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Zappos CEO Lauded for Innovative Employment Policy

Tributes and remembrances flowed across the internet for entrepreneur Tony Hsieh, former CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos, who died at 46 after suffering injuries in a house fire. Hsieh’s influence on corporate culture was felt far and wide. He eventually sold Zappos to Amazon, while still maintaining the freedom to run it as a separate division. In 2010, his corporate autobiographic memoir, Delivering Happiness, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Among his many culture-shaping practices was something known simply as “The Offer.” After a week or so on the job, new employees at Zappos were given an option: they could continue on, or they could take a cash incentive to quit—an initial figure of $1,000 that only grew larger as the company did.

At the time of its inception, it seemed odd to pay people to leave the company, but Hsieh knew that it was worth far more to ensure that everyone who worked at Zappos truly wanted to be there. It is a way to ensure complete buy-in from new hires. But it is also a generous way to reward those who took positions at Zappos only to later regret it. The Offer was a painless off-ramp for the less-than-fully-committed. The radical idea was consistent with his business philosophy: “we don’t sell shoes; we sell customer service.”

The idea quickly caught on, and as proof of its appeal, it spread to Amazon after it purchased Zappos in 2009. Business writer Bill Murphy summed up its lesson in a recent profile for Inc: “Life is far too short to follow the wrong path. And today is always a great day to start finding the right one.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

The call of discipleship should not be made lightly. One should count the cost before deciding to follow the way of Jesus, for it requires complete dedication and surrender.

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