made you look
corporate retreat å
Limitless energy makes this e-tailer’s alternative culture
special—but it’s not for the easily distracted.
By Leslie Shiers
AFTER ENTERING ZAPPOS’ Henderson, NV, head-
quarters, my ﬁrst stop is the restroom—a pitstop that gives
me a ﬁrst hint of why there’s so much hype surrounding the
company’s workplace. A mural of ﬂuffy clouds covers the
walls, glow-in-the-dark stars spackle the ceiling and the air
in between reverberates with classic rock tunes. Back in the
lobby, the cheeriest receptionists I’ve ever encountered are
greeting my fellow tour-takers with chilled bottles of water
for the journey.
The writer in CEO Hsieh’s
chair—he didn’t mind.
Zappos tours happen several times a day, as people from
around the world swing by to check it out and perhaps suss
out the reasons for the e-tailer’s success. I’m in the company of about a dozen others
from a variety of businesses. Our Zappos Insights Culture Guide, Jonathan Wolske,
doesn’t mention any of the numerous trophies and plaques on display in the lobby, but
he does point out a glass case containing the Airwalk sneakers that Nick Swinmurn
couldn’t get at a Track ‘N’ Trail store in January ’98, which sparked his idea for a shoe-
Behind closed doors, Zappos’ inner workings could be mistaken for a college dorm.
Each department has a theme (the legal team sits in the “Hall of Justice,” while the
marketing department has a trafﬁc motif) and decorated with all kinds of artistic
ﬂair—from hand-scrawled construction paper posters to ornate collages (including a
shrine to Rick Springﬁeld). It’s clear the team is encouraged to turn their cubicles into
their home away from home, but ﬁve minutes in, I’m feeling a bit overstimulated. In a
hallway ﬁlled with photos and data on Zappos’ Kentucky distribution center, Wolske
notes that f