Business / Risk Takers

Lessons from the CEO- Tony Hsieh Zappos.com CEO

 

Tony Hsieh business lessons learned from playing poker:

Evaluating Market Opportunities
  • Table selection is the most important decision you can make.
  • It’s okay to switch tables if you discover it’s too hard to win at your table.
  • If there are too many competitors (some irrational or inexperienced), even if you’re the best it’s a lot harder to win.

Marketing and Branding

  • Act weak when strong, act strong when weak. Know when to bluff.
  • Your “brand” is important.
  • Help shape the stories that people are telling about you.

Financials

  • Always be prepared for the worst possible scenario.
  • The guy who wins the most hands is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run.
  • The guy who never loses a hand is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run.
  • Go for positive expected value, not what’s least risky.
  • Make sure your bankroll is large enough for the game you’re playing and the risks you’re taking.
  • Play only with what you can afford to lose.
  • Remember that it’s a long-term game. You will win or lose individual hands or sessions, but it’s what happens in the long term that matters.

Strategy

  • Don’t play games that you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them.
  • Figure out the game when the stakes aren’t high.
  • Don’t cheat. Cheaters never win in the long run.
  • Stick to your principles.
  • You need to adjust your style of play throughout the night as the dynamics of the game change. Be flexible.
  • Be patient and think long-term.
  • The players with the most stamina and focus usually win.
  • Differentiate yourself. Do the opposite of what the rest of the table is doing.
  • Hope is not a good plan.
  • Don’t let yourself go “on tilt.” It’s much more cost-effective to take a break, walk around, or leave the game for the night.

Continual Learning

  • Educate yourself. Read books and learn from others who have done it before.
  • Learn by doing. Theory is nice, but nothing replaces actual experience.
  • Learn by surrounding yourself with talented players.
  • Just because you win a hand doesn’t mean you’re good and you don’t have more learning to do. You might have just gotten lucky.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Culture

  • You’ve gotta love the game. To become really good, you need to live it and sleep it.
  • Don’t be cocky. Don’t be flashy. There’s always someone better than you.
  • Be nice and make friends. It’s a small community.
  • Share what you’ve learned with others.
  • Look for opportunities beyond just the game you sat down to play. You never know who you’re going to meet, including new friends for life or new business contacts.
  • Have fun. The game is a lot more enjoyable when you’re trying to do more than just make money.

The BIG “Ah-Ha” moment:

  • The game starts even before  sitting down in a seat.

In a poker room at a casino, there are usually many different choices of tables. Each table has different stakes, different players, and different dynamics that change as the players come and go, and as players get excited, upset, or tired.

I learned that the most important decision I could make was:

  • which table to sit at.
  • This included knowing when to change tables. I learned from a book that an experienced player can make ten times as much money sitting at a table with nine mediocre players who are tired and have a lot of chips compared with sitting at a table with nine really good players who are focused and don’t have that many chips in front of them.

In business, one of the most important decisions for an entrepreneur or a CEO to make is what business to be in. It doesn’t matter how flawlessly a business is executed if it’s the wrong business or if it’s in too small a market.

Imagine if you were the most efficient manufacturer of seven-fingered gloves. You offer the best selection, the best service, and the best prices for seven-fingered gloves–but if there isn’t a big enough market for what you sell, you won’t get very far.

In a poker room, I could only choose which table I wanted to sit at. But in business, I realized that I didn’t have to sit at an existing table. I could define my own, or make the one that I was already at even bigger. (Or, just like in a poker room, I could always choose to change tables.)

I realized that, whatever the vision was for any business, there was always a bigger vision that could make the table bigger.

 Tony Hsieh – Author Of “Delivering Happiness” And CEO Of Zappos.com, Inc.

In 1999, at the age of 24, Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) sold LinkExchange, the company  co-founded, to Microsoft for $265 million.

He then joined us as an advisor and investor, and eventually became CEO, where he helped us grow from almost no sales to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually, while simultaneously making Fortune magazines annual Best Companies to Work For list. In November 2009, Zappos.com, Inc. was acquired by Amazon.com in a deal valued at $1.2 billion on the day of closing.


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