Taking Your SMB Big – Advice From Zappos.com CEO Hsieh


Nov, 12

Taking Your SMB Big – Advice From Zappos.com CEO Hsieh

Despite ongoing anxiety about the economic stability of the U.S., a recent survey by Bank of America revealed that SMBs are optimistic about hiring and sales growth next year. More than 1,000 SMBs were polled between September and October, and 54% of those respondents expect revenue to increase in the next 12 months, while 38% believe revenue will stay the same. Of those same owners, 31% said they plan to add employees in 2013.

Having a solid, confident SMB market is generally considered the hallmark of a healthy economy, so that news, although just a sampling, is good news. The next question is how those SMBs grow to have an even larger impact. In a recent INC. article, Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh shared some advice for accomplishing that task. The young entrepreneur, who I highly recommend seeing if you have the chance to catch a presentation by him, has several tips for success, many of which revolve around building a company with a solid culture.

Build a company – not necessarily a product – you’re passionate about. One of the best opportunities afforded by working for an SMB, and I have done so on several occasions, is the occasion to build a culture that is healthy, fun, and enthusiastic – a reality that, more often than not, encourages strong employee involvement and a team-wide focus on creativity and success.

Want to motivate? Inspire first. Hsieh believes there is a huge difference between motivation and inspiration, and while you can motivate with cash, if you can inspire employees with your company’s goals and mission, you’ll be more successful. “If you can inspire employees through a higher purpose beyond profits, that you’re doing something that can help change the world, you can accomplish so much more, “ said Hsieh in the Inc. article. Now, I know, your technology business may not change the world, but it certainly can heavily influence the success of your customers. So when your employees understand and are engaged around the idea that their technology expertise can make a huge impact on your customers, you’ll start to see positive results.

Be the architect of the greenhouse. If you compare your business to a greenhouse (work with me here) then the CEO should be the tallest, strongest plant – the one all others aspire to be, said Hsieh. What does that mean? Simply put: Lead by example.

Make your company values flexible enough to adapt.  Markets ebb and flow, customer bases change and grow. To make sure your company remains successful, you have to be flexible. Again, establish a culture that has a strong, shared foundation and you will be able to go with the flow. To achieve that fluide yet stable environment, Hsieh created a list of 10 core values that are flexible enough they are effective regardless of an employee’s job function, customer type, business location, you name it. Plus, the values are loose enough to evolve as both the business and their customers and markets evolve.

Make sure your employees are learning – all the time.  Professional development – as well as a clear path for advancement and challenge – is perhaps the most important element of a satisfying workplace. Help your employees stay good at what they do, and give them a chance to grow and succeed within your four walls. Loyalty is closely tied to happiness.

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