Behind the scenes at Zappos

Zappos Feature

Ever since I read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (CEO of online store Zappos) in one sitting, I’ve wanted to visit their offices in Las Vegas. So on my recent trip, I did just that. Here’s a quick tour.

Apparently, it’s a tie-free zone at Zappos. Anyone who wears a tie has it promptly cut off and this practice is proudly displayed at the front desk.

Tours of Zappos are free. Just book in – they even send a shuttle bus to pick you up from you hotel and can also drive you to the airport.

They’re really big on creating T-shirts to celebrate milestones.

In fact, slightly obsessed with T-shirts for any reason.

There are kitchenettes everywhere featuring snacks, coffee and fruit.

And if you want to have a nap, this is what they did to an unused internal walkway. Zappos is housed in the former city council building. They didn’t know what to do with this dead space so they held a competition among staff and the best idea was implemented.

It’s not exactly Vogue Living decor. But each team is encouraged to decorate their own area.… Read more ...

Sticky beak: Infusionsoft offices in Phoenix, Arizona

INFS Cereal Bar

Last week, I trekked over to Arizona in the US for a conference for about 3000 small business owners, boldly coined #ICON14. Run by US-based software company Infusionsoft, the company invited the Aussie contingent to tour its offices in Phoenix. So I thought I’d give you a sneak peek as well.

Infusionsoft is a classic startup success story. It was founded in 2001 by Scott and Eric Martineau and Clate Mask and now has over 500 employees in a Google-type building. While there are no slippery slides or sleep pods, there are lots of brights colours, quirky touches and countless proclamations like “We help small businesses succeed” plastered all over the walls.

I first explored Infusionsoft back in 2008 and decided it definitely wasn’t for me. But it appears that a lot has changed in six years. I decided to give it another go earlier this year and have been happy with the results so far. So it was great to be able to go behind the scenes to check it out. So here is my visit in pictures …

Placed prominently in the entrance of the building is a large sculpture of an animal balloon.… Read more ...

What I’ve learnt from San Diego

USS Midway

I’m currently in San Diego at Social Media Marketing World and have been able to sample this lovely city for the past few days. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

1. San Diego is Man Diego
Apparently, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the ratio of men to women is very healthy in San Diego. I have absolutely no scientific evidence to back up this claim but that’s what my friend from LA tells me. A cursory look around the bars and restaurants in the evenings prove her correct

2. works much better in San Diego that it does in Sydney
In the past 36 hours I’ve used (the hire car app) more frequently that I’ve had hot dinners. The app works like a charm, a driver magically appears in front of me within minutes of booking and takes me to my destination at a very reasonable cost. Unfortunately, I’m unable to say the same thing about Uber in Sydney because it is a far more frustrating experience. If the Uber service in Sydney ever comes close to the quality in San Diego, I will be hooked.… Read more ...

My life in a minute: Istanbul, amazing women, and la dolce vita in Rome

MLIAM 14 JUne 2013 HERO

I’ll admit, it’s been an extraordinary couple of weeks. My life is not usually like this. If it was, I think I’d have cardiac arrest from sensory overload.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Amazing. More on that in a future post!

It was wonderful to connect with female entrepreneurs from around the globe – including our wonderful homegrown ones as well. Here I am with Cathie Reid (APHS Packaging), Tina Tower (Begin Bright) and Catriona Pollard (CP Communications and also presenter of the seminar “PR and Media Releases that Get Results” at the Australian Writers’ Centre.)

L-R: Valerie Khoo, Cathie Reid, Tina Tower, Catriona Pollard at cocktails at the Esma Sultan Mansion

I had never been to Istanbul before so it was wonderful to discover a new city.

An oasis in the middle of the Bosphorus, Istanbul

A visit to Turkey is not complete with some whirling dervishes

I discovered these gorgeous kittens in a fishing village and had to resist the temptation to bring then home!

Baby kittens in a fishing village near Istanbul

Then a few days in Rome with my fabulous friend Nicole, where we visited what seemed to be every ancient monument in existence, ate ridiculous amount of pasta and then shopped, shopped and shopped.… Read more ...

Tear gas, riot police – and my attempt at channelling Liam Neeson

A much more peaceful shot of Istanbul at sunset

A much more peaceful shot of Istanbul at sunset

When you’re planning your first day in a foreign country, here are some tips:
1. Avoid mass protests where the crowd is peppered with tear gas.
2. Don’t go anywhere near riot police.
3. When you hear loud noises that sound like explosions, don’t just walk, run.

Yesterday, I managed to fail on all three counts on my first day in Istanbul and found myself stuck in what has been described as “the worst protest in years”. According to news reports that have since emerged, “an estimated 10,000 demonstrators again streamed into the area waving flags and calling on the government to resign.”

Now, I’m not the kind of girl that goes looking for trouble. I’m more of a “book a massage in the day spa, sip Bloody Marys in a groovy bar, then go shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue” sort of traveller.

So I didn’t quite believe it when I found myself in this street:

Yes, I was in this very street.

Crowd control using tear gas.

Riot police here in Istanbul.

Read more ...

The one where I got stuck with a hen’s party on a flight to Istanbul

The One Where I Got Stuck FEATURE

What’s worse than having a drunk, a smelly football team, or a flu-ridden passenger next to you on a flight? … A hen’s party!

Yes, it happened to me on my recent flight from Dubai to Istanbul.

Now I have to say … I didn’t mind them so much because it was actually like watching the cast of Footballers’ Wives act out an episode.

The entire hen’s party were from Manchester in England and they were heading to Istanbul to party hard with the bride-to-be before her big day.

If you’re not familiar with the masterpiece that is Footballers’ Wives, it was an over-the-top dramatisation soap opera about an English soccer team and their WAGs. It was so popular it even spun off the television series Footballers’ Wives: Extra Time, and featured bogan characters like Chardonnay, Mel, Tanya, Lucy and Bruno.

After boarding the plane, the hen and her party then tried to rearrange everyone in the cabin so they could all sit together. I prayed to the Upgrade Gods that the flight attendants would take pity on me, and offer me a seat in first class so that the hen and her hennettes could party on in Rows 9 to 11.… Read more ...

Dual citizenship – what I’ve learned from living in Sydney AND Melbourne

Sydney - Melbourne

I’ve turned into someone with dual citizenship. And I have to say that navigating life with one foot placed in the sparkling city of Sydney and the other foot in the culture-and-cafe scene of Melbourne has its challenges. But I love the fact that I’m getting the best of both worlds.

Regular readers will now that I’ve been based in Sydney for most of my life. And when we decided to expand the Australian Writers’ Centre to Melbourne, I firmly believed that I could commute. You know, like all those people you see catching those early morning interstate flights, only to be home later in the evening after a full day of work in another city.

I was seriously DELUDED to think I could do this. Expanding to a new city is like starting a business from scratch. Despite the wonders of the internet and social media, you have to be there in person to: inspect new premises, deepen relationships and become a true member of the community. If you want to fast track your business growth, there’s certainly a lot that you can do online – but a lot MORE you can do in person.… Read more ...

The perils of business travel … and why I have skin like J-Lo

Perils of business travel POST
Disaster! Flew back to Sydney without ANY of my make up and had to buy all of it again ... the upside? I am now glowing like J-Lo.

The person you sit next to could land you $100,000 – or a really big headache.

The person you sit next to FEATURE
What happens on a long haul flight when I'm seated next to a family with three children? The results are scary. But not what you might expect.

Business travel: surviving hotels, planes and life on the road

When it comes to business travel, here's what I do to stay productive and sane.