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Last week I went to Las Vegas for the Awards Recognition Association (ARA) show along with my friends at Eclipse Awards. Recognition is a powerful way to build relationships, both in business and in pleasure, and going to the show was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the industry. Sustainability has all to do with recognition and appreciation, as I learned so deeply working on my MBA at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI), as it's really about taking care of people and building culture, two powerful pillars needed to build successful progressive businesses and organizations. One of the highlights of the trip was a tour we scheduled at the headquarters of zappos.com. We had heard from friends that it was a great tour, and knew a bit about the success of this online retailer, but were totally surprised as to how progressive the organization was. Jerry, the Zappos Major, took us on the tour and didn't cease to amaze. In the photo above you can see him in his festive glory. Behind you can see the desks of the c-suite, not what you might expect for a billion dollar company!

Management drives culture but employees create it

zaapos_cooperation_is_key_to_businessI was facinated to see how passionate, personal, creative and friendly the Zappos employees are. For a company thats focussed on service, they were spot on. They made me feel important and of value and this feeling I now attribute to their brand. As we walked around the offices there were two things that I thought were super cool.

  1. Each department decorated their own area and meeting room

  2. Each department welcomed us in their own way

These factors help employees to own a piece of their job, to have creative freedom and expression and be recognized and valued for things that are fun. This helps to build a positive culture, with happy and satisfied employees. People who like their job and feel proud to serve their company. They like each other and their customers. From tiki lounges to hoola hoops to cowgirls ringing triangles to Mexican margarhita escapades, Zappos has a taste for everyone.

Zappos Library

At the end of the tour you get to choose books from their library that you promise to read, all of which looked good but a couple stood out. I choose 2.

  1. Co-opetition by Adam Brandenburger & Barry Nalebuff

  2. Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

Since learning from Elizabet Sahtouris, an evolutionary biologist, at BGI I've been facinated by how cooperation is a more powerful tool for survival in the game of evolution. That by working together and understanding each other's needs that we're able to best figure out how to work and live with each other. This is the basis of what we're working towards in the Strathcona Green Zone, how businesses can work together for mutual benefit and build a healthy interconnected sustainable community. It will be interesting to see how Brandenburger & Nalebuff tie in how cooperation and competition are related. I'll keep you posted. One of my great entrepreneurship professors, Paul Hudnut, talked about how to create powerful 'sticky' ideas in a presentation one day a couple years back and given my interest and passion for storytelling and marketing I'm excited to dive into this one as well.

Feeling like a king


Although my friends made me wear a tiara Zappos still made me feel like a king. Another great moment of the tour was in our visit to Dr.Vik's office, a space used for employees to talk about things going on in their lives and get advice to help them deal with things and achieve their goals. This sense of safety, comfort, and support again are powerful ways to build a healthy trusting culture, where everyone understands that people are people, not just cogs in the wheel making sprockets. Success is based on people and it's manifested in the cultures that we create.