We all know and like Zappos, right? It delivers a product we all delight in receiving, has a stellar reputation for customer service and is consistently noted as one of the top companies to work for. What’s not to love?
When I was in Las Vegas for the International Builders’ Show in January, I couldn’t resist taking some time off the show floor to participate in Zappos daily cultural tour, open the general public five days a week. So I can tell you the rumors are true: Zappos is pretty amazing.
I could talk about how the word Zappos originates from the Spanish word for shoes (“zapatos”), how I added every single book in its Employee Library to my Goodreads account or how its Customer Loyalty Team (CLT) is measured on PEC: personal, emotional connections (so many acronyms).
But instead, I’ll touch on a few points that struck me as I was walking through the Hall of Celebration and admiring the image collage of “Top 10 Fashion Trends in 2013-2014” inspiration, led by our personal tour guide Erika.
Zappos is weird. I know Austin, Texas’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird”, but I swear Zappos could adopt the same mantra. Every employee is encouraged to express themselves at work, wearing whatever clothing style they’re into, personalizing their desk with party streamers and trinkets and repurposing common areas as creative release and inspiration. Erika is nicknamed “The Equestrian” because she loves horses, and her picture was on the Zappos Culture board underscored with #TeamEquestrian (which I of course used when posting on Instagram). Adding icing to the cake, she was wearing a plaid shirt, leggings and thick-rimmed glasses in the most genuine, unforced way possible. It was very cute.
Another example? Greeters cut neck ties off guests and pin them to the lobby wall. Zappos has embraced its quirky, fun, creative personality 110%. And everyone who’s a part of the company seems to have extreme buy-in.
Zappos is social. It can’t come as a surprise that the majority of employees I saw on my tour were millennials. So it didn’t shock me that Zappos is an open company, in lots of senses of the word.
- All employees file through a single, front entrance to encourage more spontaneous collisions and meet-and-greets.
- Very few employees have closed office work spaces. Even Tony Hseih himself sits in “Monkey Row” with a “No Door Policy,” vs. an “Open Door Policy.”
- Much about what goes on at Zappos is socialized (in a controlled way, of course). The company wants employees and guests talking about it, so social media has been embraced fully with things like #zappostour #zapposculture and #TeamEquestrian.
How much privacy do employees really have? How loud are their individual voices in contributing to company progression and change? What does one do if she’s a clean freak who doesn’t want glitter and streamers and parades cluttering her work area? I didn’t ask these questions, but if I get the chance to go back, I will.
Zappos is built a little like AKHIA. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting the 60-person integrated marketing agency in Hudson, Ohio is exactly like the 1,600-person behemoth online retailer that is Zappos. But I heard and saw a couple of things that got me thinking about AKHIA’s own values and legacy:
- Erika was very adamant in saying that Zappos isn’t a shoe company. Instead, she said “We’re a service company that happens to sell shoes and clothing and accessories.” Huh. Sounds a lot like the principles CEO Jan Gusich founded AKHIA on: “Take care of the client, and the rest will take care of itself” coupled with the agency’s mission (since day one): “Exceed our client’s expectations in everything that we do.”
- While walking up a stairwell, I noticed guests had signed walls and artwork – very much like our “I Heart AKHIA” wall. (Haven’t signed it? Visit us, and we’ll hand you a Sharpie!)
- Zappos U provides internal education, training and professional development for all employees to take advantage of. AKHIA, too, is committed to enabling growth and learning for our teams, so it was exciting to see how other organizations are developing and executing similar offerings.
I really could go on and on about everything I soaked up on my 90-minute tour. I’m fascinated by it and would love to hear about your Zappos experience!
Amanda Vasil is Change Agent at AKHIA.