in an oven and sold pizzas to student residents. It was at Harvard; Tony met Alfred Lin, who unbeknownst to Hsieh was making a greater profit from Tony’s pizzas by selling them by the slice. Tony’s goal after graduating college was to land a high paying job “that did not seem like too much work”. (Hsieh, 2010) Before graduating from college in 1995, Oracle offered Tony a job as a software engineer, which he accepted because it paid the most money, and for his moving and housing expenses during their three-week training program. Tony soon became bored and approached his former college roommate and Oracle colleague, Sanjay Madan, with the idea of creating websites for businesses in their spare time. Soon after, they both quit their jobs at Oracle and devoted their full time to this endeavor. In 1998, Tony Hsieh, at the age of twenty-four (24) years, sold the company he co-founded, with Sanjay Madan, called Link Exchange, two years and eight months earlier, to Microsoft for the sum of $265,000,000. (Reiss, 2010) Link Exchange was an internet advertising company that displayed banner advertisements on their website. With the profits from the sale of Link Exchange, Hsieh co-founded, with another college alumnus, Alfred Lin, an investment company...
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