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Team Monticello Visits Zappos Headquarters

Written by Bridget Graber, Director of Operations

From left to right - Caitlin Montalvo, Bridget Graber, Brooke Chaffee-Zayas, Gia Mertzlufft, and Alex Monticello

From left to right – Caitlin Montalvo, Bridget Graber, Brooke Chaffee-Zayas, Gia Mertzlufft, and Alex Monticello

Some lucky members of Team Monticello recently took a field trip to Las Vegas to visit the Zappos headquarters and participate in their “Wow and Chow Tour.” The tour, as described on the Zappos website, is a 90-minute guided tour that tells the story of Zappos.com and their unique culture. It is an opportunity to learn about the company’s history, culture, and campus.

Having never been to Vegas, and being an avid Zappos shopper – I was very excited for this trip.

Because our flight home was at 2 PM, Zappos was kind enough to accommodate us with an early morning Wow and Chow Tour. Their normal tours start later in the day. But because we needed to catch our flight they allowed us to start our tour at 9 AM. They also provided a shuttle for us that picked us up at the hotel, and brought us to Zappos. After the tour was over, the shuttle brought us to the airport and dropped us off at the gate.  This was a very nice perk, since then we didn’t even have to think about transportation.

Our shuttle picked us up at the hotel promptly at 8:15 AM, and our driver took us the scenic route – a.k.a. – down the strip. Since I had never been to Vegas, I appreciated this part of the ride, as I could actually see the strip, and all the infamous hotels and wedding chapels. Once we arrived at Zappos, we were brought in the “back way”, and we learned that their corporate building was actually the former City Hall.

Upside down signs from the City Hall days

Upside down signs from the City Hall days

There were small remnants of the City Hall Days. For instance, the entrance to the elevator had a jail cell gate. There were also old parking signs that Zappos creatively hung upside down for decoration. The building is on 7 acres of land, and around 1,400 employees work in this location. There is also a 10 story building on campus that our tour guide referred to as “the tower.”

 

Tony Hsieh -  CEO of Zappos with an alpaca

Tony Hsieh – CEO of Zappos with an alpaca

Once we arrived in the lobby, we were greeted and given a badge and cold drinks. After the greetings, we were ushered into an area where we saw a few videos about the history of the company and learned about their CEO – Tony Hsieh. I was surprised to learn that Tony is only 45, and chooses to live a simple lifestyle. He literally lives within walking distance of Zappos, and he lives in a trailer surrounded by chickens and alpacas. He does this to focus his lifestyle on experience, rather than things. Not what you would think of from a millionaire CEO – right? I was impressed with this, and secretly hoped we would get a glimpse of him on the tour. Alas, we did not. But, a girl can certainly hope! 

Artwork seen on the tour

Artwork seen on the tour

After viewing the videos, our tour guide, Jacqui, took us into another part of the building where we proceeded to learn about the awesome benefits that employees have when they work at Zappos. Examples include a nap room, jam session “conference” rooms, and the very cool perk that dogs are allowed to come to work with their owners.  Employees also get free health insurance, free food at the Zappos cafe, an on-site gym membership, and access to a life coach. They even have a resident artist that works at Zappos. His job is to create artwork that is hung throughout the buildings. Imagine having that for a job? Pretty interesting. In fact, the resident artist even painted the floor that we were standing on. 

The hiring process is very intense and it can take 90 days to complete. Zappos wants to make sure that each employee aligns with their core values and is a good fit for the company. There is a specific culture at Zappos, and they are looking for a person that fits into their culture and that will live by the 10 core values. These values were created by their employees, and then tailored down into these 10 bullet points. 

Bridget holding the 10 Core Values sign

Bridget holding the 10 Core Values sign

The values are:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

 

Zappos is also very focused on making sure that each person comes to work and shows their best self. They encourage people to be who they are, and not put on an act. This was seen by the way that each employee had their desk decorated, and the casual atmosphere where people can be relaxed and get their work done. No one at Zappos has an office, and everyone works right next to each other at their own workspace and desk.

Jacqui said that the employee is number one at Zappos. I guess this makes sense. After all, happy employees make happy customers, which is what Zappos strives for on a daily basis.

Throughout the tour Jacqui talked a lot about customer service and how their purpose at Zappos is to “wow” the customers. Their goal is to always give exceptional customer service.

She also told us about how Zappos has a term that they use called “holacracy.” Basically, holacracy empowers people to make meaningful decisions in pursuit of the organization’s purpose. At Zappos, there are no supervisors or managers, and each employee has the ability to make decisions that they believe will benefit the company. There is no level of hierarchy. In fact, Zappos employees work in teams and their reviews are based on feedback from customers, and from their peers that they work with.

Inside the Zappos cafeteria

Inside the Zappos cafeteria

After the tour, Jacqui brought us over to the Zappos Cafe, where we were treated to lunch. I was excited to see that they had a variety of healthy options, instead of typical cafeteria food. There was a hearty salad bar, soups, and a variety of fruit. They also had entrees. In addition, they had some chefs making acai bowls which were delicious!

When lunch was over, Jacqui brought us back to the lobby and then showed us to the shuttle, and we headed back to the airport. On the way to the airport, we bantered back and forth about what we had learned and what we thought of the tour.  I really enjoyed learning about the company and hearing about what they do for their employees and their customers. I thought the tour had a lot of interesting information. I easily could have spent many more hours learning the ins and outs of their business, and their failures and successes of what makes them such a powerhouse. The intention at Zappos is to wow their customers. I definitely came away wowed.

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