Zappos Culture

“Here at Zappos, we’ve learned a few important things about running and growing a company. We’ve learned that company culture is what makes the difference between success and failure. We’ve learned that if you identify your company’s core values, hire by them, onboard team members by them, and truly live them, then you can get out of the way. Your team will do the best job for you and be able to provide story-worthy (we call it WOW) service and experiences to your customers.”
– Zappos Insights

This quarter, I’ve read three books on Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer based in Nevada. When Zappos made the move to Nevada from California in 2003, 70 of its 90 employees moved to stay with the company because of the tremendous culture there.

Zappos was founded by Tony Hsieh, who was known for his unusual work policies. I was immediately fascinated by Zappos for its focus and unconventional take on team culture. Our team at Tulip Media Group is always looking for new ways to evolve our culture, and Zappos gave us some great new ideas that we wanted to share with all of our Client-Partners and beyond.

Zapponians and Zappos Culture

Zappos employees, also known as “Zapponians,” live by 10 core values: deliver WOW through service; embrace and drive change; create fun and a little weirdness; be adventurous, creative, and open-minded; pursue growth and learning; build open and honest relationships with communication; build a positive team and family spirit; do more with less; be passionate and determined; and be humble. Those are some powerful core values. Not only that but they really send a message to employees that they are a part of something bigger.

#1 – Deliver WOW through Service

To WOW, you must dare to be different, unconventional, and innovative. Zappos employees go above and beyond with every interaction, whether it be with customers, suppliers, the community, or each other. One way they do this is by sending handwritten notes to customers who have experienced any kind of challenge or delay in getting their order. The goal is to toss average out the window and make everyone they engage with say “WOW.”

#2 – Embrace and Drive Change

Tulip Media Group shares this core value with Zappos. Being in a growing company means change is constant and necessary for success. Both Zappos and Tulip are ever evolving, and we’ve learned to embrace and drive the change that comes with this. We do so by paying thoughtful attention to feedback and actively seeking new ideas and better ways to do things.

#3 – Create Fun and a Little Weirdness

Zappos resists the corporate vibe by encouraging employees to be themselves. Zapponians look for fun and humor in their daily work. They celebrate diversity and embrace individuality. This encourages people to thiank outside the box and, at the end of the day, it’s what gives the company its memorable personality.

#4 – Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

If people aren’t making mistakes, it means they’re not taking enough risks. Zapponians are expected to be bold and take risks every day. They’re encouraged to make mistakes as long as they learn from them, and they’re given the freedom to come up with creative solutions. Unconventional solutions allow the company to rise above and stay ahead of the competition.

#5 – Pursue Growth and Learning

At Zappos, employees are always growing and learning. They’re encouraged to stretch themselves to unlock their full potential. This conditions them to take on new challenges and to help the company break new ground, continue to grow, and become the most popular online shoe store. 

#6 – Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication

Openness and honesty lead to trust and faith in the company and in each other. Strong relationships enable Zappos to accomplish more because everyone feels valued, seen, and heard from a place of authenticity. 

#7 – Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

This value speaks volumes about the culture at Zappos because it identifies the team as a family. The company recognizes that often the best ideas come from the bottom up, so they implement Hsieh’s idea of “holacracy” or a flat work hierarchy that eliminates assigned roles and increases flexibility. This makes everyone on the team feel equal and encourages each employee to take ownership of challenges the company is facing. 

#8 – Do More with Less

Like Tulip, the team at Zappos is always trying to find better ways to do more with less and using mistakes as learning opportunities. They actively set out to exceed their own high standards, raising the bar for both competitors and themselves.

#9 – Be Passionate and Determined

Zappos values passion, determination, perseverance, and a sense of urgency. Zapponians are inspired because they believe in what they are doing and where they are going. They are excited because each team member has a tremendous impact on the work the company is doing as a whole and that inspires the positive and optimistic attitude you’ll find in every Zappos employee.

#10 – Be Humble

While they always celebrate team accomplishments, Zapponians carry themselves with a quiet confidence because they believe, in the long run, their character will speak for itself.

How Zappos Teaches Core Values

Zappos has a dedicated team to train employees in each core value. This means that each employee receives the same message and learns consistent behavior to live values out in their everyday work. 

If you are hired by Zappos, you can expect to spend your first three to four weeks in the call center. This teaches new employees how to respond to customer needs and introduces them to the soul of the business and the essentials of delivering happiness, which is the heart of the business model.

Unhappy employees are paid from $2,000 to $3,000 to quit because it’s important to Zappos that employees want to be there. The initiative called “Pay to Quit” is designed to weed out employees that aren’t in alignment with the Zappos culture. Ultimately, this improves team morale and productivity because everyone knows their teammates value their position and are committed to the same values.

Transform Your Team with Tulip

In 2009, Hsieh sold Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 billion. The immense value was derived from the tremendous culture he had cultivated in the company. A strong culture has enabled our own company to grow exponentially in the last two years, and we are eager to help our Client-Partners see the same results.

When you commit to a marketing strategy with Tulip Media Group, you’ll be privy to new ideas for improving the team culture in your company as well. We know from experience this drives sales and is essential to securing word-of-mouth referrals. If you’re interested in learning more, book a demo with us online at to get started.