What you need to know from Tony Hsieh’s Playboy interview

We here at Digiday read Playboy for the articles. Take, for example, this recent interview with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Turns out the multimillionaire is a poker-playing Harvard grad with a bent urban planning and rave culture.

It’s an engaging read, but  at about 8,000 words a bit long — and perhaps you work for a company that might frown upon your perusing Playboy in the office. Here, then, are some decidedly safe-for-work Hsieh highlights on Zappos culture, gambling and Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon owns Zappos:

It’s fun to work at Zappos
“You get used to it. When there’s an employee parade coming through the office or someone from finance brings a horse up to the 10th floor for Chinese New Year, it’s just another day at Zappos. You learn to adapt. It’s all about framing, really. When you need to party, you party. When you need to produce, you produce.”

And, yes, there’s a nap room 
“We’ve had quite a few Zappos marriages, but again, we trust our employees. Our nap rooms are for resting.”

Why the Zappos “PEC,” or personal emotional connection, matters
“What matters is that our people go the extra mile. I’ll call Zappos sometimes if I need an answer for something. If I’m with a bunch of friends at a bar and there’s a question we can’t answer, we’ll call Zappos and ask. I shouldn’t tell people that, but it’s true. If you’re looking for a great pizza place near you or want to know how many seats are in the theater you happen to be walking past, maybe give Zappos a call. You’ll be amazed when the person answering actually makes an effort. Our reps don’t have quotas. They don’t have scripts. They never up-sell.”

On “holacracy”
“Most companies are organized from high to low, where a boss commands people and so on, whereas a holacracy operates more like an urban environment and less like a bureaucratic institution. Everyone is together, and yet they don’t order each other around. In a pure holacracy, you do away with all job titles, managers and levels… When companies get bigger, productivity and innovation per employee generally go down. From the Zappos perspective, we’re trying to avoid that fate. So the model we’re using isn’t a corporate one. Rather, it’s the city. Every time the size of a city doubles, innovation and productivity increase by 15 percent.”

Jeff Bezos is pretty hands off
“I don’t know him that well. I probably see him randomly, I would guess, once a year for less than five minutes. But I will say Amazon’s success has been amazing and the marriage has worked well for us.”

On Hsieh’s big personal investment in developing downtown Las Vegas
“People hear the $350 million number and think it’s a phenomenal risk. But Downtown Project is about 300 different projects going on simultaneously. Roughly $50 million goes to small businesses to help build a sense of neighborhood and community; $50 million goes to tech start-ups; $50 million goes into arts, education, music and health care, and then $200 million goes to real estate.”

Hsieh once played in the World Series of Poker
“Poker is very similar to business. Don’t play if you don’t understand it. If you’re not winning at your table, you have to think about switching to another table. If there are too many competitors, even if you’re good, success is going to be harder. Don’t cheat. Be patient. Be humble. Be nice. Be prepared for the worst. And the guy who wins the most hands isn’t the guy who makes the most money in the end. Also, have fun. You don’t want to be up all night worrying.”

On hiring
“We’ve said no to a lot of smart, talented people we knew could make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line. If they didn’t get the job, it could have been because they weren’t nice to the Zappos shuttle-bus driver on the way from the airport. And you have to like living in Vegas.

Be sure to read the full interview over at Playboy.


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