Fun In The Workplace

Two years ago, I was meeting a friend for lunch at a cooking school in Las Vegas.  I knew the school was in a large complex of new office buildings, but didn’t know exactly where it was.  My first choice is always to ask for directions, so I stepped into the first office building I came to.  It was lunch time and there were about 20 people in the front office, coming and going.  The room was filled with laughter and happy faces.  It felt like a party was happening.  One of the people walked me outside pointed me to the cooking school which was about a block away.

The energy in that office made a lasting impression.  It turned out to be the headquarters.

Last week I had the opportunity to tour Zappos and meet CEO Tony Hsieh.  What an amazing company!  And Tony impressed me as an analytical person with a focus on long-term growth.  He cares about people.  Ideal qualities for a leader.

The tour was set up by Liz, who listed her job description as Time Ninja.  The web site referred to the people who work at Zappos as Zapponians.  I knew I was in for an interesting tour.

When I arrived for the tour, the front office was again filled with laughter and smiles.  It was obvious that people were enjoying their day.  The one-hour tour included all areas of the headquarters which is home to about 800 people.  Nearly everyone had their own cubicle, including CEO Tony.  No big fancy office for the Chief.  Each team’s area was decorated differently, from fantasy themes, to jungle themes, and other unique environments.  We walked by the “nap room” where two people were sound asleep.  In the lunch room I discovered there is such a thing as a free lunch.  It was a happy place to work.

In the front office I had noticed what appeared to be a mini book store. Personal development books, maybe forty titles, lined the shelves.  I asked Tony if it was a Lending Library.  He said, “No.  It’s a Giving library.  If someone sees a book which looks interesting, they’re welcome to take it.”  That includes employees and visitors!  Tony picked out three of his favorites and gave them to me to take home.

The corporate culture of Zappos has evolved over the past ten years to what it is today.  They now share with other companies how they can create a WOW customer experience.  Anyone can take a tour.  They make it easy.  It’s free.  They’ll even send a shuttle to pick you up at your hotel. In addition to their web sites, they offer workshops for other companies, sharing their success story.

Watch for Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness, which is being released in June 2010.  It will give you great insight into the building of a unique and thriving company which went from zero to over one billion dollars in sales in less than ten years.  I’ve read an advance copy and I highly recommend the book.

I mentioned the tour to my mother while chatting on the phone.  Mom is a retired switchboard operator and former call center supervisor for Disney.  She is 85 years old and I wasn’t sure she would know the name Zappos.  But she did.  “I remember calling them.  It was one of the nicest experiences I’ve had.”

If only everyone we did business with was so nice!