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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

What Happens in Vegas Shouldn’t Stay in Vegas – Especially if You Like Shoes from Zappos

I was in Las Vegas last week and am about to break the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" pact - again! It was too great a trip not to tell. In between speaking at a conference and a local TV appearance I was able to venture out to the headquarters (Zappos is an awesome online retailer of mainly shoes). Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is on my NOOK and I was excited to learn that Zappos offers tours and insights as to what makes their culture so unique. Take a look at the picture of the CEO's desk I snapped while there:

Tony Hsieh's Desk (CEO of Zappos)

Working at a desk like Tony's would make me crazy! It seems so unorganized and even has a jar of pickles on it. I really don't like pickles. But his desk is indicative of how Zappos delivers happiness and that's why I believe Zappos is in the Smart Zone.

Tony Hsieh has been an entrepreneur his whole life from his worm farm as a child to his button-making business as a teen. As a young adult he cofounded LinkExchange which he later sold to Microsoft for $265 million. He then went on to grow Zappos to a billion dollar company in just 10 years. (By the way, Zappos got it's name from a twist on the word "zapatos" which is the Spanish word for shoes). He wrote the book Delivering Happiness to reveal his secrets to success and how he found happiness in business.

The Smart Zone is where you work to the best of your ability emotionally, behaviorally and intellectually. Here are a few Smart Moves that Zappos uses to stay in the Smart Zone:

  • Delivering WOW: Zappos looks at every phone call, tweet and email as a way to build their brand. Most call centers measure employee performance on how many phone calls each rep can take in a day. Zappos doesn't. Their longest phone call was 6 hours long and their employees are empowered to do what's right for the brand while on the phone.My favorite story in the book is about the Skechers shoe rep challenging Tony and his partners on the Zappos call center's customer service. After a late night of bar-hopping and hotel room service being closed Tony dared the Skechers rep to call Zappos to try to order a pizza. The Skechers rep took him up on the dare. She called Zappos and explained that she was in a Santa Monica hotel where room service was no longer delivering, she was craving a pepperoni pizza and was there anything Zappos could do about it? Two minutes later the Zappo's rep responded with a list of the five closest pizza places in Santa Monica that were still delivering. This had nothing to do with buying shoes but it had everything to do with delivering WOW!

  • Paying People to Quit. One of Zappos' core values is to be passionate and determined. Zappos believes so strongly in this that they will pay people to quit! After their 4-week new hire training program every employee is offered $4,000 to quit on the spot if they don't feel the job is right for them. (The amount used to be $2,000 but they recently bumped it to $4,000). My tour guide last week told me about 10% of the people take the offer but Zappos knows it's cheaper in the long run to make sure they have the right people.

  • Encouraging Employees to Pursue Growth. In the Zappos Culture Book employees are asked to grow personally and professionally and to "be a better person today than you were yesterday." Recent Stanford research reveals that a meaningful experience can make you happier than pure pleasure. In an early conversation about the book Good to Great the founders decided it might be a good idea to have a library in their lobby of recommended books to encourage their employees to read. Now there are hundreds of books in the library free for all employees and visitors. You should see the number of books I came home with!

  • Being humble. This is one of Zappos' core values. Being humble embraces the Smart Zone secret which is to take the focus off yourself. One of the cofounders, Fred, worked in the shoe department at Nordstrom before cofounding Zappos. His experience had been that buyers abused their shoe vendors with disrespect, secrets and squeezing every last dime from them. Zappos changed this by giving their vendors access to the same information as their buyers. This created mutual respect and transformed the relationships to be collaborative in nature instead of adversarial.

If you believe your organization is in the Smart Zone like Zappos, email me and tell me about it!

Please join me on Facebook, too!

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