Every Sunday, The New York Times has a column where it interviews an executive about the challenges of leading and managing, and this past Sunday the Times interviewed Harvard educated Taiwanese American Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com (now a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com.) Zappos is an online retailer of shoes, something I thought would never take off, but did, with an estimated annual revenue close to $1 billion when it was acquired last year. Hsieh was already a successful entrepreneur prior to Zappos — he had sold LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million — but his biggest regret was that he was unable to maintain the corporate culture as the company grew. One behavioral question Tony likes to ask is: “… On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?” He explains his reasoning:
“If you’re a 1, you’re probably a little bit too strait-laced for us. If you’re a 10, you might be too psychotic for us. It’s not so much the number; it’s more seeing how candidates react to a question. Because our whole belief is that everyone is a little weird somehow, so it’s really more just a fun way of saying that we really recognize and celebrate each person’s individuality, and we want their true personalities to shine in the workplace environment, whether it’s with co-workers or when talking with customers.”
So when Tony joined Zappos, he vowed to define and maintain the culture. One of Zappos’s values is, “Create fun and a little weirdness.” – thus the question above. Another Zappos’s value is focused on excellent customer service. So it’s no surprise that Tony sold the company to Jeff Bezos, who equally has a passion for excellent customer service. When you get a chance, I recommend you reading the interview with Tony, especially if you are an entrepreneur and have an interest in maintaining a corporate culture while growing your business.