Building for the long term

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Image by jdlasica via Flickr

I’m a big Zappos.com fan.  I think every pair of shoes I currently own came via Zappos.com.  Their selection and service are amazing, and they make the shoe buying experience very simple.  But the thing I really love about Zappos (which I know has been discussed to death on the internet), is their company culture.

Today I was listening to an interview (yes, another mixergy interview) with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, someone I’ve come to really admire.  In the interview he tells the whole story about the founding of Zappos, how he first got involved as an investor and then later on as CEO, and how the company’s legendary culture evolved.  I realized in listening to Tony talk, the key to their success, one of the key factors in the evolution of their famed culture, was the ability to think and act in the long term.  I think this is one of those things that you always hear (just like following your passion) but very few people have the courage to actually do it.  It’s clear that Hsieh and his team have a long term vision for the company, and they’re willing to allow it to evolve.  The thing about having a long term perspective is you can absorb short term costs such as their legendary $2,000 offer to pay new hires to quit, or their 365 day return policy because over the course of 5 or 10 years those policies will pay off big.  In fact in the interview Hsieh even says he could instantly add to the bottom line by shutting down their 24/7 call center, and most likely it would have very little effect on sales over the course of 6-12 months.  But the worsened customer experience would eventually eat into their most valuable asset (perceived high quality of service), and start to hurt sales.

The more books I read and interviews I listen to about people who do big, remarkable things, and I’d put Hsieh and his team’s work at Zappos in this category, the more I see the importance of thinking and acting with the long term in mind.

check out the mixergy interview

Bonus:

a recap of Tony Hsieh’s talk at SXSW 09

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