Secrets, lies, real estate and Zappos

Marc and I toured Zappos headquarters in Henderson, NV last week. Sherry Chris joined us.

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate is a 1000WATT Consulting client, but this trip was more about fun than work.

I wore a crown all day. We had a great time.

Zappos is an amazing company. You probably know that by now. Everything you’ve read and heard is true.

Millions of words – and dollars – are flowing into the marketplace these days trying to capture, explain or transplant this company’s mojo.

Most of this stuff misses the point.

There is no replicating this company. You can’t replicate a culture: Something special and delicate cultivated over many years by extraordinary people in unique circumstances.

Getting your CEO to blog and employees to sprinkle the web with tweets does not a Zappos create. Nor does spraying a patina of Zappos-like shine on a timeworn organization.

So I am hesitant to offer any detailed “takeaways” or “lessons.” But there was one thing our tour guide – Jerry Tidmore, the “mayor” of Zappos – said at the beginning of our tour that was really powerful:

“There is no secret to our success, there are no secrets at Zappos.”

It seemed like a throwaway comment at the time, but by the end of the tour I got it: This company has nothing to hide. Not from employees, not from customers. Executives work out in the open. Phone reps direct customers to other shoe sites if Zappos does not have what they want. Performance metrics are on whiteboards for all to see. There are a hundred other examples.

The details may not be applicable to real estate, but the idea is: Not harboring secrets – which is really just a simpler, easier-to-execute conception of “transparency” – can be really powerful.

It may in fact help you create something special of your own.

What are real estate’s secrets?

Real estate, for the most part, is the anti-Zappos.

Consider the secrets the sometimes lay on the other side of these questions:

• How much does my agent actually net for selling my house?

• How can my local real estate company claim “billions” in sales when it neither owns inventory or books the revenue associated with these sales?

• Does my agent get paid more when another agent from their office represents the other side of the transaction?

• Why does my agent pick one home inspector over another?

• Why am I not assigned to the agent I see do the most business in my neighborhood when I email my local broker?

I know. Many can answer these questions confidently and openly, because they do the right thing. But my sense is just as many cannot.

And what if they did?

Well, what I saw in Henderson is one way that can turn out.