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Issue 17: Q3 2016 - The Heroes of Company Culture

The Heroes of Company Culture

Issue 17: Q3 2016 / July 9, 2016
Charlie Scott
Founder and Creative Director

As we continue our year of ‘heroes’, we’re switching our focus to the heroes of company culture. Many great leaders become great because of the culture they create and it’s usually by design.

Everyone’s heard of the tech companies like Google and Apple, their founders and the cultures they create for employees, so we didn’t want to pick the obvious candidates. Instead we’ve picked two companies that are not so high profile but have CEOs who have built their brands around the culture they created for their employees. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos and Yvon Chouinard, an outdoorsman who founded Patagonia in 1974. They both make us all question what we mean by ‘value’.

Tony Hsieh

In 2009 Amazon purchased Zappos for around $1Billion but Tony Hsieh stayed on as CEO. Tony had founded and sold other start-ups but with Zappos, his priority was to create an exceptional culture: “Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a longterm enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.” It’s probably best to read Hsieh’s first book ‘delivering happiness’ if you want to understand more but his main points are:

1. Make customer service the responsibility of the entire company.
2. Focus on company culture as the number 1 priority.
3. Seek to change the world.
4. Help employees grow-both personally and professionally.
5. Apply the science of happiness to help run your business.
6. Pay new employees to quit.

Read more: Tony Hsieh, Zappos, and the Art of Great Company Culture

Yvon Chouinard

If you think Richard Branson is an adventurer, then read up on this guy, not exactly Hugh Glass (The Revenant) but certainly on that path. In his book ‘Let my people go surfing’ Yvon Chouinard outlines his views on building a great culture.

On managing change: “When you have a lot of independent people working for you, you can’t tell them what to do, or you will get a passive-aggressive response. Instead, you have to build a consensus.”

On subsidized lunches: “Not only are we feeding our employees good food, but we are building a community, too. Socializing is important.”

On leadership: “The worst managers try to manage behind a desk. The only way to manage is to walk around and talk to people.”

On his role: “I am the entrepreneur who comes up with the wild and crazy idea and then dumps it on people to let them figure it out.”

Read more: Patagonia’s Philosopher-King

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Success Stories:
Patagonia: Let my people go surfing
Patagonia: Let my people go surfing

Part memoir, part manifesto – legendary climber, businessman and environmentalist Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia. describes his life and his start in business as an itinerant climber selling pitons from the back of his car. ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ is an education of a reluctant businessman and offers a look at the guiding principles that Yvon Chouinard used to build Patagonia into a global business. Here are a few tips from the book that might inspire you to give it a read:

1. Read every book on business in your search for a philosophy that could work for your business.

2. Remember, work has to be fun. Value employees who live rich and rounded lives.

3. Be an active citizens, expect your colleagues, corporations and governments to live up to their obligations.

Read more: Let My People Go Surfing

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