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Could Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh Be Just What Las Vegas Needs For Rejuvenation?
A Beautiful City With Such Interesting Architecture!
A faltering downtown area and sluggish economy in Las Vegas could get a boost from the vision of Zappo's CEO Tony Hsieh...
The CEO of Internet start-up company Zappos, Tony Hsieh (pronounced "shay") has a unique and creative vision for the city of Las Vegas. And now for the really good news? He has the ability and resources to make it a reality. He is just 37 years old, with the wisdom and vision of someone much older. The company he founded, Zappo's, an internet shoe sales company, had gross sales of over $1 billion in 2011 alone. With a healthy dose of philanthropy, blended with a dash of capitalism, he very well could make a huge difference in this city.
One thing he recently looked into doing was moving the offices of Zappos from their current location in Henderson, Nevada to the City Hall building in downtown Las Vegas. This move happened in 2013, although some employees already relocated in August of 2012. The move was estimated to result in as many as 8,000 new jobs for the city of Las Vegas within the next ten years.
And this is just the beginning. Mr. Hsieh has also been able to inspire several hundred of his employees to donate their time to think of new ideas for music venues and restaurants in Las Vegas, as well as improving schools.
And with the additional goals in mind of attracting tech companies to the area, along with creating a mini "silicon valley" here in Las Vegas, Mr. Hseih is a true visionary. He even funded $7 million dollars and joined the board of JetSuite, in order to create the possibility of tech execs relocating here to Las Vegas.
Tony Hseih, along with other investors, has donated to the performing arts here in Vegas, as well as purchasing the rights to the monthly downtown arts celebration called "First Friday." In a way, it seems that Zappo's would be on the way to taking over the area, which has brought about virtually NO opposition in the city, and people are welcoming him along with other investors to help the city rebuild and possibly emerge out of this recession stronger and more successful than ever before.
Comparisons Made To Howard Hughes
Business owners from downtown Las Vegas are happy that he is here to help, and are wondering if this is how the city will be "re-born" and turned around after years of a stagnant economy due to the recession. Some have compared this time today to the time when Howard Hughes arrived in Las Vegas and made such a HUGE difference to the hotel and gaming industry as well as in the city.
Hughes did that by purchasing large portions of those industries and by cleaning up the city after years of Las Vegas being under the influence of the mob. Now while Howard Hughes did this in a quiet way and was often referred to as a recluse, Tony Hseih is quite the opposite. It was said that Hughes involvement in Las Vegas future did wonders for the city, and it is felt that Tony Hseih may do the same.
He (Hseih) is outspoken, and more outgoing than Howard Hughes was, but also has a calm demeanor and a certain humbleness in his attitude. He doesn't take all of the credit, and says "it's not just me or Zappos, it's many more people. I'm just helping out."
The vision he has, along with the vision of Zappos employees to do these things, probably couldn't be done in any other city in the United States. They would be stopped (or at least hampered) by zoning restrictions, as well as political systems that have been entrenched in some cities (like the political "machine" in Chicago, for example), for many years. But here in Las Vegas, they might just be able to pull this off.
Businesses could potentially be attracted to Las Vegas (Nevada in general) because of lower taxes. The idea of tech companies moving here is an inviting one as well, because they would be able to share ideas and "feed off one another." This could be a huge draw for young companies eager to expand and to achieve a higher level of success.
It is estimated that 1,200 employees of Zappos moved City Hall in 2013, and 800 more will be hired in the future, bringing that number to 2,000. Then, within about ten years time, the company could potentially grow by 8,000 more employee's. This will be a huge bonus for the economy of Las Vegas. The plans for the City Hall building before Hseih came into the picture were to make it into a homeless shelter that was to be used for that purpose until it was demolished.
A Business Model Of Happiness....
Using a company business model of happiness (not only for Zappo's employees but for their customers as well), the company always strives for a "wow" factor when they sell every pair of shoes, and every box of clothing. When customers are loyal to Zappos, they are rewarded perhaps with something "extra" like overnight shipping. They make a purchase online around midnight (Eastern time) and eight hours later, the box is on their doorstep.
Now for a city like Las Vegas which strives to make people happy (after all, vacationers and tourists ARE their main business), this is right in line with what Las Vegas is all about.
To keep the employees happy, there is a culture in Zappos that is very unique. Everyone seems to get along well, and one of the qualifications to work for Zappos is "just the right amount of weirdness." They seem to have a way of hiring people who fit very well into their culture, and everyone truly seems to care about one another, something that can be rare in a lot of businesses. And Hseih as the CEO doesn't even have a separate office. He has his desk right among everyone else and even has it decorated in his own unique way. Hseih's philosophy is that if you are friends with, and really care about those you work with, you'll feel like you are a part of the team, making for a happier work force.
And when you have happy employee's, they will go out of their way to make the customers happy... paying it forward in a way. Hseih seems to be real visionary, without the ego, which is a refreshing change of pace for a CEO of a company.
Carolyn Goodman, the current mayor of Las Vegas has said that Zappos employees are "an infusion of young,creative people who really want to live and work here, that's a huge plus for the city."
Las Vegas has for so long had a single minded focus, relying pretty much on gaming, tourism and real estate for income and for job creation. They can really use some diversification in the economy, and Tony Hseih and Zappos could be just what they need, in addition to any other high tech firms that they are able to attract to the city.
First Wave Of Zappos Employees Moved Downtown In August, 2012
The first wave of Zappos employees began to move into the City Hall building in downtown Las Vegas the third week in August, 2012. Two hundred employees moved, out of the 1,300 total Zappos employees. They had outgrown the facility they were in previously in Henderson, Nevada.
The new offices feature a lot of movable furnishings and a lot of "whiteboards" that can help to foster the creativity of employees.
Tony Hseih has pretty much decided that Las Vegas is his next big project, and he has the connections, as well as the vision and the capital to get things done... I'm excited to see what the future holds for Las Vegas, and thankful that Tony Hseih and Zappos have made the city their "hometown."