Content’s fall 2013 Olympics last week at the beautiful Springs Preserve. Following tradition, the department was divided into six teams distinguished by color. Each team came up with their name and was encouraged to show team spirit by representing their color. Competing this year were The Hornets, Chicks with Tricks, Blue Steel, Purple Haze, Orange is the New Black, and The Lone Pink Rangers.
The fun-filled event started off with four Minute-to-Win-It games: Suck It Up, Cookie Face, Speed Eraser, and the hilarious Junk in the Trunk. The latter involved contestants shaking ping pong balls out of empty tissue boxes that were tied around their rears. Up next was an intense round of trivia with questions from five different categories. Isn’t it funny how people are always convinced that their buzzers don’t work? The competition wrapped up with a photo scavenger hunt. Teams were given clues to various attractions throughout the Springs Preserve and a time limit to find as many of those as possible.
The day wound down with socializing over a delicious catered meal, including sandwiches & wraps, pasta salad, potato salad, chips, cookies, and assorted beverages. Small prizes were awarded for Best Team Name (Blue Steel) and Best Use of Team Color (Chicks with Tricks). Fabulous prizes will be awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place overall winning teams at Content’s next department meeting October 1st. Until then, the judges are keeping those scores under wraps. Although, they may or may not be accepting bribes…
The Content department decided to bring back its long-lost tradition of “Picnic Olympics” this year on Tuesday, April 9th. What a windy day it turned out to be! At least I didn’t get slapped in the face by a flying hamburger again this year!
The fun-filled shindig took place at Pecos Legacy Park, where everyone donned their Content t-shirts and creatively decorated themselves in their team colors.
While Dickey’s BBQ set up the catered spread of beef brisket, pulled pork, potato salad, baked beans and other picnic favorites, six teams feverishly scoured the park for scavenger hunt clues. There was no actual hidden temple, but it was Team 1, the Purple Parrots, who claimed victory in this event.
With bellies too full for any intense physical activity, the next round of competition involved five Minute to Win It-inspired games. This fast-paced event really had everyone cheering each other on! From fishing pennies out of pantyhose to stacking dice on Popsicle sticks, the hidden talents of some Content members became all too apparent. Team 3, Vitamin C-ya, pulled ahead of all others in this round.
No one was safe from humiliation during the final round of competition! Teams battled it out in several relay race games, which included jumping rope, running like a chicken, hopping like a frog, and more. Team 4, Cruel and Unusual Content Chaos (AKA: Your Worst Nightmare), took first place.
As you can see, team and family spirit was in full swing at the Spring 2013 Content Picnic Olympics. Some great prizes were awarded not just to the overall winning teams of the games, but also to these honorable mentions: Team 5, Green Eggs and BAM!, for best team name and Team 2, Pinky and the Brains, for best use of team color. A great time was had by all, and hopefully history will repeat itself at Content’s next Picnic Olympics this fall!
When I wrote this article I hadn’t noticed that the employee I featured, Roz Searcy at Zappos, had a Twitter handle. I just read her Twitter profile. The first sentence reads, “7+ years for the greatest company in the world!” Is there any doubt she is the happiest employee in America?
“You name it. I make it happen.” That’s what Rosalind (Roz) Searcy said when I asked her what she did for her employer, Zappos.com. I’ve met thousands of employees. I speak at their companies, conferences, or interview them for my columns and books. Most employees like their jobs and they’re grateful to have a job at a time when millions of people do not. In rare cases I meet employees like Roz, who are passionate, happy, enthusiastic, and inspired day after day and year after year. In my opinion Roz Searcy is America’s happiest employee.
I met Roz two years ago when I visited Las Vegas and requested a tour of Zappos.com headquarters in Henderson, Nevada. Zappos.com is consistently rated as one of the best places to work in the country and has built a reputation as the gold standard in customer service. I wanted to learn why so I could share the lessons with my readers. Roz showed up in a shuttle to pick me up from my hotel on the Vegas strip. I was the only one on the shuttle and Roz had no idea that I was writing a book. I soon learned that Roz picked up anyone who wanted to visit Zappos—vendors, journalists or customers.
“Why did you pick me up? I could have taken a cab,” I said. “Don’t be silly. We treat our customers like family,” Roz responded. “If you had a family member in town, wouldn’t you pick them up from the airport or hotel?” I thought Roz was the happiest shuttle bus driver I had ever seen. It’s what happened next that really surprised me. Roz parked the shuttle, walked inside the building, and took her position behind the front desk. Roz was the receptionist, yet she gladly volunteers to pick up guests as well. “From the first day I walked in the door [February 22, 2005] I knew it was the place I was going to work for the rest of my life,” Roz told me.
Two years later, December 2012, Roz is still working at Zappos, happier and more passionate than ever. One of her colleagues told me, “I’ve never seen Roz in a bad mood. As a matter of fact, the day I came to Zappos for my first interview, Roz was in her previous role as the front desk receptionist and she not only made me feel welcome, she made me feel like I was the most important visitor to the office that day—which I can guarantee you I wasn’t.”
Zappos.com is an independently run subsidiary of Amazon with nearly 1,300 employees. In September 2013, Zappos will relocate to its new headquarters in downtown Las Vegas. Roz has a new role that fits her perfectly—as a member of the downtown community team her primary function is to get to know every business owner downtown and to build relationships between Zappos and those businesses.
Here are five reasons why Zappos inspires Roz and hundreds of happy employees.
Hire for cultural fit. Everyone I met at Zappos had a friendly, outgoing personality. From Roz to my tour guide, everyone exuded passion and enthusiasm (see the video below that I recorded with my smartphone).
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh told me that the company hires for cultural fit. For example, one of Zappos’ core values is to “create fun and a little weirdness.” Zappos managers ask potential employees, “On a scale of one to ten, how weird are you?” The number is not as important as how people react to it. Zappos looks for people who have fun, have passion and personality, and are committed to customer service.
“At Zappos, I’m allowed to be myself,” Roz told me. “I have a strong, bubbly personality. Zappos supports me and encourages me to be me all the time. At the company I worked at before, I couldn’t be as open and personable as I am today. At Zappos I stay at a level nine or ten all day long!”
Commit to transparency. Zappos shares everything with employees, partners, and vendors—the good and the bad. True partners don’t mask results and Zappos goes the extra mile to demonstrate transparency. Daily briefings and call statistics are posted on a whiteboard for everyone to see—employees and guests. Even its all-hands company meetings are publicly available. Here’s a link to the company meeting held in November 2012. If you have three hours, you can watch everything they discussed. It’s all there.
Everything is transparent at Zappos, even the CEO’s condo. Roz told me that as part of her new tour, she takes people to Tony Hsieh’s condo to see the view of downtown. The next time you think you’re a “transparent leader,” ask yourself if you’re willing to open up your home to anyone who asks for a free tour. Hsieh walks the walk.
Help employees grow. When I met Roz two years ago, she was a receptionist. Today she is building relationships as part of the company’s move to its new headquarters. Everyone is given the opportunity to grow at Zappos.com. I even met a “goal coach” whose job was to help employees meet their personal goals. “What does that have to do with selling shoes online?” I asked. “It has everything to do with Zappos,” the coach said. The formula is remarkably simple. If leaders help people achieve their dreams, it makes them happy. Happy employees offer better service.
Empower staff to do what’s right. Customers who call Zappos.com to order shoes or clothes will not feel pressured to get off the phone. There are no scripts or time limits for call-center employees. Hsieh once told me that an employee had spent a couple of hours on the phone with a customer. Hsieh did not ask the employee why she spent so much time with one person. Instead he asked, “Was the customer happy?” Brands that have best-in-class customer service empower their employees to do what’s in the best interest of the customer. Zappos.com views its call center employees as an extension of its marketing arm. Every unscripted conversation can help earn customer loyalty. Employees can even write personal thank you notes after a call. These simple notes make yet another emotional connection with Zappos customers.
Deliver happiness, not products. When I asked Tony Hsieh to describe Zappos.com he didn’t say “We sell shoes online.” Instead he said, “We deliver happiness.” Big difference. Hsieh is a student of happiness, literally. He quotes research into the science of happiness. He’s focused on the happiness of his employees and his customers. Leaders cannot expect their teams to deliver an exceptional customer service if they fail to understand happiness. Once you do, employees will speak about you the way Roz does of Hsieh: “Tony is an open book. He is still the same person I met eight years ago. He is very, very regular guy, funny and little weird, passionate, friendly, open and honest, inspiring and an incredible visionary.”
I talked to Roz recently and asked her if she was comfortable with the label, America’s happiest employee. “That’s interesting. In my previous role we chose nicknames for ourselves. Mine was Makena,” she said.
Our very own Tony Hsieh was recently featured on the "Pivot" series on A TOTAL DISRUPTION, two-time Sundance-winning director Ondi Timoner's YouTube channel that provides business and tech insights from the innovators defining our future.
In this video, Tony discusses how Zappos' pivot to focus on customer service and company culture has paid off—for both customers AND employees.
Mauricio’s team is at it again this year! You may remember the awesome prank that his team lovingly played on his birthday last year. Well, this time, the birthday “surprise” is more elaborate and involved an even bigger mess!
This is why it’s probably best to stay home on your birthday… IF you happen to work at Zappos.com! ;)
Upon acceptance of the Zappos Intern position, we were forced to sign, in blood, an agreement to create a culture project. It may have just been some cherry syrup, but that’s beside the point. We were forced – against our will – to…to… CREATE FUN AND A LITTLE WEIRDNESS ( Core Value #3)!!!! Ghastly, I know. But really, right between “don’t suck” and “work your little butt off” in job requirements, there is a bit about creating a company-wide project embodying the ten core values.
This project may encompass anything as long as no bodily harm is involved (cross off Zappos MMA), it doesn’t cost boatloads of cash (#8 - Do more with less, people), and wasn’t Barbara Streisand karaoke. Okay, the last part was my stipulation, but then again, who doesn’t agree with me?! We all broke into groups and worked our little butts off to come up with something equal parts fun and creative.
These were the fruits of our labor: a paper plane contest, a secret admirer initiative involving clues and gifts, and a Merch/Tech lovefest with positive affirmations. My team came up with Azzazinz. This game, like the typical Assassins or Zombies and Humans you may remember from college, involves stalking, staking out, and acting like a total sketch in order to get the target assigned by yours truly. To make it more Zapponian and to Build Open and Honest Relationships Through Communication (#6), we required the hunters to take from their target a picture of their attack and a random factoid. We had a total of 88 people sign up – way more than we had hoped! It was such a success (and still is, as the game is still going) we have been asked to make this an ongoing game. Hoo-rah!
Unfortunately, your captain this evening has been slain. Go look at the website chronicling the attacks as I nurse my wound…
It’s been over three weeks since the last blog post from the Zappos Interns, so here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve been up to lately:
1. Our first All-Hands meeting: On June 22, we participated in a Tech All Hands with all the other tech employees at Zappos. The afternoon included the usual briefings from top company officials, the CTO doing a ridiculous dance, and even a spoof video made right here at Zappos called “Sh*t Developers Say”. After that, we all enjoyed a Happy Hour poolside at Green Valley Ranch, which had been booked out specially for Zappos employees. Pretty sweet. But the highlight of the afternoon was definitely the surprise appearance of the legendary Steve Wozniak, who indulged us with a half-hour Q&A about his time at Apple, his thoughts on the future of technology, and some funny stories. That was surreal.
Ravi R. and Yong L. with Steve Wozniak
2. A volunteer day at the local Animal Shelter: Zappos is really involved in the Vegas community, and it trickles down all the way to the interns. All of us spent a day learning about the great animal shelter here, as well as walking and playing with dogs. It was ridiculously hot outside, but hanging out with dogs usually makes things much more bearable!
3. General craziness around the Zappos campus: Probably the best part is the frequent table tennis sessions all around the office. Zappos even has a unique 3-on-3 version of ping-pong, aptly named “Zing-Zong”. It’s a bit ridiculous to outline all the rules (basically because when you watch it seems as if there are no rules, and when you play you learn a new rule every time). Suffice to say that it’s a cross between regular ping-pong and volleyball, with each team setting up teammates and the ball not being dead till it hits the ground. It’s sick.
4. July 4th week(end): My superhero Christina had a July 4th pool party, and that night we all walked to a nearby parking lot to watch fireworks. The display here in Vegas was definitely better than what I’ve seen in most other places. Then, on July 6th, for another day outside the office, all of us hiked up the nearby Mt. Charleston. The weather was beautiful, about 20 degrees cooler than in Las Vegas, and the views were fantastic.
Left to right: Adrian T., Nick HS, Jessica C., Alex H., Kiersten S., Kim H., Michelle V., Luke Z., Ravi R., Yong L., Irene P., Tylan C., Anya E., Tony G., Taylor S.
5. A trip to the Grand Canyon: One of the best things about working in Vegas is the proximity to so much nature (e.g: California beaches, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc.). Three of us decided to make an impromptu trip to the Grand Canyon a couple weekends ago, and were there within two hours. We spent all day taking in the sights and climbing to as many treacherous places as possible. Good times.
All in all it’s amazing how quickly the time has gone – we’re already starting our eighth week here at Zappos! I’m pretty bummed that summer is over in a month. But up to this point, I couldn’t have asked for more. As interns, we’re always involved and in the middle of things here, it’s never lonely, and there’s a great work-life balance – all things that I’d heard thrown around at the beginning of the summer, but that I’d never truly understood until now. It’s a great feeling.
“To be honest Mom, they’re all just a little bit weird,” that was the only phrase I could muster when my mother asked me how I was getting along with the other interns after my first week here in Vegas. I had just left all of my closest friends in New York City, and here I am on the other side of the country with a group of strangers who would comprise my new social circle.
“Mom, they’re all from weird places like Canada, Alaska, and like – Michigan. One of them is obsessed with nail polish, one of them was born a conjoined twin, one has deformed fingers and there’s even a girl with a cat.” At first I was bewildered, I thought to myself, how did they pick the 17 weirdest people in the country for me to work and live with? But, then it hit me, that’s the beauty of Zappos, that we get to work in an environment that embraces and encourages weirdness. It’s even one of our core values. A place where it’s completely OKAY to be yourself, where you can wear WHATEVER you want to work, and put up as many Justin Bieber and Edward Cullen posters at your desk that’ll fit. I feel like one of the luckiest people on earth. I’m immensely proud to say that I work with a “stone-cold pack of weirdos,” and that I’m one of them, and that I may even be the weirdest. And yes, that was a quote from Bridesmaids; the interns are obsessed with quoting that movie.
I was super nervous at first to trade in the gritty streets of NYC that I called my home, for the sunny lanes of Las Vegas. Like I said before, in NYC the weirdos are all on the street, here in Vegas, they all work at Zappos. I realize now that it was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. I thought I would constantly miss NYC, but the Zappos family is so welcoming, I feel like I’ve lived here forever. One of the things that initially struck me about living and working here, is how in NYC it’s unheard of to hold the door for the person walking behind you (I’m guilty of this). You only crack the door open a slither, that’s just wide enough for you to slip through. Here at Zappos, we fight to hold the door open for one another, no matter how large the procession, no matter how long you have to stand there. Even better, while you do it, you smile and greet every person that comes through; it’s quirks like this that make Zappos an amazing place.
I have my fair share of internship horror stories. There was that time I was working at that magazine, and I had to walk the Editor-in-Chief’s aggressive toy-SharPei every day through Soho. There was also that time my boss made me pass out fliers in the grueling sun of Midtown. And let’s not forget I even worked for someone on the Lower East Side who didn’t know my name. But, so far here at Zappos, everything is smooth sailing. Horror stories like that don’t exist at Zappos. No matter what this zany and scorching Las Vegas summer has in store for me, I’m glad I’ve got a family of 17 Zapponians (who are all just a-little-weird) to experience it with.