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Why Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh lives in a trailer park

Tony Hsieh is proof that bigger isn’t always better. Despite a reported net worth of $820m (£519.59m), the CEO of Zappos calls a 240 square foot Airstream trailer home.
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Zappos, which makes a regular appearance on Forbes’ list of 100 best companies to work for, has turned the corporate rulebook on its head by implementing a self-management system called “Holacracy”. The company’s 1,500 employees define their own jobs, salaries and have a say in how the company runs – a concept which is becoming increasingly more popular.

At the same time as he started adopting the system, Hsieh embarked on another project. So far, he has invested $350m (£221.78m) into transforming Las Vegas into a thriving business area. He also created the somewhat controversial Downtown Project, including a $50m (£31.68m) investment in local companies, to revitalise the district. 

Hsieh chooses to live in the trailer park he owns, according to a recent profile in The New York Times. The trailer park is “crammed with shiny silver Airstreams that are rented out to visiting computer coders,” according to David Gelles at The Times. 

“I’ve probably lived in ten places in my entire life, and this is definitely my favourite so far,” said Hsieh.

He added: “It’s definitely a unique experience. It allows me to be more creative, in a way, because it helps me concentrate on what’s important.”

According to Las Vegas Weekly, the Airstream trailers are “tricked out” with wood paneling, stainless-steel appliances, a Bluetooth stereo and two TVs.

Hsieh owns the entire East Fremont lot, which is home to 20 other Airstream trailers and ten Tumbleweed houses for friends, family, colleagues and visitors. Hsieh said he bought the empty lot as part of an experiment. His original plan was to turn the area into an Airstream hotel but he liked it so much that he decided to stay.

His neighbours now include a pet alpaca named Marley, a dog called Blizzy and four chickens.

The tiny living community, affectionately known as Llamalopolis, was designed to foster “communal nature and randomness”, and was inspired by the Burning Man festival. 

“We want people to contribute more than they take,” said Hsieh. “For some people, it might be cooking for everyone. For others it might be playing music. I see my neighbours a lot more now than I did when living in a house in the suburbs or living in an apartment building.”

Hsieh said the best part is the sense of community: “I love it at night here. There’s campfires going. I really like the unpredictability and randomness of it.”

While it may seem like a waste of wealth to some, Hsieh is probably the best example of the old saying, “money doesn’t buy happiness.” Was there a secret to happiness? According Hsieh: “Never being bored.”

“I care more about experiences than stuff,” he says in the video below.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is the deputy editor of Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business