This week I’m tuning in to listen to Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, talk about the unique culture he and his team have built at Zappos. That got me thinking about corporate culture in general and just how important it really is. Many traditional companies believe that there too much emphasis placed on fun and creativity in the new Web 2.0 corporate cultures. I personally think that these new, forward thinking, culture-focused companies have got it right.
Witness the bottom line of Zappos or Facebook or Twitter and I think you’ll see the picture very clearly. Build a great corporate culture that incorporates fun, respect for employees, and creative thinking and then stick to it. In fact, make every decision based on your corporate culture. If you do that, I think you stand a great chance of being successful and creating brands and products that customers will not only recognize but love.
And, I believe that the most important decisions you can make based on your corporate culture is hiring and firing. Zappos, Netflix, and many other successful companies hire and fire based solely on cultural fit. Tony Hsieh has said “If you get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like great customer service or building a brand will just happen naturally. We’ve actually passed on a lot of really talented people that we know would make an impact to our top or bottom line,” says Hsieh, “but if you know they’re not a culture fit we won’t hire them. Similarly, the company will fire people even if they’re doing their job perfectly if they’re bad for the culture.” Now, you can go ahead and dismiss Hsieh as a quirky anomaly, but judging by the fact that Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009, I’d say corporate culture is a worthwhile investment.
So, how do you make your hiring/firing decisions? Do you hire someone regardless of their cultural fit with your organization and hope they’ll work out? Do you hire someone with the wrong cultural fit and hope you can force a square peg into a round hole? Or, do you look for someone who is the perfect fit for your culture and do everything you can to bring them on board? And most importantly, would you be willing to fire someone who just didn’t quite fit with your team culturally?