A United Tribe: How Tony Hsieh’s Relationship With EDM Influenced the Late Zappos Visionary

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Hsieh used PLUR as a unique code to guide business practices due to its ability to mobilize a tribe to pursue something greater.

Tony Hsieh was a visionary whose connection to dance music uniquely shaped many of his guiding principles in the business world.

Hsieh tragically died last week at the age of 46 due to health complications following injuries sustained in a house fire. While the revered entrepreneur and former CEO of Zappos is no longer with us, his memory lives on among family and co-workers who remember him fondly for his kindness and strength in fostering community.

As a tech executive, Hsieh placed emphasis on the creation of a synergistic culture, which was a pillar of his business strategy. In a July 2015 interview with Quartz, he explained that his foundational principles in this area were developed through his relationship with electronic dance music. Hsieh, who lived in Las Vegas and regularly attended EDC, explained that the ideals of PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) directly influenced the culture at Zappos. The visionary businessman saw PLUR as a unique code to guide business practices due to its ability to mobilize a tribe to pursue something greater, all while still preserving individual expression. 

Hsieh was first introduced to the concept of PLUR during a formative time in his career. Having sold his first company LinkExchange to Microsoft for $250 million, he had already seen tremendous success, but the young entrepreneur picked up a new hobby—attending raves—and was beginning to have new epiphanies.

Hsieh recalled the moment that things clicked during a 1999 rave. “The entire room felt like one massive, united tribe of thousands of people, and the DJ was the tribal leader of the group,” Hsieh wrote in his book Delivering Happiness. “I made a note to myself to make sure I never lost sight of the value of a tribe where people truly felt connected and cared about the well-being of one another.”

Hsieh’s legacy lives on in the infectiously positive culture he cultivated, which has been spotlighted as a model-standard by authors and entrepreneurs alike. As one Fast Company profile on Zappos observed: “Zappos has an employee culture that seems very much of one mind, focused on customer service and not in some sort of cookie-cutter corporate way. Zappos really cares that you’re happy.”

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