What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Remembering Tony Hsieh, a visionary who transformed online business

Tony Hsieh, the retired CEO of the online shoe store Zappos, died on Friday from injuries suffered in a fire. Throughout the tech industry he had been seen as a visionary who revolutionized online commerce. He was 46 years old. Last year, Steve Goldbloom, of our "That Moment When" team, spoke to Hsieh about his career and the importance of shared values at his company.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The retired CEO of the online shoe store Zappos, Tony Hsieh, died on Friday from injuries suffered in a fire.

    Throughout the tech industry, he had been seen as a visionary who revolutionized online commerce. He was 46.

    Last year, Steve Goldbloom from our "That Moment When" team spoke to Hsieh about his career and the importance of shared values at his company.

  • Tony Hsieh:

    After graduating from college in '95, I went to work for Oracle in the Bay Area.

    My college roommate, we decided to start our own business. And at the time, the Internet was just getting started. We started a Web design and marketing business. During lunch hours, I would go and make sales calls.

    In the evenings at home, we would create Web sites. And then we realized that all these Web sites we were creating, they didn't really have a way market themselves. And so that's what led us to start a service called LinkExchange. We started hiring friends.

    And that whole strategy of hiring friends and friends of friends worked really well until we got to about 20 people. And then we basically ran out of friends. We had to start hiring people through resumes and interviewing. And we also didn't know any better to pay attention to company culture. And not everyone we hired was good for the culture.

    And not everyone so by the time we got to 100 people, I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning to go to my own company. And that's really what led us to sell the company to Microsoft.

    We sold LinkExchange in 1998 for $265 million. I started making a list of all the things that I wanted to buy, and I realized that I didn't actually have that much on the list. I was really more interested in helping build stuff.

    When I got involved with Zappos, wanted to make sure that I didn't make the same mistake again, and so that's why, from the beginning, Zappos has always paid a lot attention to company culture.

    Zappos was founded in 1999 in San Francisco. In 2004, we ended up moving the entire company to Las Vegas. We decided we wanted to build the Zappos brand to be about the very best customer service and customer experience. So, we literally take thousands and thousands of phone calls every day.

    We view it as, actually, our best relationship-building opportunity. Everyone's being inundated with thousands of marketing messages every day. When you have a phone call with someone, you actually get to connect with them one on one.

    One of our core values at Zappos is to create fun and a little weirdness. We really recognize and celebrate each person's individuality, and we want their true personalities to shine in the workplace.

    Most people, they are a different person at home, on weekends hanging out with their friends than they are in the office with co-workers. Ideally, you're the same person. Your co-workers aren't just co-workers, but they're are actual friends, not because we're forcing you to be friends, but because that's what you want because you have the same values, because you want to make sure that the values still include enough room for diversity.

    I'm, by default, pretty introverted and quiet and shy. If I meet someone for the first time, I have gotten feedback that, sometimes, because I'm not talking as much, they think I secretly hate them or I'm judging them or whatever, whereas I'm just shy, I guess.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Inspiring story from Tony Hsieh, who died on Friday.

Listen to this Segment