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by SixFigureStart | January 11, 2010


"[M]ost of the stuff that happens in our office is really about some employee coming up with an idea and, whether it’s me or other managers, saying, “If you’re passionate about it, just run with it.”

At some point, it kind of just snowballs, because once employees see other employees just doing stuff, then that lets them feel like they have more permission to run with their ideas."--Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, quoted in The New York Times.

Zappos logoThe NYT's consistently excellent Corner Office segment thoroughly outdid itself over the weekend with its interview with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. A firm believer in the importance of company culture (he claims to have sold his first business to Microsoft not merely to become filthy rich but because the company culture had slipped so much), he made that aspect of his working life such a focus at Zappos that it's become "our No. 1 priority." So much so, in fact, that the company decided "if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself."

That's all very well, but it does raise the obvious question of what one does to foster good company culture. Some of Hsieh's answers basically read like a laundry list of things one might look for in a fantasy employer:

  • Encouraging employees to be themselves and take chances at work
  • Engineering a community feel via initiatives such as free lunches and the creation of communal areas
  • Allowing work groups to redecorate portions of the office (no, really)
  • Collecting employee opinions about the company—both good and bad—and publishing them without editing anything more than spelling
  • Reducing the need to hire execs that may not fit company culture by creating a "pipeline" for entry-level hires to progress instead

Sound like anyone else's dream place to work? Just bear in mind: if you are invited to an interview, it's equally likely to be at a barbecue as in the office. But regardless of location, relaxing and being yourself seem to be the key to getting hired.

Feel free to send us suggestions to complete the thought in the title by the way: "If all companies were like Zappos…"

…you wouldn't have to spend so much time reading employer reviews on Vault? Drop us an answer in the comment field below or hit us up with an @reply on Twitter.

--Posted by Phil Stott,