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Tiffany Montgomery
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Theme from the SIMA Surf Summit

By Tiffany Montgomery
May 19, 2008 6:39 AM

While there was a lot of partying going on at the SIMA Surf Summit in Cabo San Lucas, there were also a lot of dynamic speakers sharing interesting information in the conference room.


One theme was recurrent through nearly every presentation, from Bob Hurley's keynote address to the Zappos CEO's talk about creating a company culture. The world is changing rapidly - the rise of the internet, the changing methods of communication, the growing undeveloped world, the degradation of the environment. If company executives aren't nimble and creative, if they don't rethink business models, they risk being left behind.


Here are some points from two of the speakers that can be applied to nearly every business or individual.


Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos


Zappos views itself as a service company. It tries to win repeat customers by offering 24-hour customer service help, surprise upgrades to next day shipping, a 365-day return policy and free shipping both ways.


The most import thing is creating the right company culture, Tony said. "Company culture and brand are the same thing," he said "If you get the culture right, the brand will take care of itself."


Here are few things Zappos focuses on to build a brand that matters:


Vision - Whatever you are thinking, think bigger. Make sure the vision has meaning, and chase the vision, not the money.


Focus on repeat customers - Instead of spending on advertising, Zappos spends that money on customer service. It decided long ago to focus on great product and great service instead of low prices.


A great culture
- Zappos is committed to its company culture and hires and fires based on employees fitting into that culture. For example, a key company value is humbleness. Zappos has fired talented yet arrogant employees even though they had the right job skills.


Other tidbits

Tony was asked about online retailers threatening brick and mortar stores. Tony said online retail is still a very small percentage of total retail sales, and he doesn't believe brick and mortar stores will disappear.


But, he said it's easy for retailers that are struggling "to blame online for taking market share." He said the problem may instead be that some retailers are not creating a special enough customer service experience.


Zappos made its first profit in 2007. It used some of that money to give employees a surprise bonus of 10 percent of their annual salary.


Kevin Carroll on rediscovering play and bringing passion to your workplace


Kevin shared his inspiring story about overcoming being abandoned by his addict parents. Kevin used his love of sports and life on the playground, the only place he felt safe, to go on to lead a successful career as a translator in the military, a trainer in the NBA, a change agent at Nike, and now a book author and contributor to ESPN.com.


Here's some advice from Kevin:

 

  • Think about yourself as a brand

 

  • Seek out encouragers

 

  • Work out your creative muscles

 

  • Prepare to shine. Great people are not made when everybody is watching. Be willing to do that lonely work that prepares you.

 

  • Speak up about what you want and your goals

 

  • Expect the unexpected

 

  • Maximize the day

 


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