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Visitors touring Zappos.com's suburban Las Vegas headquarters can see Chief Executive Anthony C. "Tony" Hsieh waving from his cubicle or get their photos taken in goofy, mullet-shaped wigs. On the tour, which the online shoe retailer offers 16 times a week, staffers blow horns and ring cowbells to greet the guests, who move among the aisles in groups of 20, trying to get a handle on the company's unique culture. "The original idea was to add a little fun," Hsieh explains. Then it all escalated "as the next aisle said, 'We can do it better.' "
Zappos already knows how to sell shoes. Now it's hoping to profit from people's fascination with its friendly, antics-filled business model. Last summer, the company began holding two-day, $4,000 seminars on how to recreate the essence of its corporate culture. At the third such session, last October, the 25 attendees included an executive from the Girl Scouts, some competing e-tailers, and an entrepreneur from Scotland—a market Zappos doesn't even serve. In coming weeks the company will also relaunch Zappos Insights, a Web site offering management videos and tips from staffers at a cost of $39.95 a month.
The goal behind these activities is to build more buzz around the Zappos brand and its extreme customer service. Hsieh, 36, is an avid consumer of management tomes. He has 1.6 million followers on Twitter—more than either CBS News or the NFL—and he regales these fans with inspirational quotes, riffs on the news, and whatever else is on his mind. In the October seminar, which will be repeated once every quarter, Hsieh, the chief financial officer, and two dozen other staffers shared tips on hiring, compensation, customer care, and creating the right work environment.