Q&A with Robert Richman of Zappos Insights

Zappos Insights-Liquid Brand Summit

An exclusive interview with Zappos Insights guru Robert Richman. Mr. Richman is one of the Session Leaders at the upcoming Liquid Brand Summit, taking place on March 1, 2011 in Palo Alto.

ABOUT ROBERT:
Robert Richman lives in Las Vegas, where he works for Zappos Insights, an off-shoot of Zappos.com that was started by CEO Tony Hsieh to show other companies how to create a workplace people love and a service customers rave about. Robert began his career in 1996 creating sites for U.S. Senators and co-founding the web strategy company Articulated Impact. He co-wrote the business plan for a new online venture from the Tony Robbins companies and has developed digital media strategies for The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard Magazine, and The National Leadership Institute. When Tony met Rob, he asked him to re-launch the Zappos Insights program - then a small web site with a staff of one. Rob has grown the program to a 12-person company, offering a range of experiences and services to educate companies about culture and to give insight into “what” and “how” Zappos.com has built such an amazing culture and brand.

THE INTERVIEW:
Q: How do you define brand culture?
A: Brand and culture are two sides of the same coin. One faces inside the company; the other faces outside. It is made up of the values, stories and rituals that a company engages, and it all starts from within, so the brand is usually a lagging indicator of the true state of the culture.

Q: How is a company’s overall performance influenced by its brand culture - for example, its management, growth, innovation, customer relationships, etc.?
A: The culture influences everything because it is everything. Said simply, the culture is the way of being. Or to be even more literal: In biology, you use a culture to grow something - it’s the environment that creates the context for growth, interactions, and relationships.

Q: Brand culture can be a fairly abstract concept. Name two or three concrete things that Zappos does on a regular basis to maintain and even strengthen its culture.
A: The most important ingredient to a strong culture is people, so we take a very long time to recruit the right people and we interview them based on our core values. Then, we spend four weeks training them so that they have the right mindset, connections and tools to succeed and grow our culture. Lastly, we encourage people to express themselves so they can bring all of their talents to the office. If you get the right people, empower them and set them free, we find that people take responsibility for growing the culture.

Q: Can you give an example of a company and/or companies whose brand culture you admire? If so, what is it that you admire most?
A: I admire companies that are not afraid to commit to their core values and also share what they’ve learned with others. I believe companies that share their culture learn the fastest - examples include IDEO, 37 Signals, and Ritz Carlton.

ASK ROBERT:
Please feel free to send us comments or questions, and we will make sure that we include them in the discussions during the Liquid Brand Summit. We look forward to hearing from you.

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