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7 Entrepreneurial lessons to learn from former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Written by Damilola Faustino

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Tony Hsieh, entrepreneur

Tony Hsieh, the prolific entrepreneur, and former CEO of online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos is dead. He was 46.

According to reports, he died of his injuries after a house fire in the US state of Connecticut.

It is important to add that the two Tony Hsieh-linked companies Link Exchange and Zappos were sold at mouthwatering prices. The former was bought by Microsoft for $265 million while the latter was sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion.

Here are some lessons entrepreneurs and founders can learn from Tony Hsieh.

Know what makes you happy

Tony Hsieh was managing his own venture capital business-Venture Frogs when he initially invested in Zappos. He became the CEO of the company in 2000 and transformed it into a billion-dollar business.

Zappos caught the interest of Amazon which bought it for $1.2 billion. Hsieh was said to have made at least $214 million from the sale, not including money made through his former investment firm Venture Frogs. Hence, know what makes you happy as an entrepreneur.

Support your staff

Your staff is your second-most important asset after your customers. They attend to customers on behalf of your business. Treat them well so that they can always give their best.

In the case of Zappos, a customer service agent that spends 7-hours resolving a customer complaint would be viewed as productive and would be supported as long as it is in tandem with Zappos value. But, in some other companies, this would be completely frowned at.

Company values are not introduced for fun

Company values serve as a guide for all staff regardless of their position. They are not introduced for the fun of it. Zappos has 10 core values. Let these values direct the day-to-day operation of all employees in the discharge of their responsibilities.

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Interact with your employees

Many founders have a vertical relationship with their employees. They barely talk to them as they see themselves as superior. It is therefore not only about making your employees happy, you must also take out time to interact and talk to them. Ask them what would make them happy.

Focus on the customer, not the product

Many entrepreneurs become so focused on the product or service that they are offering that they end up forgetting about their customers.

Tony Hsieh wants to be known not as the best online shoe retailer but as the company with the best customer service.

He has stated that he is actually not that passionate about shoes but providing the best customer service is something that inspires him.

Learn from your mistakes

Building and selling Link Exchange for $265 million might seem like the kind of mistake that any entrepreneur would be happy to make but Tony has stated he was not happy with his first company. The mistake he made was to try and build a company culture too late. With Zappos he didn’t want to make the same mistake and established the company culture at the very beginning.

Being passionate increases your chance of success

Success is basically hinged on doing something that you are passionate about. A lot of entrepreneurs are entirely focused on making money. But, this can actually hinder their chances of finding success.

As Tony says “businesses that are run by people who are passionate about whatever the business is about tend to have a much higher shot at success.”

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When you are passionate about something you are able to work harder and inspire others to do the same. When faced with adversity you will have the passion to keep going.

*Damilola Faustino writes from Lagos and can be reached via [email protected]

@TechEconomyNG connects past-present-emerging technological impacts on Businesses, People and Cities. All Correspondence to: [email protected]

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