On a recent escape to Las Vegas, we found the brightest lights not along the Strip, but at the downtown headquarters of Zappos.com, the successful online department store which moved into the former Las Vegas City Hall. In my playbook, their free Zappos Insights Tour should be the city’s top family attraction for older kids.
Getting to Know the Zappos Ethos
You may be familiar with “Delivering Happiness,” the 2010 best-selling manifesto by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh whose wisdom governs many startup businesses. But this story begins around 2002, when, committed to fostering service and customer loyalty, Hsieh opened their merchandise distribution center in rural Kentucky to be closer to the UPS national shipping hub. A few years later, he relocated Zappos HQ from chic San Francisco to Henderson, Nevada -– near the city that actually never sleeps — so they could hire the best 24/7 call center personnel.
Last year, when Zappos moved to 3rd Street and Las Vegas Boulevard with nearly 1,600 employees, it fueled the downtown revival around Fremont Street and the Golden Nugget Casino with youth, great restaurants, hip nightlife and affordable rents –- a potent millennial cocktail. (Hsieh has also funded the Downtown Project and the Vegas Tech Fund to spur investment, community development and attract more startups.)
Touring their fun headquarters and learning about the 10 Zappos Family Core Values does more than make visitors happy; it can teach anyone about running a business, a family… or our own personal lives, better.
So What is a Zappos Insights Tour?
The Z-love begins by email, when you register at ZapposInsights.com and get several friendly confirmations and reminders (Core Value #1: Deliver WOW Through Service.) On the day, Jenn’s Zappos.com-skinned Scion arrived as our complimentary hotel shuttle.
As we checked in for the tour, the colorfully mixed (ethnic, age, clothing) reception crew handed out bottled water and cupcakes. (#7: Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit.) Here, in the world headquarters of a publicly traded company purchased by Amazon for more than $1.2 billion in stock, we wandered among the framed Forbes magazine covers, silly sculptures, plant-filled cubbies and lending library, waiting for our session.
Our one-hour visit began with a video greeting by the Zappos.com staff performing “Gangnam Style” in keeping with Core Value #3: Create Fun and A Little Weirdness.
We learned all about the company’s culture (#6: Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication), then were video-welcomed by CEO Hsieh and his partners (#10: Be Humble) and heard about several of Zappos’ charitable efforts (#9: Be Passionate and Determined.)
Behind the Scenes at Zappos.com HQ
Handsome Ray (#4: Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded) narrated our walk through various departments, asked some teams to dance for us, and pointed out the 17 breakrooms serving three meals a day. As an example of the Zappos.com culture (#2: Embrace and Drive Change), he pointed out that unhealthy sodas and candy are sold through vending machines, but fresh fruit and healthy snacks are available free.
We toured the team handling the discount sister site 6pm.com and spent time with the CLT (Customer Loyalty Team) who described the many perks and gifts they’re encouraged to share with customers they’d made a connection with. Big connections. At Zappos.com, a customer conversation has lasted as long as 10 hours -– a huge feat considering the small CLT handled 7,969 phone calls, 1,741 online chats and 2,343 emails the day before our visit. (#8: Do More With Less.)
Digging Deeper to Find Zappos Gold
Most visits end with your own souvenir copy of their annual Zappos Culture book, a group-hug journal packed with self-revelations. We stayed for a Zappos Tour Plus Culture Q&A (a 60-minute conversation with a Zapponian after the tour – $50) to have some questions answered by Diana from Zappos U.
At Zappos U (#5: Pursue Growth and Learning), there are culture classes for new hires and all sorts of free personal enrichment courses. When I asked Diana why such an enlightened company had no corporate daycare facility, she said that the majority of Zapponians surveyed had asked for doggy daycare instead.
“But it’s my ninth year with the company,” she added happily, “and we have so many people in my department getting married, that there are bound to be more kids around soon…”
When the next Zapponian town hall session comes around, maybe staff priorities will have changed. But for now, we understand that success begins with personal happiness, and what better lesson to teach our kids?
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