Thank God for Grandmas and Zappos! A Tour of Zappos.com

My group at the Zappos tour. Treat others like royalty, feel like family. I could live with that.

After reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s, The Thank You Economy, I was inspired to read Tony Hsieh’s, Delivering Happiness…  After learning about Tony and how his extraordinary company, Zappos.com, offered friendly tours of the corporate headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew a field trip was on the horizon.

As a result of some logistical good fortune, I was in Vegas last month with a group of dear friends from the special events, entertainment and production industry who also wanted to see this Zappos Culture that we heard and read so much about, in person.    Zappos turned out be the real deal and left our many of our heads spinning with traces of wonderment and unequivocal WOW.

Zappos Culture Book

In the Culture book that each guest receives at the end the tour, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “The amount of happiness you have depends of the amount of freedom you have in your heart.”  To me, this quote encapsulates the Zappos.com mojo that fuels its uncharacteristically happy employees, appreciative customers and ridiculous numbers.  The Zappos team is given the freedom to make their workplace as comfortable as their living room, to be a little weird, to obsess over the customer- in a healthy way, to be inspired- not intimidated by the success of others, and to contribute beyond self through philanthropy and mentorship.  All of these core values, among many others, translate into daily WOW on a scale that was tough for a few of us to wrap our aspirational minds around.

Did you know it was possible to generate 12 million dollars in sales in one day?  Me neither.  Did you know that there’s a company out there that intentionally makes less profit each year so they can make the lives of their employees better instead?  Me neither.    And did you know that you can get paid to train for a job at Zappos and then get paid even more to quit if you don’t gel with the positive culture DNA that their looking for?  I did, because I read the book… but it was still impressive to hear it again nonetheless.

I'm not kidding, most of the employees looked this happy. It was so strange and beautiful at the same time.

I’ve learned a lot about branding over the past few years.  Zappos used to be known as a shoe company. Now, even though they still sell a gazillion shoes, they are known for their exemplary company culture and their laudable level customer service.  How does this happen?  When your employees feel like this… Here’s a Culture book excerpt from Stacy H., a six year Zappos veteran;

“Coming to work at Zappos is like going to visit Grandma’s house as a kid.  You are spoiled, you have fun and get fed.  At Zappos, we get fed so much that I am convinced that I will not lose any serious weight until the day I leave.  It makes me think about the letters people write when they have to leave.  Usually it is due to moving out of state, because, well, why else would you leave Zappos?  The e-mails are sent out to the entire floor to say goodbye to their work-family.  We typically throw a mini-happy hour for the person who is leaving and demand to see them back for visits.

This can't be right.

Our Zappos culture is more than just 10 ideas to live by, or a fun environment, or even happy customersIt’s looking at those around you, those you will never see but hear their voice on the phone, or read their words in an e-mail, as family.  When you can see the world in this caring light, you become a better person and the joy spreads.  The Zappos culture is paying it forward to everyone that comes in contact with us.  Our vendors, our employees, our customers, and even our tours get joy out of the experience that is Zappos.  Thank God for Grandmas and Zappos!”

If you have a trip planned to Vegas and like the idea of going home with more than you came with-  do yourself, your team and your organization a favor and set up a tour.

Special thanks to Jodi Harris and Andy Ebon for setting up a day filled with joyful experiences.

As Tony likes to say, “Live in The WOW!”

 

 

Encore Gallery:

This Is How We Do It- Marcello Recommends: Running Your Multi-Op by Michael Walter

Michael Walter and the Elite Team

On page 107, Michael Walter, the owner of Elite Entertainment, writes “My mom used to tell me,  -Being smart doesn’t mean you have to know all the answers.  It just means you have to know how to find them-.”

In his new book and proverbial treasure mapRunning Your Muil-Op, Michael spoon-feeds 20 years of advice on  how to recruit and develop talent, how to effectively manage and delegate day to day operations, and how to deal with the inevitable growing pains that come along with running a thriving small business.   It’s like Vince Lombardi opening up his playbook and handing it off to Captain Jack Sparrow.

All of the nuggets are delivered with enough real world experience and wit to keep the reader engaged, even during the self-described “more boring legal stuff” section.

Michael Walter, CEO of Elite Entertainment

What I love about the book is that Michael’s information is universalHis tips about taking your employee’s spouses and significant others into consideration throughout the year is relevant to any CEO.   The sections about embracing technology for organizational purposes and marketing will be helpful to any entrepreneur.  And the parts about trust, resolve, humility, ego, reality and balance make the book a good read for anyone who likes to learn life lessons via entertaining anecdotes.   (I love how he and his former business partner decided that it was time to move into an office.)

2001 DJ of the Year Competition: Marcello Pedalino & Michael Walter

Walter is like a Gary Vee. He’s got  a lot of energy to burn and plenty of useful information to share that will motivate others to take action.  He also thrives on progress and readily admits that he likes the attention.  Walter is the kind of guy that you ask to take out to lunch someday after you see him speak at a national conference or read one of his re-tweeted articles. That’s actually how I met Michael 10 years ago.    He was asked to produce the DJ of the Year Competition by DJ Times Magazine back in 2001.  I put my hat in the ring and and was fortunate to win.  Not just because I won a couple of nice plaques and got some great press… but because I  met someone who would become one of my best friends.  (notice I didn’t say “lucky.”   Michael and Branch Rickey don’t really believe in luck)

If you follow this blog, you know I keep things positive, but I also keep things real.  So I was really happy that Mike’s book didn’t suck.  That would have been awkward.   To the contrary, I’m happy to report that all of the initial reviews, beyond our circle of friends since its debut last month-  have been stellar.

“Mike has given away the keys to the candy store. Shared all the trade secrets. Divulged the secret recipe… is he crazy to do so? Maybe. Is he a genius? Definitely. And generous?  OH YES.”Scott Faver

My favorite part of the book was the Epilogue: Words to Live By.   Mike shared several examples of what inspires his  business philosophy and life principles.  He quotes everybody from Sting to Aristotle and mentions everything from Fatal Attraction to The Serenity Prayer.  (it keeps you on your toes- like when Tony Hsieh quoted Winnie the Pooh in his book, Delivering Happiness)  This is a nice snapshot of what our entertainingly-eclectic conversations sound like when we are flying out to a speaking engagement together or while we are out for a training run.

Michael is a fellow “Life Is Good fan and he and the love of his life, Kelly, are big supporters of the Sunshine Club. I thought the excerpt below from the final chapter of the book really encapsulates the Celebrate Life vibe we promote here and just might  inspire someone out there in the world today….    -mp

…” one of the more awesome things about DJing as long as I have, is bringing joy to so many people.  When we do what we do well, that’s what we do.   We get people to dance, laugh, sing, and celebrate.  We get them to leave their routine lives for a few hours and to enter a world where their troubles and difficulties don’t exist. There is only the here and the now at a good party.  Nothing else matters-“… ~Michael Walter

Click here to order your copy of Running Your Multi-Op.

Follow Michael on Twitter:  @DjMikeWalter

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