Tony Hsieh, the technology entrepreneur, venture capitalist and former CEO of Zappos who built the company into a billion dollar shoe internet empire passed away on Friday. There was an immediate outpouring of tributes: to his innovation, to his generosity, to his commitment to building a better corporate culture and a better world. Between numerous interviews and a book, Hsieh passed on a great deal of career and business advice over the course of his life. Below are a few of the best lessons he shared and embodied throughout his career:
Value What You Want To Do Over A Title Or A Status Symbol
In an interview with NPR’s “How I Built This With Guy Raz”, Hsieh discusses how he sold his first company, LinkExchange, to Microsoft, but instead of staying with the company for just a year and a half longer and receiving his full payout he walked away. “I think I just started going down the path of just trying to make sure I’m being true to myself and doing things because its what I want to do versus what is maybe a status symbol or what society expects me to do,” he said. “I mean, the one resource that we all ultimately have the same constraints on are time, so I didn’t want to waste time.”
“Done is better than good” and “don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good,” are cliché sayings in the workplace, but these sayings were not Hsieh’s. “We must never lose our sense of urgency in making improvements. We must never settle for ‘good enough,’ because good is the enemy of great,” he writes in his book “Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion and Purpose.”
Hsieh was unafraid to take bold risks, especially if he felt it would benefit his company’s culture. At one point at Zappos he adapted “holacracy,” a decentralized organization model with no titles and no hierarchy. He gave his employees an out, and 18% chose to leave. Though it was eventually reported that Zappos moved away from “holacracy,” Hsieh was always considered a culture leader in Silicon Valley and the larger corporate world for prioritizing the happiness of his employees. His willingness to experiment and take big risks not simply to increase profit but to improve his company’s culture distinguished him from other corporate executives.
Don’t Meet Commitments Halfway—Go All In
One of Hsieh’s legacies will be the Downtown Project, his effort to revitalize downtown Las Vegas. Hsieh moved the Zappos headquarters to downtown Las Vegas in 2004, leaving the gated Silicon Valley community and committing $350 million of his own fortune to invest in downtown Las Vegas. It was a rare and progressive gesture from an entrepreneur of his stature. Though it fell short of Hsieh’s lofty goals and there was some controversy with the project, downtown Las Vegas has indisputably expanded. No one doubted the scale of Hsieh’s investment and commitment to the project.