Former Zappos CEO and co-founder Tony Hsieh, who died tragically last week after succumbing to injuries from a house fire, stuck by his company even after it was bought out by Amazon. Hsieh leaves behind a legacy as a young, motivated and somewhat unusual leader who modeled his company around providing great customer service and keeping his workers happy.
Hsieh quickly rose to prominence in the tech world, starting out with a brief stint at Oracle after graduating college. He co-founded the advertising network LinkExchange in 1996 and acted as its CEO. The company was sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million. He went on to co-found online shoe company Zappos in 1999, becoming its CEO in 2000.
Zappos was bought out by Amazon in 2009 in a reportedly $1.2 billion deal. In an unusual move, Hsieh worked out a deal to stay involved with the company, and remained its CEO until his retirement in August of this year.
During his tenure at the helm of Zappos, he set up a call center in Las Vegas and moved the entire company there. He encouraged his call center workers to take as long as necessary to talk to customers, and worked to establish a close-knit community among his workers.
He authored a book, "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose" that was centered around keeping customers and employees happy as a path to success and profitability.
By 2013, Hsieh had decided to overhaul the traditional corporate structure at Zappos and institute a "holacracy." The system had no managers, no job titles and everyone was treated as equal. The move backfired, and in just one year 18 percent of the staff took buyouts. Within three years, 29 percent had chosen to take buyouts. Zappos eventually transitioned back to a more traditional corporate culture.
Even with Zappos' corporate ups and downs, Hsieh will be remembered as a trailblazer who placed a strong emphasis on keeping his customers and employees happy. Sadly, he wasn't quite three months into his retirement when he died in Bridgeport, CT at age 46.
TechZone360 Contributing Editor
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