Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Elizabeth Sosnow: What I Learned From Getting Fired

This story is from Elizabeth Sosnow, Managing Director of BlissPR, and was first published in the BlissPR blog.

In this story, she recounts early lessons from getting fired from a summer job, and picking up a new one. [Elizabeth's dad is John Bliss, who has contributed several stories to this site.] Thanks to Elizabeth for allowing us to reprint it here.

What I Learned from Getting Fired…or, How to Start Becoming a Boss

I was fired once.

I was seventeen years old, working for a gift store in my home town. My job was to be a “jack of all trades,” from running errands to wrapping gifts to encouraging customers to make a purchase. I was speedy at errands, terrible at gift wrapping and mediocre at sales.

Meanwhile, my employer was running out of money, dodging creditors and avoiding invoices. My job began to include answering angry calls while she hid. Looking back, I can see that my boss had no time to be kind to a teenager…her professional life was falling apart.

My one bright spot that summer? My daily walk to buy a sandwich at the deli across the street. The owners were unfailingly kind to me, with a friendly hello or a warm word.

The busiest day of the summer arrived – the annual “sidewalk sale” where retailers unloaded their old inventory for low prices. My boss had me running for 12 hours straight. My high point was selling a pair of very expensive cubic zirconia earrings during the rush – my biggest sale ever.

But when the hordes cleared, she pulled me into her office and fired me on the spot. I was devastated.

After taking the weekend to lick my wounds, I realized I wanted to say goodbye to the deli owners. Somehow, they had become my friends. I just couldn’t disappear without a word, even though I was ashamed to tell them what had happened. I knew I wasn’t blameless – there are always two people involved.

I walked in to the deli, admitted what had happened…and they offered me a job on the spot. Not only that, it was at a higher salary for a shorter work day. They told me they’d always liked me, and they knew I wouldn’t let them down. I was stunned.
I worked at the deli for two summers and loved every minute. Honestly, I probably did let them down sometimes, but I’m also pretty sure they didn’t regret the job offer.
They taught me a little lesson on how to be a good employer virtually every day, including:

Set Fair Boundaries – and Stick to Them: How about the week that I strolled in 15 minutes late for four days in a row? They simply smiled and docked my pay for an hour. I was never late again.

Pay Attention to Individual Needs: The deli wasn’t always a hot bed of creativity. It was my job to draw up the “daily sandwich specials” sheet. Every day, I got more elaborate with it — more doodles, more colors, etc. They weren’t annoyed. Instead, they were patient…and only drew the line when my masterpieces started to consume more than 20 minutes of time.

You Need to Understand Who an Employee “Is,” While They Figure Out “Who They will Be:” One young male customer became increasingly interested in me. After one date, I knew he wasn’t for me. But he kept coming into the deli and I didn’t know how to handle the aggressive attention. Instead of being irritated with me, they let me hide in the back of the store one day, even though it left them short-handed up front. Maturity takes time, and people don’t “grow up” all at once, even in a terrific work environment.

Helped Me Begin to Understand Responsibility for Others: The deli had a number of refrigerated cases to hold all of the cold cuts, cheese and salads. During my second summer, I was promoted to “Manager” of the other summer employees. One of my responsibilities was to make sure that all of the doors to the cases stayed firmly shut, so the cold air stayed inside and the food stayed fresh. Well…the doors were sticky and didn’t slide shut easily. After warning me to keep an eye on it several times, my boss calmly started docking me (and only me) a quarter every time he found the door open. Simply put, I earned a higher wage than the others and therefore more was expected of me. End of story.

Now that I’m a boss myself, I try to remember the lessons that all three of those folks taught me that summer. Perhaps, in the end, it boils down to each of us understanding that the employer-employee relationship is a very much a two-way street.

What about you? What have you learned from a boss or an employee in the past? What kind of advice would you offer to a seventeen year old just starting out in the workforce?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

TV ad shows our human frailties

This commercial from Liberty Mutual Insurance, featured in the 2012 Olympic coverage, seemed appropriate to repost here :)

"Humans. We mean well, but we're imperfect creatures living in a beautifully imperfect world.... It's amazing we've made it this far."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Etsy CEO on the Three-Armed Sweater Award for Spectacular Mistakes

From Nick Bilton's interview of Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson on the New York Times Bits blog:

Q. Do you see your employees as hackers?
A. Absolutely. The internals of the company really embody the hacker spirit. The empowerment of the company is really on the edges. For example, we have 100 engineers, and any single engineer can deploy code to the live site at any time. It happens about 30 times a day.

Q. Wait, anyone can upload code? At anytime? Has this ever gone awry?
A. Of course! We do blameless postmortems about it all the time — which is incredibly important. We believe that if you have a blameless process, you actually get to the root of the problem quicker and people don’t feel like they have to hide information. We don’t enjoy making mistakes, but we give an award to the person who makes the most spectacular mistake.

Q. What kind of awards?
A. We had a three-armed sweater made for one of our engineers who committed the most spectacular mistake of the year. He essentially disabled any Etsy employee from accessing the site.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One partner committed, the other not: "Unrequited Love"

Steve Blank, the entrepreneur and advisor to startups, and author of the books "The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company" and "The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win" posted a great mistake story on his blog, reposted here by permission.

Unrequited Love
If there’s only one passionate party in a relationship it’s unrequited love.
Here’s how I learned it the hard way.
The Dartmouth Football Team After Rocket Science I took some time off and consulted for the very VC’s who lost lots of money on the company. The VC’s suggested I should spend a day at Onyx Software, an early pioneer in Sales Automation in Seattle.
In my first meeting with the Onyx I was a bit nonplussed when the management team started trickling into their boardroom. Their VP of Sales was about 6’ 3” and seemed to be almost as wide. Next two more of their execs walked in each looking about 6’ 5” and it seemed they had to turn sideways to get through the door. They all looked like they could have gotten jobs as bouncers at a nightclub. I remember thinking, there’s no way their CEO can be any taller – he’s probably 5’ 2”. Wrong. Brent Frei, the Onyx CEO walks in and he looked about 6’ 8’ and something told me he could tear telephone books in half.
I jokingly said, “If the software business doesn’t work out you guys got a pretty good football team here.”  Without missing a beat Brent said, “Nah, we already did that. We were the Dartmouth football team front defensive three.”  Oh.
But that wasn’t the only surprise of the day. While I thought I was consulting, Onyx was actually trying to recruit me as their VP of Marketing. At the end of the day I came away thinking it was smart and aggressive team, thought the world of Brent Frei as a CEO and knew Onyx was going to succeed – despite their Microsoft monoculture. With an unexpected job offer in-hand I spent the plane flight home concluding that our family had already planted roots too deep to move to Seattle.
But in that one day I had learned a lot about sales automation that would shape my thinking when we founded Epiphany.
I Know A Great Customer A year later my co-founders and I had formed Epiphany. As other startups were quickly automating all the department of large corporations (SAP-manufacturing, Oracle-finance, Siebel and Onyx-Sales) our first thought was that our company was going to automate enterprise-marketing departments. And along with that first customer hypothesis I had the brilliant hypothesis that my channel partner should be Onyx. I thought, “If they already selling to the sales department Epiphany’s products could easily be cross-sold to the marketing department.”
So I called on my friends at Onyx and got on a plane to Seattle. They were growing quickly and doing all they could to keep up with their own sales but they were kind enough to hear me out. I outlined how our two products could be technically integrated together, how they could make much more money selling both and why it was a great deal for both companies. They had lots of objections but I turned on the sales charm and by the end of the meeting had “convinced them” to let us integrate both our systems to see what the result was. I made the deal painless by telling them that we would do the work for free because when they saw the result they’d love it and agree to resell our product. I left with enough code so our engineers could get started immediately.
Bad idea.  But I didn’t realize that at the time.
It’s Only a Month of Work Back at Epiphany I convinced my co-founders that integrating the two systems was worth the effort and they dove in. Onyx gave us an engineering contact and he helped our team make sense of their system. One of the Onyx product managers got engaged and became an enthusiastic earlyvanglist. The integration effort probably used up a calendar month of our engineering time and an few hours of theirs. But when it was done the integrated system was awesome. No one anything like this. We shipped a complete server up to Onyx (this is long before the cloud) and they assured us they would start evaluating it.
A week goes by and there’s radio silence – nothing is heard from them. Another week, still no news. In fact, no one is returning our calls at all. Finally I decide to get on a plane and see what has happened to our “deal.”
Instead of being welcomed by the whole Onyx exec staff, this time a clearly uncomfortable product manager met me. “Well how do like our integrated system?” I asked. “And by the way where is it? Do you have it your demo room showing it to potential customers?” I had a bad feeling when he wouldn’t make eye contact. Without saying a word he walked me over to a closet in the hallway. He opened the door and pointed to our server sitting forlornly in the corner, unplugged. I was speechless. “I’m really sorry” he barely whispered. “I tried to convince everyone.” Now a decade and a half later the sight of server literally sitting next to the brooms, mops and buckets is still seared into my brain.
I had poured everything into making this work and my dreams had been relegated to the janitors closet. My heart was broken. I managed to sputter out, “Why aren’t you working on integrating our systems?
Just then their VP of Sales came by and gently pulled me into a conference room letting a pretty stressed product manager exhale. “Steve, you did a great sales job on us. We really were true believers when you were in our conference room. But when you left we concluded over the last month that this is your business not ours. We’re just running as hard and fast as we can to make ours succeed.”
Unrequited Love I realized that mistake wasn’t my vision. Nor was it my passion for the idea. Or convincing Onyx that it was a great idea. And besides not being able to tell me straight out, Onyx did nothing wrong. My mistake was pretty simple – when I left their board room a month earlier I was the only one who had an active commitment and obligation to make the deal successful. It may seem like a simple tactical mistake, but it in fact it was fatal.  They put none of their resources in the project – no real engineering commitment, no dollars, no orders, no joint customer calls.
It had been a one-way relationship the day I had left their building.
It would be 15 years before I would make this mistake again.
Lessons Learned
  • When you don’t charge for something people don’t value it
  • When your “partners” aren’t putting up proportional value it’s not a relationship
  • Cheerleading earlyvangelists are critical but ultimately you need to be in constant communication with people with authority (to sign checks, to do a deal, to commit resources, etc.)
  • Your reality distortion field may hinder your ability to realize that you’re the only one marching in the parade
  • If there’s only one passionate party in a deal it’s unrequited love

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

20-year-old learns valuable lesson: Just having a big idea isn't enough

This is from a New York Times piece discussing venture capitalist Peter Thiel's Fellowship program. The program selects 20 entrepreneurs under the age of 20 each year to receive a $100,000 grant to pursue their ideas. One winner in particular has learned some lessons that took me many years to grasp:

John Burnham had bold plans to start a company to extract minerals from outer space. He quickly learned that $100,000 was not nearly enough to do that, so he came up with a new idea: creating models to make capital-intensive projects like space exploration economically viable. That idea also floundered, so now Mr. Burnham is figuring out what to do next. "It's been really eye-opening for me to realize that just because you have a big idea doesn't mean that's all it's going to take to make something happen," he said.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sigourney Weaver shows her grit: "It's a good thing for me that Yale was so mean"

In a recent interview on NPR's Fresh Air, actress Sigourney Weaver described how she began acting. In the story, she discussed her discouraging experience at Yale Drama School. Weaver was clearly undeterred by the negative feedback; she has fashioned a stellar 30+ year career. More than that, she took that lesson and established a theater to provide a better environment for young actors - demonstrating resilience, grit and a long memory.

DAVIES: So what took you into acting?

WEAVER: Well, when I was at college I was an English major and on the side I did a lot of very irreverent, crazy theater with a wonderful group called The Company. We had a kind of covered wagon. We used to do commedia dell'arte all over the San Francisco Bay area. We did "King Lear." We did "Hamlet." We did, you know, we were fearless and we had nothing to do with any drama department. And when it came time for me to leave college - which was a scary moment - I quickly applied to drama schools, kind of as a lark, and I got in. Now...

DAVIES: To Yale.

WEAVER: ...I actually did these - yeah. To all of them, actually. Then I had a miserable time at Yale where they really were discouraging.

DAVIES: Hmm. In what way?

WEAVER: They told me I had no talent and I'd never get anywhere. You know, I am not alone. So many art schools believe that they need to tear down young people. They consider it a sort of rite of passage to kind of roll - steamroll you and crush you into the dust. And so that's why helped found The Flea Theater here in New York where we have currently, we have 90 young actors, brilliant, wonderful young actors. Very diverse. We just got a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. But so actually, it's a good thing it happened to me that Yale was so mean, because now I've been part of something that's created an alternative to drama school, which, as was always the case in so many businesses, you come into the theater and you learn by doing and it's an intergenerational thing. And I work at The Flea and we all inspire each other.

Other references to the value of grit to overcome obstacles and setbacks here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The pacemaker's invention, enabled by a mistake

This story is from Steven Johnson's book "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation." The book features an entire chapter called "Error," although this is but one of the core ideas Johnson discusses. Below is an example of his remarkable storytelling, in which he relates Wilson Greatbatch's 1958 invention of the pacemaker after the original idea's long gestation (what Johnson calls a "slow hunch"). The story is another example of breakthrough invention enabled by error; I discussed a couple of other stories of this type in a recent article for The 99 Percent.

Greatbatch had long been a ham radio enthusiast; as a teenager, he had built his own shortwave radio by cobbling together the descendants of de Forest’s Audion. His love of gadgets had drawn him to the Cornell farm because the psychology department needed someone to attach experimental instruments to the animals, measuring their brain waves, heartbeats, and blood pressure. One day, Greatbatch happened to sit at lunch with two visiting surgeons and got into a conversation about the dangers of irregular heartbeats. Something in their description of the ailment triggered an association in Greatbatch’s mind. He imagined the heart as a radio that was failing to transmit or receive a signal properly. He know the history of modern electronics had bgeen all about regulating the electrical signals passed between devices with ever moremiraculous precision. Could you take all that knowledge and apply it to the human heart?

Greatbatch stored the idea in the back of his head for the next five years, where it lingered as a slow hunch. He moved to Buffalo, started teaching electrical engineering, and moonlighted at the Chronic Disease Institute. A physician at the institute recruited Greatbatch to help him engineer an oscillator that would record heartbeats using the new silicon transistors that were threatening to replace the vacuum tube. One day, while working on the device, Greatbatch happened to grab the wrong resistor. When he plugged it into the oscillator it began to pulse in a familiar rhythm. Thanks to Greatbatch's error, the device was simulating the beat of a human heart, not recording it. His mind flashed back to the his conversation on the farm five years before. Here, at last, was the beginning of a device that could restore the faulty signal of an irregular heart, by shocking it back into sync at regular intervals.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Failure is not the opposite of success"

This quote is from Dean Shepherd's book, "From Lemons to Lemonade: Squeeze Every Last Drop of Success Out of Your Mistakes." Shepherd is a professor at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and studies decisionmaking and cognition, focusing on learning from experimentation and failure.

Failure is not the opposite of success. Failure at specific projects occurs on the way to overall success - success in kindergarten, school, career, and life. The key is to learn and keep trying.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"One Thousand and One" founders: "We were pushing something they didn't need or want yet"

This story is from Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu, the founders of the organizational storytelling consultancy One Thousand and One, as told to Australia's Startup Smart blog. Startup Smart features a weekly entry titled, "My Best Mistake," which we'll be scouring for more great stories to point to.

While Dolan and Naidu were confident organisational storytelling would take off, they failed to recognise that most people had no real understanding of it, so demand was almost non-existent.

“In 2005, people still were not sure what organisational storytelling was. They had no idea. We tried to run a few public workshops but the market wasn’t ready for it,” Dolan says.

“We invested a lot of time and money into developing and marketing a program that ran at a loss.”

“Because the market wasn’t ready, we felt we were pushing something they didn’t need or want yet. That was a really early learning curve for us.”

Dolan says the turning point came when she and Naidu ran a program that only a small number of people attended.

“When you’re just sitting there and people literally aren’t buying it, you realise you haven’t got it right,” she says.

“We were six months into developing the program and we’d spent thousands of dollars. At that time, it was the biggest investment we were making.”

While Dolan and Naidu realised they had made a mistake, their efforts didn’t go entirely to waste.

“What we didn’t realise was that some organisations were ready – they were more mature and more advanced,” Dolan says.

“Instead of running public workshops, we would go and work with the likes of NAB and Ericsson, and do internal workshops.”

One Thousand & One has only recently ventured back into public workshops, but has taken a far more cautious approach the second time around.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Success is success but that is all that it is"

From the New York Times review of Henry Petroski's book "To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure":

People who study the ecology of innovation say one of our biggest advantages may be our willingness to accept failure, however distressing, as an inevitable byproduct of ambition. In the United States, if some unanticipated factor causes your good idea to fail, relatively little stigma attaches to you. In fact, you will hear people in Silicon Valley say that if you have not gone bankrupt at least once or twice, you’re not trying hard enough.

“Success is success but that is all that it is,” Dr. Petroski writes. It is failure that brings improvement.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Toyota's CEO discusses quality problems

In the July/August 2007 Harvard Business Review, Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe engages in a wide-ranging discussion of the company’s plans for the future.

It’s a fascinating article, and a couple of passages caught my eye in particular. In them, Mr. Watanabe frankly confronts problems that Toyota has faced on the quality of its automobiles:
In 1995 there were 26 Toyota factories; in 2007 there will be 63…. I realize that our system may be overstretched.

We must make that issue visible. Hidden problems are the ones that become serious threats eventually. If problems are revealed for everyone to see, I will feel reassured. Because once problems have been visualized, even if our people didn’t notice them earlier, they will rack their brains to find solutions to them.

Revealing the hidden problem, not tolerating the “quiet fix,” has been discussed in a prior post. But Mr. Watanabe goes on. He immerses himself in the company’s mistakes, and gets actively involved in diagnosing and fixing them. Says Mr. Watanabe:
Soon after I became president, as you know, we confronted several quality-related problems. We created teams specializing in different areas and instructed them to analyze the root causes of problems in each area. We found that in several cases the problems had occurred because of design flaws or because of short lead times that didn’t allow out engineers to build a sufficient number of physical prototypes. If we had thought about product designs more clearly or had the time to conduct more experiments, we could have avoided those problems.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tim Berry - Buying into the dot-com boom hype

Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software (developer of Business Plan Pro) has contributed much to this site (see here for a collection of stories from Tim). In this audio story taken from a longer interview, Tim discusses how his company was affected during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990's, and how he got caught up in the enthusiasm, with results you might expect.

You can download the podcast file here: Tim Berry - believing the dot-com hype (4:04)


So I was one of those who bought the craziness of the dot-com boom. And it was hard for me not to, because Palo Alto Software back in 1998 and 1999 was riding the web very high. I mean we're still very strong on the web; we get multiple millions of unique visitors per month at bplans.com. But back in '98 and '99 the half a million monthly unique visitors put us in the spotlight of that craziness where professional investors were valuing companies by their web traffic rather than their revenues. And although I should have had the vision to see that that wasn't going to last, what I did, to be perfectly honest, was I started to believe we were worth what the web traffic valued us at. Which was like $50 million, just to make it general. This was a company that had only consulting until '94. Our product business started in '95. We'd been successful; we'd been having double-digit growth, so we grew from a few hundred thousand dollars per year to five million dollars by 1998. So we were a good, interesting company, but in any normal time nobody would value the company at $50 million. But we had these web sites.

So I bought into this. We negotiated a minority equity share from venture capitalists in Palo Alto, CA. [We had moved to Eugene, OR.] We set about essentially getting the $50 million for the company. And we were just getting ready for that when the dot-com boom crashed. And, there we were, with a minority venture capital investment that was all predicated on us selling the company for $50 million. And after the crash, it wasn't worth $50 million. So eventually we had to buy the venture capitalists back out. Because you don't want to have an unhappy minority investor in your company. You don't want people to lose money on your company. It took us a while and it was painful, and it was just us. Because it was my wife and I just doing it. We managed the cash flow to get the venture capitalists their money back, with interest. And buy them back, and then the company became fully ours again. It was a long, difficult process, and caused a lot of upheaval.

And in the meantime, when the dot-com boom crash, our sales fell. We've declined in sales only two years since Business Plan Pro came out. One was 2001, the other was 2009. In 2001, when sales fell very fast, I failed to see that quickly enough, and I held on too long, and caused us a lot of financial problems from not cutting expenses fast enough.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Don't "Quiet Fix" your mistakes

Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman, in their book "X-teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Succeed" neatly describe a phenomenon that I've witnessed at every company I worked for. I dare say I was guilty of it a bunch of times.

It's called "quiet fixing." Here's how it's described in the book:
At Toyota, for example, when a new car comes off the assembly line with a defective door handle, the person responsible for that part does not fix the problem quietly without the assembly team leader noticing. Instead, the team comes together to identify the root cause of the problem to ensure that it does not happen again. This process often gets noisy, and it requires psychological safety. Without it, quiet fixers would rule the day--leaving the source of the problem and its consequences to crop up again and again. (Ancona and Bresman, "x-teams," p. 93)

When at EDS we were studying the Learning Organization, I used to joke that we weren't a Learning Organization, we were a Forgetting Organization, like the guy in "Memento" who has lost his short-term memory.

What I was saying, in essence, was that we had a culture of "quiet fixers."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Angie's List Founder: "Tell Me As Soon as Something Goes Awry"

From an interview in the New York Times with Angie's List founder Angie Hicks:

I operate under a philosophy that people are going to make mistakes. But when something does go wrong, make sure I'm the first one to know, because I can't help you fix it if I don't know about it. The whole organization is run that way. You have to give people a chance to own their areas, but you also have to agree that they're going to come and tell you as soon as something goes awry. I think that allows people to move up the learning curve faster. It's like watching your kids go out and swim. You're always within arm's length when they're swimming, so that you're there to grab them back.

This is similar to the thinking I wrote about in an article on The 99 Percent, "How to Bounce Back From a Big Mistake," especially point 2 - Tell Your Leader.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Zappos site messes up pricing, then shows sense of humor in dealing with it

This is a posting from Zappos' site 6pm.com dated May 2010.

Hey everyone – As many of you may know (and I’m sure a lot of you do not), 6pm.com is our sister site.  6pm.com is where brandaholics go for their guilt free daily fix of the brands they crave.  Every day, the site highlights discounts on products ranging up to 70% off.  Well, this morning, we made a big mistake in our pricing engine that capped everything on the site at $49.95.  The mistake started at midnight and went until around 6:00am pst.  When we figured out the mistake was happening, we had to shut down the site for a bit until we got the pricing problem fixed. 
While we’re sure this was a great deal for customers, it was inadvertent, and we took a big loss (over $1.6 million - ouch) selling so many items so far under cost.  However, it was our mistake.  We will be honoring all purchases that took place on 6pm.com during our mess up.  We apologize to anyone that was confused and/or frustrated during out little hiccup and thank you all for being such great customers.  We hope you continue to Shop. Save. Smile. at6pm.com
Aaron Magness
Director of Brand Marketing & Business Development
Zappos Development, Inc.
Twitter: @macknuttie
Update: Upon further investigation and clarification with our merchandising team, I realized that the statement about "capping everything on the site at $49.95" was not 100% accurate. There are some items that are sold on both 6pm.com and Zappos.com, and those items were not affected by the pricing mistake. The pricing mistake applied to items sold on 6pm.com but not Zappos.com (the vast majority of inventory available on 6pm.com). The actual dollar figure of our loss is accurate - over $1.6 million. Let's just say this was not a boring weekend for us.
Update 2: We've received a number of inquiries asking for more details as to what happened, so here are more details from Tony Hsieh (CEO, Zappos.com, Inc.):
We have a pricing engine that runs and sets prices according to the rules it is given by business owners. Unfortunately, the way to input new rules into the current version of our pricing engine requires near-programmer skills to manipulate, and a few symbols were missed in the coding of a new rule, which resulted in items that were sold exclusively on 6pm.com to have a maximum price of $49.95. (Items that are sold on both 6pm.com and Zappos.com were not affected.)
We already had planned on improving our internal pricing engine so that it will have a much easier-to-use interface for our business owners. We are also planning on adding additional checks and balances to hopefully prevent this type of thing from happening again.
To those of you asking if anybody was fired, the answer is no, nobody was fired - this was a learning experience for all of us. Even though our terms and conditions state that we do not need to fulfill orders that are placed due to pricing mistakes, and even though this mistake cost us over
$1.6 million, we felt that the right thing to do for our customers was to eat the loss and fulfill all the orders that had been placed before we discovered the problem.
PS: To put an end to any further speculation about my tweet (
http://twitter.com/zappos/status/14576863056 ), I will also confirm that I did not, in fact, eat any ice cream on Sunday night.
Tony Hsieh

Hat tip to Positive Sharing.