What’s Zappos really (REALLY) like?

A few weeks ago, I fulfilled my dream to visit the Mecca of Corporate Culture: Zappos.

And, like all ideas that I’ve built-up in my head, I expected to peer beyond the curtain and glimpse a short bald man followed immediately by waves of disappointed that I’ve been lied to again by a powerful brand that promised one thing and then bait-and-switched it for another.  But.  Zappos is the exception.  In every way.  They really do walk the talk (kinda fitting for a shoe e-tailer, eh?).Image

My ‘Zappos Tour Experience Plus’ was a 30 minute tour of the Zappos HQ which included walking though the Call Center, some Administrative space (yes, we walked by Tony Hsieh’s cubicle) followed by 30 minutes for questions one-to-one with a Zappos Insights team member.  The tour full of smiles from happy employees and genuine kindness.  The receptionist stepped out from behind the desk to greet me. She asked if I’d like to charge my phone (I was traveling and carrying a suitcase).  Their hospitality was friendly and real.  They are in a service business after all, so I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but it’s not often that I’ve felt as warm and fuzzy anywhere.  Nothing felt forced or rehearsed.  Just real people who like working where they work.  Whatta concept!

My biggest Ah-haa moment was this:  what Zappos is doing… everyone can do it.  Their office was pretty average — and what I mean by that is… their location (in a regular boring office park)  the layout (rows of cubicles, beige walls) and amenities (free breakfast cereal and candy in the kitchen) weren’t extraordinarily special.  Their magic came from permission to be authentic.  Their spark came from their raving fans:  their employees.  People LOVE working there.  I’m sure they have their challenges — of course, they do.  But overall, people treated each other and me with lots of kindness.  People took the time to look me in the eye, connect, say hello.  I felt welcome and valued.

Here’s a festive cubicle!  Balloon pit, anyone?

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Employees are encouraged to think outside the box — and write their goals on the walls.

Creativity is encouraged.

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I was treated like royalty!

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Between meetings, I visited Zappos onsite coffee shop and relaxed in a massage chair.  Good perk!

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Before leaving, I was encouraged to “recycle” my adhesive name tag and place it on a giant ball of other name tags…  because they are trying to break a World’s Record for the largest ball of adhesive name tags.  Um, of course!

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After returning… I shopped on Zappos.com and bought $300 of shoes.  I want to support a business that reflects my values.   I want to support a company that believes in transparency and leading with their culture instead of working on culture after the bottom line has been achieved.  I appreciate what Zappos has done and I want to support the new way to do business.  In every way, they have cultivated a truly stand-alone brand with their transparency and authenticity.

Next time I’m in Vegas.   I plan to check out their new Downtown Project — it takes you on a tour through Tony’s apartment.  Talk about transparent!?

– Betsy Rowbottom, Co-founder, The Good Jobs

2 comments

  1. I was in Vegas a month ago, and happened to get into a tour of the Downtown Project. It was so awesome, I would recommend going to Vegas just for the tour – no need to wait for your next trip. Tony was actually in his apartment when we toured it, and it was amazing to see the work he is doing with the project.

  2. Donna Goodwin · · Reply

    Great story and you are right-not tough to do If you believe in tranparency. Thanks for sharing.

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