A Remarkable, 10-Year-Old Email from Tony Hsieh on Zappos Company Culture

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In early 2005, Tony Hsieh was a relative unknown.

Zappos was a fast-growing company, but it was far from being the household brand that it is today. While it hadn’t yet come up with its core values for which it is famous today, the company had a growing sense of its own culture and identity. They were on the cusp of something big.

It was against this backdrop that Hsieh emailed this never-before published update to investors, employees, partners, and friends of Zappos. It’s an awesome behind-the-scenes look at what drove Hsieh and kept him up at night. In this glimpse into how Hsieh thought about building a company, you can see the seeds of what would grow into Zappos’s world-famous company culture and brand.

Within five years, Zappos would hit $1 billion in revenue and Hsieh would author Delivering Happiness, a #1 New York Times Bestseller, which would catapult him into being one of the most influential business persons in the world. But here is an unfiltered look into the mind of Tony Hsieh, before the notoriety and fame.

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This Deli Makes $50 Million a Year By Staying Small

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It’s crazy to learn about a deli that makes $50 million dollars a year. It’s stranger yet how they’ve done it.

Most restaurants grow their revenue by opening more locations and eventually developing a franchise model like Subway. You sell more and more sandwiches as you open more and more stores. The problem is that the quality inevitably declines. Your restaurant becomes more about volume than great food and remarkable service.

Zingerman’s, a deli based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, faced this fork in the road: open more locations or face continually stagnating revenue growth. Instead of choosing the conventional franchise path, they blazed their own trail.

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How to Hire Like Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos Early Amazon

It’s hard to believe now, but in the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos had a tough time hiring.

While he had some extreme methods, he refused to compromise on them even when the company was in desperate need to staff up. Bezos stuck to his guns and turned down candidate after candidate, much to the frustration of his lieutenants.

What must have felt unbearable in the short term turned out to be absolutely critical in the long term, as Amazon built the unique and high-performing company culture that made it the prime tech giant it is today.

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95% of Managers Follow an Outdated Theory of Motivation

Ford assembly line in the 1940s

What, by a long shot, is the most important motivator for employees at work? Is it money, pressure, or praise?

Typically managers believe the idea that pressure makes diamonds. The thinking is that if you want exceptional performance, you align employee objectives with end-of-year bonuses for hitting certain milestones and then employees will turn up their work ethic to reach them.

Long-held conventional wisdom on management dies hard. That’s because it’s based on gut instinct and superstition — and managerial understanding of motivation is no different. A massive 95% of managers are wrong about what the most powerful motivator for employees at work.

Not only that, they’re thinking about employee motivation fundamentally wrong.

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The Boring Trait Google Looks For in Its Leaders

Google-Executives-Larry-Page-Eric-Schmidt-Sergey-Brin

The prototypical leader is a hero: gives the rousing speech, inspires the troops, and shows up at the last minute to save the day. At least that’s how leaders are portrayed. but that’s not at all what Google discovered as their most important qualities.

At Google, they’re obsessive about looking at data to determine what makes employees successful and what they found in the numbers was surprising.

The most important character trait of a leader is one that you’re more likely to associate with a dull person than a dynamic leader: predictability. The more predictable you are, day after day, the better.

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What Will Fast Company Write about Your Startup’s Culture?

zappos startup culture values

Successful entrepreneurs like Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, exhort startups to write down their core values on Day 1 and make company culture a first-order concern from the very beginning.

Have you tried it? The problem is that after you look at what you wrote, you’ll probably see a bunch of boring clichés. Many of your company values might sound suspiciously similar to Zappos’s and Netflix’s. Your company couldn’t sound less exciting.

Molly Graham, former Head of Mobile at Facebook, who worked with Mark Zuckerberg to define Facebook’s company culture in 2008, recognized this common pitfall. She came up with an ingenious solution to the problem, rooted in a simple trick that Amazon uses to build its products, that helped Facebook own the Hacker brand that defined the company through its IPO.

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Open SSL Heartbleed Bug Security Update

At this time, we have no evidence that iDoneThis has been attacked or that there has been any compromise of user data. All our measures have been precautionary.

We recommend that iDoneThis users change their passwords.

Heartbleed for the Less Tech-Savvy

Heartbleed is a recently uncovered security vulnerability in OpenSSL, which is used to secure highly sensitive data such as passwords. This would allow would-be attackers to view sensitive, encrypted data from a compromised site without leaving a trace and to use this data to potentially impersonate users of the site.

We’ve fixed the security vulnerability and recommend that you change your password as a precaution.

See the BBC’s coverage as well as Lifehacker’s plain language explanation for more information.

Heartbleed for the More Tech-Savvy

Yesterday the OpenSSL Project released an update to address the CVE-2014-0160 vulnerability. This vulnerability affected over 60% of web sites, including iDoneThis.

We updated the relevant code on our servers on April 8th, 2014. As of 1pm (Pacific Daylight Time), the vulnerability is no longer present.

As a precaution, we have also re-issued our SSL certificates and revoked our old ones.

Questions or Need to Get in Touch?

Email Rodrigo at rodrigo@idonethis.com. Head here if you need instructions for how to give us security reports.

How to Attract the Right Audience and Subvert the Funnel

We were lucky enough to have Chris Savage, co-founder and CEO of Wistia, deliver a great talk to the Vegas tech community on why video marketing is so powerful when building audiences and how to make video production easier.

The good folks at Wistia often recommend to video newbies that they work with whatever camera they have handy — so we MacGyver’d something with Walter’s iPhone, some tape, a picture frame, and a bar stool to capture Chris’s words of wisdom.

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