2.16.2012

Vegas, Baby

So much is made of the amenities offered at tech firms that it borders on the absurd; I mean, if I told you that the Google site in Ann Arbor has a special room for nursing mothers that includes a refrigerator for storing breast milk, you'd shrug your shoulders and say, "yeah, I believe that."  (It's true, by the way.)  So it may seem strange for the much-acclaimed CEO of a darling dotcom to take the opposite approach, as his business' growth has necessitated new digs, and offer almost nothing in the way of on-site resources.  Even more contrary, employees have been given less office and meeting space than in their previous location. 

It may sound idiotic, but it is actually brilliant.  The CEO in question is Tony Hsieh and the company he founded is Zappos, which many of you may be customers of.  According to this article in Business Week, Hsieh had considered an enclosed corporate campus like Apple or Google, but then decided that what he wanted was for his employees to get out of the office and interact with their immediate neighborhood, a section of downtown Las Vegas that Hsieh is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to revitalize. 

It's a big gamble, from the standpoint of real estate development (many far more savvy than Hsieh have tried and died in Vegas) as well as of employee satisfaction (you know his employees have friends at the other places who dine daily on fresh sushi and soy chai lattes prepared by in-house experts).  But it speaks to the vibrancy that high density places inherently generate, and Hsieh is correct in wanting to tap into that.  Zappos, after all, is legendary for its customer service, which involves putting yourself in others' shoes (literally, in Zappos' case).  So why would you want to have a work environment in which you are cut off from everyone except your own people? 

If Hsieh succeeds in continuing to delight his customers with great shoe finds, unparalleled convenience, and dogged service, maybe you can thank the living organism that is downtown Las Vegas for providing the spark.  In this case, what happens in Vegas goes to the ends of the earth.

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