Leadership / Management | Organizational Development

Zappos: It’s gotta be the shoes … and the service

Zappos The Maryland Association of CPAs has a serious case of Zappos fever.

My MACPA colleagues and I have become obsessed with the Henderson, Nev.-based shoe and apparel retailer. And that obsession has nothing to do with shoes and apparel.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm sure Zappos sells a mean pair of shoes.

What really has us excited, though, is the Zappos culture.

You might have heard about it. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced "Shay") wrote a book about it. It's an incredible story, really. Essentially, Hsieh and Co. decided to find out if they could build a successful business based less on business itself than on culture and service. Their reasoning: If your culture is right and your service is outstanding, your business will succeed.

The great thing about Zappos, as MACPA Deputy Executive Director Jackie Brown says, is that although they started with shoes, "they have been able to significantly expand their product offerings because (what they do) is about culture and service. ... They listen to customers and develop trusted and valued relationships with the vendors that customers ask for. Treating staff, customers and vendors right creates a win-win-win." 

Wanna read something awesome? Here are Zappos' core values:

  1. Deliver "wow" through service.
  2. Embrace and drive change.
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.
  4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
  5. Pursue growth and learning.
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.
  8. Do more with less.
  9. Be passionate and determined.
  10. Be humble.

How cool is that? How completely outstanding would it be to work for a company like that?

At the MACPA, we've decided that we want to find out. We had a staff meeting recently in which one of our colleagues offered up this challenge: "What if we could become the Zappos for CPAs?"

Our team's response? Let's give it a shot.

Tom Hood, our intrepid leader, will be giving a presentation during Accounting Today's Growth and Profitability Summit, slated for Nov. 17-18 in Las Vegas. Given the setting, Tom (in his usual, forward-thinking way) decided to see if he could reserve a tour of Zappos' Nevada headquarters during that same week.

As usual, he succeeded. Then, he and Jackie decided to take it a step further.

"Read Tony Hsieh's book," they told the MACPA team, "then tell us your impressions." The MACPA staffers who did so were entered into a drawing for a trip to Vegas to join Tom on the Zappos tour.

We received some great feedback. Here's a sample:

  • "Empower your employees to grow and constantly learn, to challenge themselves."
  • "If you don't have a passion for something, it is worthwhile to try something else."
  • "Even a great idea needs tweaking and will not work without a good guiding principle."
  • "Your culture is your brand."
  • And (this one is mine): "Everyone on the team should be empowered to immediately offer great, wow-worthy service ... no questions asked."

(And congratulatons, by the way, to Cora Edwards, who won the drawing for the Zappos tour.)

Here's the deal: A great company serves its clients well, and that service starts within. Serve your own people well, and they'll be compelled to serve your clients well. Make your team feel special, and they'll make your clients feel special. And you'll succeed as a result.

At the MACPA, we think we've done that in the past, and we're going to try to commit ourselves to that notion even more strongly going forward. We want to wow our members through service ... and that means wowing our own team at the same time.

We'll follow up with details of our Zappos tour when we return from Vegas.

And Tony Hsieh, if you're listening, I know an eager, young (OK, not-so-young) blogger who'd love a brief interview with you after our tour on Nov. 16. Help us spread the good Zappos word to the CPA world! Leave us a comment if you're interested.

As for the rest of you, tell us: How are you wowing your customers through service? How are you wowing your team through your culture?


Bill Sheridan