Leadership / Management

Culture counts. For proof, take a drive with Zappos.

Zappos It's one thing to read about the Zappos culture in a book written by the company's CEO.

It's another thing entirely to ask a Zappos employee about the culture and see his face light up in what can only be described as sheer joy. Over his job.

I had the privilege of touring the Zappos headquarters last week with fellow MACPA-ians Tom Hood, Pam Devine and Cora Edwards -- not to mention some of my closest Twitter buds, including CPAs Jason Blumer, Jody Padar and Chris Farmand. (And what an awesome experience that was, by the way. Here were folks I had never met face-to-face, yet I felt as if I knew them well, thanks to our Twitter talks. Chalk up another win for social media.)

Thanks to Tony Hsieh's book, we had a few ideas about what we'd find on the tour, and Zappos didn't disappoint. I'll be writing at length about the tour in future posts -- and yes, that's posts plural. It'll take more than one to wrap my brain around what I saw there.

Randall For now, though, it's enough to focus on Randall Black.

Randy works in Zappos' Concierge Department, and on this particular day his job was to drive us from our Las Vegas hotel to the Zappos offices. (That's Randy in the photo at the right.) On the way, I chatted him up a bit about his past and his path to Zappos. Here's what I found out:

  • After graduating from UNLV, he spent two years on the New York Jets' NFL practice squad as an undrafted strong safety.
  • After leaving the NFL behind, he put his college degree to work by taking a corrections job at a Las Vegas prison.
  • Shortly thereafter, he was hired as dean of students at Henderson International School, in the Anthem area of Las Vegas.
  • Three years later, he was named director of recruitment for Dickinson State University in North Dakota.

And after all of that, he joined Zappos, where he calls his concierge gig "the best job in the world."

He wasn't faking it, either. When Randy talked about Zappos, his passion was evident. He talked about being part of a family, of serving others, of loyalty and culture and values. He talked about his previous jobs in that rote, robotic way we all use to describe something that means nothing to us. As soon as the conversation moved toward Zappos, though, his eyes lit up, he grew more animated, his tone of voice rose in excitement.

It was clear. He loves working for Zappos.

In return, I'm willing to bet Zappos is getting the best damned concierge it's ever had.

That's the power of culture. Treat your people right and they'll treat your clients right. That's true for your entire team, from the CEO on down to the guy who drives tour groups to your offices.

In short, culture counts. Ignore that lesson at your peril. It's a different world. It'll take different skills and values to rise to the top.

Zappos has figured that out. Will we follow their lead?


Bill Sheridan