The Power of 1%

The following was sent to all Zappos employees this past Monday:


Happy New Year! To kick off the year, I sent this on Jan. 2nd to a smaller group, but a few folks suggested that it should be sent to all Zappos employees. Here is a slightly cleaned up and better version of what was sent.

“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.” – A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

On CNBC Reports 2008, Maria Bartiromo quoted Charles Dickens, noting that, while Dickens was referring to the French Revolution, he could have easily been talking about 2008.

No doubt, 2008 was a very challenging year, starting out with a weak economic and retail environment that degraded slowly in the first half of the year and then fell off a cliff in the second half of the year. Depending on what reports you read, online ecommerce was down 3-5% this holiday season, marking the first time ecommerce didn’t grow. Reading about these not-so-positive reports just goes to show how very lucky we are at Zappos, because we were able to ride through these rocky times and produce pretty incredible results. No, things weren’t perfect, but 2008 was still a great year for us! Official results have to wait until our finance team closes the books and releases the audited financials in early March, but we managed to grow our business over last year and during the holiday season (when ecommerce was down), exceeded $1B in gross merchandise sales, and by Doing More with Less, kept ourselves profitable and cash positive – all the while having a lot of fun serving our customers!

We can reminisce about 2008, but now that 2009 is here and we are back from some much needed downtime, it’s time to get our A-game back on. We’ll be going over our goals and our “official” plans as soon as our board approves them, but even before that “officially” happens, we already know what we need to do.

One thing I encourage you to do is to refer back to our Core Values document and specifically the challenge in there: make at least one improvement every week that makes Zappos better. Ideally, we would do this every single day. It sounds daunting, but remember improvements don’t have to be dramatic. Think about what it means to improve just 1% per day and build upon that every single day. Doing so has a dramatic effect and will make us 37x better, not 365% (3.65x) better at the end of the year. Wake up every day and ask yourself not only what is the 1% improvement I can change to make Zappos better, but also what is the 1% improvement I can change to make myself better personally and professionally – because we, Zappos, can’t grow unless we as individual people grow too.

Imagine yourself making 1% changes every day that compounds and will make you and Zappos 37x better by the end of the year. Imagine if every employee at Zappos was doing the same. Imagine how much better you, Zappos and the
world will be next year.

It won’t be easy and 2009 will no doubt present its own set of challenges, but we positively will get through it. Have a great and happy 2009!

P.S. Also check out Tony’s blog entry, p-4231 .

P.P.S. This is for the math geeks. If you start out with $100 at the beginning of the year and you were able to increase what you have by 1% every single day, at the end of the year, you would have $3,778.34 = $100 * (1 + 1%) ^ 365. That is 37.78x what you had at the beginning of the year. Get that 1% every single day!

Do you have a story about how small changes every single day made a huge difference in the long-run? If so, leave us a comment below or email me: alfred (at)

Follow me on Twitter: @zappos_alfred


468678589's picture
Jan 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm ZC29529 said:

hi this isn't related to the blog article - but i don't know where else to post it - and i want to be sure it is heard. i just finished a phone conversation with one of your customer service reps and i have sincerely never had such an easy and pleasant experience. you guys are awesome. whatever you are doing for company morale, if it is one tenth of what is represented in zappos customer service reps great attitudes, it's priceless. i hope they are appreciated and wish you all an well deserved prosperous year. thanks!

40790610's picture
Jan 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm ZC30110 said:


Congratulations on your Zeta brand and best of luck with the new enterprise. I have a suggestion/request for'small changes'in the portion of your website - Is there any chance you could make tall women's suits, sorry: ATTRACTIVE tall women's suits available for purchase? Currently there are only two Hugo Boss suits available on Zeta and unfortunately not in a 'tall' category. There are only so many 'Tall' J. Crew or Banana Republic suits that one can own and it would be a natural progression for Zappos. Since you sell larger-size shoes it could be assumed that we, your customers, are bigger than the petite-class that most cater to. Just a suggestion/request.

Wishing you all the best in the coming year!

39903216's picture
Jan 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm ZC30696 said:

This is a great message to your employees! I might need to talk some pointers to share with my coworkers. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with daily tasks but it everything starts with one step. Lately that has been my mantra "one step at a time." It is amazing how one step, one cent, one percent really adds up.

And thank you for being so open to the "outside" world and to your employees. I think it is very important to do so.

I love forward to seeing more from you!

487515473's picture
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