Monday, January 4, 2010

Corporate Culture for Sale, by Owner

I just read an interesting article in the January 11, 2010 Businessweek, titled, "Zappos Retails its Culture."  Of course, that got my attention. 

I am very skeptical on how you can sell workshops and seminars on how to recreate the Zappos culture.  I believe you can share the methodology, values, mission, vision and even the model.  But, it is up to the individuals contributing and delivering on all those elements that creates the culture.  Just like Disney selling its management and leadership courses, hoping to spread "magic" to other businesses.   You can get the methodology but it really takes the dedication, motivation and engagement of your own unique work force to create a culture that is truly unique.

Now if I can figure out how to recreate an engaged and motivated workforce, then I believe I could retire on some very beautiful exotic island. 

The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, made the excellent point in the article regarding hiring the right people to begin with.  In regards to hiring $11/hour customers service reps, Hsieh believes that the most productive employees work for the psychic gratification in helping others.  He gives the service reps a lot of freedom to satisfy customers which in turns leads to job satisfaction and high engagement for those individuals.

So, this model of understanding what motivates your customer facing staff (and all staff) is a excellent one.  But will paying your service reps $11/hour and giving them carte blanche to satisfy your customers work for you as well???

I think that answer depends. 

It depends on if that type of reward and empowerment model aligns with your organizational strategy and that strategy is easily understood and communicated to everyone delivering on that strategy.  So, I think that another company's culture is very hard to RECREATE but perhaps the process for aligning culture to strategy is something that may be shared and tweaked.  The delivery and execution is where customization is needed based on your company, your industry, your workforce, and your strategy. 

I believe we are not talking about RECREATING a culture but CREATING your own based on tried and true methods...

Good for Zappos for creating another valuable revenue stream....and for sharing that to other businesses.  They must have something least Amazon thought so! 

What are your thoughts on culture creation???


Allie Casey said...

Excellent point. People create the culture not the methodology. Maybe attitude IS everything.

Unknown said...

Thanks for reading Allie. I do believe a little attitude goes a long way. There was another interesting article in Businessweek by Marshall Goldsmith on "How Happiness Happens" very interesting regarding attitude at home and how it correlates with attitude at work.

Anthony said...

I truly believe that the culture starts at the CEO level. Without the CEO buy in to the culture, all else does not matter. If the CEO does not believe that Culture (whatever it may be) could be a competitive advantage, then all this is moot. With that, it starts at the hire, but building the model for the culture first, allows you to hire to that culture. The challenge is most companies don't start at ground zero these days, most are spawn from merger and/or acquisition.

Aaron Magness said...

Great post, Cathy. However, I want to be clear that we are not trying to get other companies to recreate the Zappos culture. We are trying to help other businesses think about and focus on their culture. The Zappos culture isn't for everyone. Businesses shouldn't try to recreate anything. They should innovate and build what's best for their business. Cheers!

Aaron Magness
Dir of Biz Dev & Brand Mkt

Arthur Carmazzi said...

i do agree that you cannot reproduce another companies culture. Using the Directive Communication organizational development psychology, we have successfully created corporate cultures using the DCI Revolution system. One of the key factors in fast results and sustainability is that the culture comes from the people, and yes, the CEO must have buy in. the biggest mistake is when the CEO says "we will do this" and expects everyone to follow... Bzzz, wrong answer, the response... just another imitative senior management is trying to shove down our throats. we believe every revolution come from the people, and this has worked beautiful in creating "sculptured cultures that represent the company but also address the desires and passions of the people. and in our experience, the people work much harder and take more responsibility because they own the environment they have created.
To get more details you can see the case study for the culture we created for one of the divisions of the Emirates group:

Psychic said...

Hmm Well I was just searching on Google for some psychic readings and psychic articles and just came across your blog, generally I just only visit blogs and retrieve my required information but this time the useful information that you posted in this post compelled me to reply here and appreciate your good work. I just bookmarked your blog.