Tony Hsieh, CEO da Zappos, escreveu um texto foda na Inc.com. Suas declarações são corajosas e mostram como até mesmo a Zappos, com números robustos, sofreu durante a crise:
Our sales had grown steadily since 2005; by 2008 we were doing more than $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually — two years ahead of our original plan. We were now profitable, and our culture was even stronger. As before, our plan was to stay independent and eventually go public. But our board of directors had other ideas. Although I’d financed much of Zappos myself during its early days, we’d eventually raised tens of millions of dollars from outside investors, including $48 million from Sequoia Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. As with all VCs, Sequoia expected a substantial return on its investment — most likely through an IPO. It might have been happy to wait a few more years if the economy had been thriving, but the recession and the credit crisis had put Zappos — and our investors — in a very precarious position.
These issues had nothing to do with the underlying performance of our business, but they increased tensions on our board of directors. Some board members had always viewed our company culture as a pet project — “Tony’s social experiments,” they called it. I disagreed. I believe that getting the culture right is the most important thing a company can do. But the board took the conventional view — namely, that a business should focus on profitability first and then use the profits to do nice things for its employees. The board’s attitude was that my “social experiments” might make for good PR but that they didn’t move the overall business forward. The board wanted me, or whoever was CEO, to spend less time on worrying about employee happiness and more time selling shoes.
By early 2009, we were at a stalemate. Because of a complicated legal structure, I effectively controlled the majority of the common shares, so that the board couldn’t force a sale of the company. But on the five-person board, only two of us — Alfred Lin, our CFO and COO, and myself — were completely committed to Zappos’s culture. This made it likely that if the economy didn’t improve, the board would fire me and hire a new CEO who was concerned only with maximizing profits. The threat was never made overtly, but I could tell that was the direction things were going.
It was a stressful time for me and Alfred. But we’d gotten through much tougher times before, and this seemed like just another challenge we needed to figure out. We began brainstorming ways that we could get out from under the board. We certainly didn’t want to sell the company and move on to something else. To us, Zappos wasn’t just a job — it was a calling. So we came up with a plan: We would buy out our board of directors.
We figured to do so would cost about $200 million. As we were talking to potential investors, Amazon approached Alfred about buying Zappos outright. Although that still didn’t seem like the best option to me, Alfred sensed that Amazon would be more open than last time to the idea of letting Zappos continue to operate as an independent entity. And we felt that the price Amazon was talking about was too large for us to ignore without potentially violating our fiduciary duty to our shareholders.
Abaixo, Tony fala sobre a diferença de estratégias entre Amazone e Zappos:
Still, I had plenty of concerns. Jeff’s approach to business had been very different from my own. One of the ways that Amazon tries to deliver a great customer experience is by offering low prices, whereas at Zappos we don’t try to compete on price… I left Seattle pretty sure that Amazon would be a better partner for Zappos than our current board of directors or any other outside investor. Our board wanted an immediate exit; we wanted to build an enduring company that would spread happiness. With Amazon, it seemed that Zappos could continue to build its culture, brand, and business. We would be free to be ourselves.
The acquisition closed on November 1, at a valuation of $1.2 billion (based on Amazon’s stock price on the day of closing). Our investors at Sequoia made $248 million. Our board was replaced by a management committee that includes me, Jeff, two Amazon executives, and two Zappos executives. As CEO, I report to the committee every quarter, and Zappos is responsible for hitting revenue and profitability numbers. But unlike our former board of directors, our new management committee seems to understand the importance of our culture — the “social experiments” — to our long-term success. In fact, one Amazon distribution center recently began experimenting with its own version of Zappos’s policy of paying new employees $2,000 to quit if they’re unhappy with their jobs.
Essa parte aqui é bem emblemática da cultura da empresa:
In the first quarter of 2010, net sales at Zappos were up almost 50 percent, and we’ve added several hundred new employees. The growth has made Amazon very happy, but it’s also creating new challenges. I’ve noticed that at company happy hours, you don’t see as many employees from different departments hanging out with one another.
To address that, we’ve begun tracking employee relationships. When employees log in to their computers, we ask them to look at a picture of a random employee and then ask them how well they know that person — the options include “say hi in the halls,” “hang out outside of work,” and “we’re going to be longtime friends.” We’re starting to keep track of the number and strength of cross-departmental relationships — and we’re planning a class on the topic. My hope is that we can have more employees who plan to be close friends.