How to create a Zappos like work culture in your startup


Today, companies are competing against each other to offer better perks to either hire or retain efficient employees. One of the companies to have been talked about the most in this regard and praised for its culture is Las Vegas-based online shoe and clothing company, Zappos. One of the core values that Zappos swears by is ‘deliver WOW through service’. Even if a potential employee is adept at the skills required for a position, he gets hired by the company only if he is a cultural fit for them. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness is as much a story of company culture as it is about his entrepreneurial journey. “We really wanted to build the company around culture, company culture being the number one priority,” says Tony. Here’s how your startup can also deliver a WOW experience to your employees.

Start early

Trying to change the culture DNA after you have 100 people on your payroll will be a mammoth task. A founder has direct control over his employees only when there are around 10 to 20 of them. Brainstorm with your first few employees as to the kind of culture they want at the workplace. Write it down on a piece of paper. Follow it to the T. Slowly ingrain this work culture into the minds of the new hires as well.

Be transparent

An employee starts feeling like a part of a larger entity only when he is sure that his contribution is valued. Share the company’s ideas, responsibilities and strategies at various levels with your team. No matter what an employee’s position is, they should be encouraged to pitch in their ideas and feedback.

Hire the right people

Hiring is like finding a needle in a haystack. There are a lot of options available but you need to narrow down on people who are culturally fit and functionally sound. Ensure that there are hiring filters, like curiosity, interest in the company’s history, and willingness to learn, in place.

Recognise the work of your employees

Make your team feel valued and appreciated. Recognising them for their efforts with a paid vacation, gift coupons or awards would go a long way in ensuring their loyalty. Happy employees are more likely to give their best to their work. If recognition is an expensive proposition, giving a pat on their backs or saying a few encouraging words during a team meeting would also help. Remember that a team’s culture is built on the right attitude and continued motivation.

Weave stories around your company’s core values

Identify a list of words that you would use to describe your company’s personality. What do you do with this information? Explain these words in stories. When Amazon develops products, they put their time and energy into writing a press release before even building a prototype. They care about what they want to tell the world when they launch the product. Write your story down. What do you want your employees and customers to say about you?

It’s easy to write clichéd adjectives or offer rewards for good performance, but to change your company’s culture for good, you need to stick your neck out and work hard for a complete overhaul. Building culture is worth all the effort as it ends up defining what your company stands for and has the ability to attract good talent.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)