Zappos CEO Delivers Inspiring PPAI Expo Keynote

"We're A Service Company That Happens To Sell Shoes"

ZapposLas Vegas-based Zappos mainly sells shoes. But Tony Hsieh, the company’s founder and CEO, believes Zappos is the furthest thing from a shoe seller. “We’re a service company that happens to sell shoes,” Hsieh said shortly after striding onto the stage yesterday as the keynote speaker at the 2014 PPAI Expo. “We decided that we wanted our brand to not be about shoes, but about delivering the very best customer experience. That’s our brand and I'm pretty confident we can sell any item with that as our foundation.”

Hsieh, wearing jeans and an untucked flannel button-down, delivered a soft-spoken yet powerful speech to his riveted audience. Touching on how to build a hyper-motivated and productive workforce, as well as how to service customers in a memorable way, Hsieh said he believes companies can only be successful today if they have an untraditional approach. “Companies need a vision that has a higher purpose than just revenues and profit,” said Hsieh, who built Zappos into a $3 billion business and is the author of Delivering Happiness. “You should work every day to chase your company’s vision, not the money. Money can’t be the primary motivator.”

To Hsieh, the most successful companies are the ones that have a clear corporate culture and are dedicated toward always feeding that culture. “Our number one priority in our business is culture,” he said. “If we get that right, everything else will work out. Your culture is your brand, whether you like it or not. You have to be willing to hire and fire based on corporate culture and whether people fit into that – not whether they’re simply good at what they do. Sometimes, that’s not enough. Everything in your business –everything – should align to those stated values.”

Hsieh spoke on the first day that the exhibit floor was open at the PPAI Expo, which continues through Friday. Follow Counselor Editor Andy Cohen on Twitter at @asi_andycohen for updates and product highlights from the PPAI Expo.