I was reading an internal consultant blog the other day and he mentioned a company called Zappos. What caught my attention was they actually pay employees $1000 to quit (see Harvard article)! Yeah, that’s right. They pay new-hires $1000 if they decide after their first week of training that the company is not a good fit for them. Zappos’ 20 something CEO, Tony Hsieh, clearly thinks outside of the box. This is a creative way to mitigate an issue before it ever happens. It would cost them much more than $1000 if someone enters their workforce and doesn’t fit. I bet this policy has saved the company and their employees form a lot of grief as well. An unhappy employee can bring an entire organization to its knees (LL).

There are a ton of articles on the web about these guys. Most of them are focused on how fanatical they are about putting the customer first (see I Heart Zappos). Customer focus and maintaining their culture permeates their entire origination. They require every employee to go through intense new hire training. They also require that their executives work in their shipping warehouse for a minimum of one week before assuming their leadership roll.

Another interesting tidbit I discovered is that they don’t put pressure on their call center agents. They don’t limit call handle time; they don’t monitor their nonexistent abandon rates; they don’t offshore their call centers; and they actually empower agents to make decisions right on the spot. Their only rule is to put the customer first — and apparently they do. Take a look at their customer testimonials page. It is updated daily and is quite a list.

The Zappos story is an excellent example of a company focusing on Innovation and not Invention. They are in the same business as Al Bundy in Married with Children. They are selling shoes to average people like “Joe the Plumber,” not high-dollar items that cater to the wealthy. Guess what? It is paying off. They are making money and growing like a weed even in this economy!

Awesome Job Mr. Hsieh!

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

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