Posts Tagged ‘Zappos’

A Culture-Developing Book

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time is Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Why? Because it’s all about what I believe may be the most important factor in the success of a business. Oh, and I like the way it’s written.

For years I’ve been asking successful business owners, executives, managers, and founders one question: What do you hire for, fit or skill? In all but one time, the answer I’ve gotten from the most successful leaders is “hire for fit.” In other words, hire people who fit the company’s culture, who will fit in with co-workers, because anyone can learn skills – they can’t learn to fit a culture.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had many managers, owners, executives, and founders claim to hire for skill. Quite a few, actually, answer that way. But I can’t recall a single one that would be considered successful by many on the outside. In fact, there’s been a direct correlation between mediocre managers who claim to focus on a potential employee’s skill, and successful ones who hire for fit. Okay, it’s not a scientific study, but my anecdotal surveys are many enough to demonstrate more than a trend.

If you know much about Zappos, you know that the company is all about providing an incredible customer experience. They’ve built a culture focused on customer service. They hire people who will go out of their way to give customers an experience they will rave about. That’s not a skill that people either have or don’t have; it’s an attitude, it’s part of a person’s values. The skills to do so are developed.

What’s interesting is what inspired Hsieh to build a company so focused and committed to building the company’s culture. It was a personal experience at a company he founded. One day, he awoke and realized his company had changed, and it wasn’t pretty. The culture – the collective values – of the business had turned into something he didn’t like. The business had turned into something ugly. He couldn’t say exactly who, what or when it changed, but it had.

I’ve experienced the exact same thing. That’s probably one reason I enjoyed Delivering Happiness so much. Read it. I bet you’ll get more than you expected from it.

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