Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2013

They Spread Their Message

By Hunter R. Slaton

Although there are some Best Companies to Work For that jealously guard the secrets that make them great, online shoe retailer Zappos is not one of them. Instead, founder and CEO Tony Hsieh wrote a combination memoir and management tome called Delivering Happiness, which shares with the world his company’s philosophical foundation — and tells other enterprises how they, too, can be like Zappos.

This share-and-share-alike impulse carries over to three-day “boot camps” that are planned by Emaile Hill, Zappos’ events samurai (her actual title), which other companies travel from all over the world to Zappos’ headquarters in Las Vegas to attend.

The boot camps happen alongside Zappos’ quarterly all-hands meetings, and their focus is to teach other companies about the shoe merchant’s business, and how Zappos made it to where it is today, in terms of its successes in both business and company culture.

“The biggest piece of it is just the ‘delivering happiness’ aspect of it, and us wanting to change the world in that regard,” Hill said. “We want to have happier people, especially in the workplace, because you spend so much time there.”

Zappos has been holding its boot camps for nearly four years now, and has had as many as 38 people from 10 different companies take part at any one time. Attendees get two days in the classroom, hearing from various Zappos departments, and on day three they participate in the 1,500-employee all-hands meeting.

“They are totally infused in our culture for three days,” Hill said. Indeed, culture is the boot camp’s main focus, from the importance of Zappos’ culture to its mission and business, to how that culture has had such a positive impact on the company

In a significant validation for this strategy, several companies whose employees attended a boot camp later went on to be named to a local or industry-specific Best Company to Work For list. “Any time we get that kind of feedback is definitely a proud moment for the organization,” Hill said, “as well as for us to know that we’ve been a part of their journey to help get them there.”

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