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Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose Paperback – March 19, 2013
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About the Author
Tony Hsieh became involved with Zappos as an advisor and investor in 1999, about two months after the company was founded. He eventually joined Zappos full time in 2000.
Under his leadership, Zappos has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to over $1 billion in 2008 by focusing relentlessly on customer service.
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I personally really enjoyed this book. It is motivational and opens a path for a completely revised way of thinking about running a business. Profits usually came last for Tony Hsieh, who sold almost everything he had to keep Zappos afloat. As an employee of a business, reading this book makes you jealous of all Zappos employees. Seeing the unique culture that was created at Zappos and seeing how it positively affected customers and the business as a whole is amazing. It was a culture that included employees extremely close to each other, departments that were not separated but unified, a fun loving and relaxed place, and a common goal of being happy while delivering the best service in the world.
There’s not much I didn’t like about this book, it’s incredibly relevant and helpful to anyone thinking or aspiring to become an entrepreneur. The most help the book gives to aspiring entrepreneurs is to realize the overall spectrum of a company, not just profits, but also how to thrive by creating your own core competencies that no one else can replicate.
WordPress recommends this book as a manifesto on delivering better customer service. I did not find a lot of practical advice or actionable insights to that effect in this book.
However, this book reads easily as a short history of the company and as an account of Tony's own life experiences. I enjoyed that aspect. Hence the three stars.
Hsieh writes well, and the book is engaging and quite funny at times. He starts by framing his life in the expectations of his Asian parents, and details his early entrepreneurial successes and failures and his schooling. His early work at Oracle quickly gets pushed to the side as he and friends strike out to create their own businesses, with the first largely successful one, Link Exchange, making him a very young millionaire after its sale to Microsoft.
With money no longer a concern, Hsieh details his days of being an angel investor and his time incubating companies in San Francisco. Detailing the rave culture (and its subsequent decline into more commercialism), he uses the concept of PLUR – peace, love, unity and respect – to explain how he came to have a belief in the idea of a culture and its importance in providing the framework to a work environment, and the idea that work shouldn’t just be a place that you go every day, but a family with whom you serve others in an effort to engage in your passion while also defining your purpose and hopefully making profit along the way.
The latter portion of the book is spent detailing the core values of Zappos, and each of their ten values is explained with anecdotes from particular employees. Hsieh makes no effort in hiding his mistakes or the fact that the company has not always been the perfect place to work, and it seems he is genuinely pained when he has to make tough economic decisions that result in layoffs. Detailing the culture in exquisite detail though does have its drawbacks, and it seemed to me to be a bit cultish. The story of a woman whose husband died placing a call to her manager before another family member struck me in particular. I can understand wanting to be close to co-workers and having a sense of purpose, but I get a little worried when people do this to the extreme that they would call a manager before family when their spouse suddenly dies.
Still, it’s hard to argue with Hsieh’s results. Growing Zappos from nothing to a $1 billion a year (in sales) company in ten years is an impressive achievement. He garnered an acquisition from Amazon in all stock to allow the company to operate in the same method it always had, thereby protecting the culture that he worked so hard to achieve. Hsieh’s stress on placing the service aspect of the business first – service to customers, vendors, and employees alike – does show that people can gain passion and purpose while also pursuing profits.
Having attended a high school whose motto was “Men for Others” and a business school whose motto was “Where business is taught with humanity in mind”, the lesson of service to others is not lost on me. Hsieh shows that it works, and works well, and perhaps if more people followed his example the idea of “having a case of the Mondays” would vanish from our collective consciousness, and “capitalism” – the word – as it exists today might not have so many negative connotations.