The unique culture at Zappos.com is no major secret. The company is well regarded as a leader in employee happiness; believing that happy employees care for and create happy customers. How exactly does Zappos live this? I’m going to dig in deep, but here are a few teasers.
- The company has no goal for how quickly a customer service rep needs to get off the phone when a customer calls in for help. The record for the longest call, over 10 hours, is a celebrated record!
- Every single employee, from the barista to the general counsel, starts in the customer call center for no less than 30 days to ensure they understand the customer.
- The hiring process for new employees takes months to ensure they are a fit. Even still, after a new employee completes their training, they are given the option to quit the company and receive a check for one month’s salary. If the employee wants to be a part of the Zappos team, the decision is easy.
Las Vegas is home to Zappos HQ, and while in Las Vegas for the Builders’ Show, the ONeil team was hoping to take a tour of the campus. At first it seemed unfortunate that our only available day in Las Vegas was a holiday for the Zappos crew. As it turns out, Adam reached out to Ryo (pronounced like the ‘Rio’ in ‘Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’) Zsun via Twitter and he graciously offered to give me and Adam a personal tour.
Ryo is the Zappos Culture Maestro. Yes, that’s his real title. Ryo was a speaker for an IBS Game Changer session this year, too. He’s an incredibly kind guy with a great story about starting at Zappos working as a barista. It also turns out he spent some time in Baltimore living just a couple miles from where I grew up. It’s a small, small planet.
We met Ryo outside Zappos HQ, the former Las Vegas City Hall. The lobby includes a fully outfitted gift shop, ever-changing decor (it was decorated for Chinese New Year during our visit), and you make out the ball pit to the right. Yep, that’s the ball pit the three of us are sitting on in the photo above.
It was quickly clear that the Zappos culture expected people to be people. I don’t think they accept underperformance by any measure, but they acknowledge and give people the space to be human — like this parking space reserved for those having a “shitty day.”
There is really fun Zappos branded stuff everywhere. Yeah, pens are handy and practical, but a mini-motorcycle is undeniably cool. Some of it is available for employee use on campus, like scooters for getting around downtown, and some of it can be purchased using special Zappos employee currency.
In addition to supporting all kinds of art in downtown Las Vegas, Zappos also employs an artist-in-residence, who started in the company call center. The artist can be found working on chalk murals of Bob Marley, an outdoor sculpture, or any other surface that could benefit from some inspiration.
There’s a Zappos gathering room with a coffee bar that opens to an incredible outdoor rooftop patio, an amazing view, and a complete mini-golf course.
The Zappos elevators have flat screens on the back walls. The screens don’t pump company propaganda but instead, are large touch screens where you can play a bowling game. I saw this as a simple delightful surprise, but Ryo pointed out that it’s a great way to break the awkward silence in an elevator and encourage employees to speak with one another.
In all, Adam and I spent nearly 3.5 hours with Ryo, soaking up everything he shared. We do things on a different scale than the 1200+ employee Zappos HQ, but I’m always conscious of creating a positive company and office culture. We’re not quite ready to add a massive fish tank and massage chair nap room (sorry team), but I left with an incredible number of ideas and new perspectives.
As part of the Zappos headquarters relocation to Las Vegas, its CEO, Tony Hsieh (author of Delivering Happiness) invested $350,000,000 of his own funds into The Downtown Project – an aggressive initiative to revitalize downtown Las Vegas. Ryo took Adam and I on a walking tour of downtown, and the trademark Zappos “fun and a little weirdness” is everywhere.
And, finally, while I’ve added this list of Zappos core values at the end of this post, you’ve already seen each one of these values being lived in the content above.
Zappos 10 Core Values
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble