eCommerce Lifestyle

Lessons Learned From Tony Hsieh


eCommerce just lost a legend when Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos and author of Delivering Happiness passed on November 27th, 2020.

Not only did Tony bring something new to the industry through how he led Zappos, he also publicly shared his business philosophy inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to build and run better businesses.

In today’s episode of the eCommerce Lifestyle Podcast, I share the top lessons I learned from this eCommerce icon.

As always, if you have any questions and suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment below. Don’t forget to share this with someone who needs to hear it.

What's Covered in This Episode:

  • All the things I got from his book and interviews
  • Zappos core values

The podcast is also available on all major podcast players including, Stitcher and Spotify.

Links From This Episode:

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Hello everybody, Anton Kraly here from and welcome back to the podcast. So for today, we're going to do something a little bit different. I recently posted a new video on our YouTube account. By the way, if you're not subscribed there and you like YouTube, where you like videos, go to I'll link that up in the podcast description as well. But anyway, I posted a video there that I think should be shared with everybody. You don't need the video version for this one to make sense. So what I'm going to do now is just play the audio with you and share this message, because I think it'll help a lot of people out there. So let's go ahead and kick this off.

E-commerce just lost a legend when Tony Hsieh the longtime CEO of and the author of the book, Delivering Happiness, just passed away on November 27th of 2020. Not only did Tony bring something totally new to the table through how he led Zappos, but also he publicly shared a lot of his business philosophy and helped hundreds of thousands if not millions of people build and run better businesses. Now I don't know, or I never knew Tony personally, but through what he shared out there, whether it be through his book, which I highly recommend everybody read or through different interviews he did, I learned a lot. So what I wanted to do in this video is just share some of the top lessons that I got from him and everything that he was so generous with sharing publicly.

For anyone that's not familiar with, it's an online shoe company. You can go there and buy sneakers, buy dress shoes, buy whatever kind of shoes you want. And Tony didn't start that company, but he was brought on as the CEO very early. And he was really responsible along with the team, of course, for their massive growth. And if anyone's wondering how big they got, they sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion. And before he had even done that, when he was 24 years old I think, he had built another website called LinkExchange that sold to Microsoft for $30 million. So guy definitely knew what he was doing and had so much to share. What I really loved about everything that Tony did and shared is not focusing on short-term growth or these quick money grabs. Instead, what he believed in was long-term growth and focusing on creating a happy life for yourself, for your employees and for your customers.

And the thing that's really amazing to me is that he was able to do this at scale. He was able to create a different company culture. There's so many companies out there with dozens or hundreds or thousands of employees where people just punch the clock and they do what they have to do to get paid and is what it is. It's work. But instead he shifted this thing to almost have everybody, at least from what I read and from what I've seen in interviews, where everybody on that team had the same mindset and the same mentality that solopreneurs do or smaller teams. And being able to pull that off again, you don't see it, it's a rarity. So what I realized as I just went back and re-read his book, Delivering Happiness, I should have internalized a lot of these lessons earlier, honestly, but I've made a lot of mistakes over our growth curve, which is nowhere near as impressive as what he's done.

But what I realized is there are so many lessons that I just wish I would have internalized sooner because they probably would have saved me a lot of money and a lot of growing pains. So what I want to do in this video is share the Zappos core values. And I also want to talk about some ways that I've realized again, through his book and through his interviews, that they actually lived their values, which again, a lot of companies don't do. So their first core value was deliver WOW through service. And what was interesting as I read his book is that this was the one thing that Zappos wanted to be the best at. And it's what they became famous for. So in his book, he talks a lot about not trying to be okay at everything, but picking that one thing that your company is going to do and be the best at and not outsourcing that.

And you would think, a shoe site, they would be the best at maybe picking shoes or keeping shoes in stock. But that's not what they chose. Instead, their first core value was to deliver WOW through service. And by doing that, they were able to grow like wildfire through referral marketing and word of mouth. Now their second core value is to embrace and drive change. And this is something again that most companies won't do. Everybody tries to emulate what everybody else is doing. What they did to embrace and drive change is take their normal dollars, their normal budget that would go into traditional paid media. And they took that money and instead they used it to accomplish the first core value, WOW customers. How did they do that? Well, they had things like a 365 day return policy on shoes. They had things like free next day shipping. And they also had real people that would answer the phone and they still do. If you call them, you don't get some call center or some automated message. You get an actual person.

Tony created Zappos to have a higher purpose than just selling shoes. And that higher purpose was delivering happiness. Something else that I thought was really interesting from his book is that every phone call that came in every time somebody calls their number, they view that phone call as a branding opportunity rather than an expense. So they never use scripts like, okay answer the phone like this, then say that, then say this. They also didn't impose time limits on the calls. And what you'll see from a lot of e-commerce companies and companies in general is they try to minimize phone time as much as possible. So you'll go through the automated systems. And then if you eventually get to somebody, they'll have a script and they'll be trying to get you off the phone as quick as possible because that business doesn't want to spend money by having a person on the phone.

Zappos went the total opposite approach and said, "We're going to answer the phone. We're going to talk to you for as long as we need to. We're going to make sure that you are happy". And that is what led to a lot of their organic growth. Now their third core value is create fun and a little weirdness. And one way that I realized they did this was in their interviews when they're interviewing people for new positions. One of the questions is on a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you? And what I thought was interesting here is if somebody gave a 1, they might think that person is not weird enough for us, but if somebody gave a 10, they'd be like okay maybe this person's a little bit too weird. But they wanted people that weren't just in the mold of everybody else. They wanted people that were weird, AKA unique. People that would bring something original to the table and people that would, again not just fit into this box of what everybody else is.

So I thought that was really interesting. And it's something that I actually started asking people as well. Now their fourth core value is be adventurous, creative, and open-minded. And what I like about this is I know from hiring that, trying to get people just to fill a seat, that's easy. You post a job application for anything, you'll get hundreds of applications. But what you want to maintain this growth with this small business, small team feel is people that will break the mold. So that's why he asked the question, "How weird are you on a scale of 1 to 10?" And also digs deeper, trying to find people that aren't just for lack of better words, boring.

Now their fifth core value is to pursue growth and learning and this really helps people find their passion. It's something we've been doing for a while, thanks to what Tony Hsieh has shared. But what this does is try to get people to find where they are passionate, where they can excel and eliminate what they don't want to do. So the way that I've internalized this one is by trying to encourage people to learn. And of course, doing this all myself as well. Some examples of this is when we were based in Austin, Texas, we had a mini office library where people can take as many books as they want. Also, with my team, any courses they want online, gladly the company will pay for so they can get that next level of education. Same thing with conferences, maybe not so much now, because they're not happening in person. But when conferences were happening and when they come back, I am more than happy to send my team because I want them to learn more. I want them to find what they're passionate about and that's where I want them to spend their time And again, I got this all from Tony. So I appreciate that. One more tip here that you might want to take away. If you start having your team read more books, take more courses, go to more conferences is after they go have an all hands meeting with your entire team. This could be on Zoom and have them go through some of the top things they learned. Just so everybody gets the benefit from that experience. Now the sixth core value for Zappos is to build open and honest relationships with community.

And one thing that we do again on a much smaller scale, but that I got from Tony Hsieh is to have all hands meetings, meaning that you don't just have a meeting with the top two or three people at your company. Have a meeting, again it can be online, but do them occasionally where everybody joins. And on these meetings don't have it so you're talking to everybody else. Or so your managers are talking down to everybody else, set up some meetings that go back and forth. They're not one way conversations, they're open so that everybody can say what they feel, can share their ideas and that leads to a lot stronger relationships with your team and with you as a leader.

Now their seventh core value is to build a positive team and family spirit. This one is important. And again, I wish I would have internalized this one sooner, but what Tony says he used to do was only hire people that he would go out to drinks with. And the reason that this is one of the things he cared about is because he realized that when your team is connected on a deeper level, people will work harder and more importantly, they'll treat each other better. So it doesn't mean that just hire all your buddies or anything like that, but try to find people that have the same type of mindset, people that will be respected and respect their coworkers and people that can work harder and collaborate together. People that you would like even outside of work.

Now, their eight core value, this one I took in, in a big way early on. And that is to do more with less. So one way his book talks about this is by taking things slow because when you invest too much time or too many resources, whether that be people or contractors, that's often counterproductive for long-term happiness and growth. So instead use what you have. Use it in a slower way to grow and grow at your own pace. That way, if things don't work out, you don't have a huge sunk cost of money or time.

Now their ninth core value is to be passionate and determined. And for this, what he means and what he said in the book is to focus on what you want your company to be the best at, instead of being average at several things. So again, going back to their first core value for them, that was WOWing customers. That's what they were passionate and determined to accomplish. And also going back to the core value of always learning, same thing. What can you be passionate about? How can you find your true passion? And that is by being a lifelong learner.

Now finally their 10th core value, something I care a lot about as a person and with my team is be humble. We actually had in our office library in Austin, a big sign that said "Work hard and stay humble" because even if people are great on your team, if they think all the success is because of them, if they think they're better than everybody else, that's going to be a cancer to your business. And it's going to hurt a lot more than their results help because it is a team game. That's why it's so important to have everybody happy. That's why it's important to have everybody contribute. And that's why it's important to have an open dialogue with everybody.

So to wrap this up, I just want to say rest in peace Tony Hsieh, went way too soon. It sounds like in a tragic way. He was a great person, a great leader. He delivered a lot of happiness to a lot of people from their team to their customers and he definitely left a huge legacy on the world. So thank you Tony, for that. And for everybody watching, I hope that some of my takeaways from his work and what he shared can benefit you as well. Again, I would highly recommend everybody picks up a copy of his book called Delivering Happiness. You could find it everywhere. And with that being said, I will talk to you all in the next video. See ya.