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Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
The visionary CEO of Zappos explains how an emphasis on corporate culture can lead to unprecedented success.
Pay new employees $2000 to quit. Make customer service the entire company, not just a department. Focus on company culture as the #1 priority. Apply research from the science of happiness to running a business. Help employees grow both personally and professionally. Seek to change the world. Oh, and make money too.
Sound crazy? It's all standard operating procedure at Zappos.com, the online retailer that's doing over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales every year.
In 1999, Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) sold LinkExchange, the company he co-founded, to Microsoft for $265 million. He then joined Zappos as an adviser and investor, and eventually became CEO.
In 2009, Zappos was listed as one of Fortune magazine's top 25 companies to work for, and was acquired by Amazon later that year in a deal valued at over $1.2 billion on the day of closing.
In his first book, Tony shares the different business lessons he learned in life, from a lemonade stand and pizza business through LinkExchange, Zappos, and more. Ultimately, he shows how using happiness as a framework can produce profits, passion, and purpose both in business and in life. (edited by author)
||June 07, 2010|
|Average Customer Rating:
|| based on 379 reviews|
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105 of 130 found the following review helpful:
A must-read for inspiration ... plus two other suggested titles for practical implementationJun 04, 2010
By D. Sanderson
There has been quite a crop of customer service related books recently, as well as the classics in the field. They each have their own angle, and I'm going to use this brief review as a chance to summarize where Delivering Happiness falls in this group as well as how to complement it with a couple of other books with different approaches that make for a very well-rounded outlook in tandem.
As far as [[Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose:]]
I was privileged to get a galley of this much-anticipated title. It's the story of an entrepreneur and the different paths he took (or twists in the one path, depending on how you look at it). A fascinating story, and not just because of the bezillion dollars he got selling the company to amazon. (And: how can you not like a guy who calls his warehouse WHISKY (WareHouse Inventory and Supply in Kentucky -- Page 118)? Heavy emphasis on his pursuit of happiness for himself and his staff -- very admirable and inspiring.
If you're looking to directly transform your customer service/customer experience, you may want to add to Tony's inspiring autobiography some directly actionable books to help you turn his ideas into techniques you can put into practice right away -- and that are highly consonant with Tony's pro-employee, pro-customer, outlook -- I suggest two books --one a classic, one that's new this Spring -- that can take care of this for you.
1. The new book of the season on customer service in a social media and tech-informed context:
[[High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service: Inspire Timeless Loyalty in the Demanding New World of Social Commerce]]
I found "High-Tech, High Touch Customer Service" helpful (and a fun read) starting on page 1. Lots of practical, success-oriented insights for business on how to actually implement what is great about Zappos, Four Seasons, and many others, as well as hilarious insights on where companies go wrong.
Where does High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service especially shine? In the way it's up to the minute on social media, smartphones, apps, connectivity in general, and the trend toward self service, explaining in practical terms where they fit into the customer service picture and where they can be safely ignored. As someone in business, I found this absolutely invaluable -- especially since it's written in a truly non-intimidating and fun style.
2. A venerable, wonderful classic:
[[Customers For Life: How To Turn That One-Time Buyer Into a Lifetime Customer]]
This is an older title, and a classic: how a texas cadillac dealer, of all people, mastered great customer service. Extremely simple, but never simplistic. Has inspired many business leaders since it was written. Many pages have usable, actionable insights. If you don't have this in your library (and in your psyche) yet, why not? You can probably grab it used for next to nothing, and the wisdom is timeless enough that you hardly need the "latest revised edition" if you need to save a few dollars.
400 of 511 found the following review helpful:
Too much hype and not enough substanceJun 17, 2010
I can not believe it but after 12 years of buying my books on Amazon, I am compelled to write a review. I found this book extremely creepy.
First, I was disappointed in the flip tone of this book. The preface includes a blurb about not bothering to have the book edited by a professional editor because the author did not find it necessary and wanted to continue to poke at his past English teachers because obviously he "showed them" by being a best-selling author and not bothering to be a conscientious writer. I can not imagine having an ax to grind with a teacher I haven't seen in 20 years who may have corrected my work during my "formative years".
Second, I want to personally apologize to every [...] employee. How does one work for a fellow who prides himself on not hiring "talented people"? I am dead serious. Tony clearly states that bringing in talented people into the organization as it grew would cause the culture to change so would not be part of his strategy to build the company.
Third, I also fail to understand how drinking with your co-workers and spending nearly every waking moment with them brings profit, passion and purpose. Yes, team cohesion is obviously important. The military wouldn't function without it. Spending a happy hour with co-workers and eating lunch together for instance, makes sense. Failing to keep your job because Bob in accounting doesn't like socializing with you after work, doesn't make any sense. Failing to be promoted because you don't drink and (horror) actually go home to your kids at night, doesn't make sense.
To summarize, I would re-title this book "A Formula for Running a Successful Cult" by Tony Hsieh aka The Big Pumbah because he has mastered the most important features of a well run cult.
1. Alienation (Done! Replace real family with new family - aka other Zappos employees! Eat all meals together, work long hours, socialize with employees only.)
2. Us/Them Syndrome (Done! Emphasize the collective over the individual. Executed brilliantly by administering a culture test and immediately firing anyone who questions the company as arrogant and not a fit.)
3. Charismatic Leader (Done Well! Name another Zappos leader? Thinking, thinking. . .Can't? No because the cult(ure) is the cult(ure) of Tony! Let's go shave our head and paint it blue!)
4. Exclusivity (Done! Private company. Private goings on. No nasty prying by Wall Street and no grown-ups (remember the missing talented types that were going to destroy them?) to correct us. It's a Zappos' Thing, You Wouldn't Understand!)
71 of 89 found the following review helpful:
corporate celebrationApr 22, 2010
By Konrad Baumeister
This book traces Tony Hsieh's rapid progress in the business world, from callow party dweeb with a high IQ to his selling of Zappos to Amazon for north of a billion dollars. Along the way, we get some ups and downs in business startups, the hunt for money, the hunt for the secret to corporate long-term success, and some input from partners and employees along the way. Zappos' leadership eventually decided to emphasise sterling customer service as the key to their own corporate culture, and the last third of the book - the part worth reading - covers what this means to the customer, to the employees tasked with turning it into a reality, and to the bottom line. The idea was to infuse ten larger values (with numerous sub-meanings and applications) into every aspect of every department of the company. Since Hsieh is now a billionaire or very close to it, one can say that, certainly in this case, it worked.
In general the book is a very light read. It is destined to be given out to employees for free, and to serve as a sort of corporate diary and the documentation of the corporate mythology. That's not necessarily bad, just what it is. The last few pages are a little more thoughtful, where the author tries to relate his business experience to a philosophical discussion of life, the universe and everything. This stuff might be a bit of a stretch, but it is the kind of expansive view of things one can expect from a businessman in his position and there are few business books by hugely successful authors that can resist this kind of thing.
26 of 31 found the following review helpful:
Heretical Thoughts About Zappos, Delivering Happiness and Work LifeJun 10, 2010
"Mother, blogger, agitator"
Delivering Happiness is a bold promise to make in any book, let alone a business book. But Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh makes it. The autobiographical story of Tony's childhood and career at times seems self indulgent and veers into frat boy territory, Harvard style. Hsieh is open about the fact that the writing is all his and that it's not literary genius. However, he's clearly an innovative man with a ton of brain power. It is a fun and entertaining read, especially for the genre. The book's stand-out quote:
"Without conscious and deliberate effort, inertia always wins"
I am not sure the book delivers happiness. But here's what it does do, and does very well. It provides an insight into the success of one of America's trendiest and high performing companies as well as the brain of the man behind it. From my work life lens, it also shows an interesting approach to corporate culture that so far is working well for Zappos.
I put my hand up to review the book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose because I'd read so much about Zappos' unique corporate environment. Innovative organizational psyches are right up my alley. Hsieh has a light and enticing story-teller's voice as he shares his youthful business adventures, Harvard stories (mostly about how little work he did and how well he performed doing that), mistakes and spiritual experiences in the rave/party years and climbing Kilimanjaro. Ultimately though, it's a book about relationships, and about how to create an environment where your best friends show up to work with you. You work hard and you play hard and you do it all together.
For all it's talk of a bold new paradigm of institutional culture, much of it revolves around getting drunk together, partying and playing golf. It is the way business has always been done. It might be really fun to work at Zappos. And clearly there must be more to it than that or it would not consistently generate the buzz about being such a great place to work that it does.
I'd love to know more about how career breaks, care-giving needs and flexible work options to handle work life issues are really handled. There is one beautiful story shared of a woman losing her husband and being given time off and much loving support from her team members. But the story stuck out as unusual compared to other employee experiences. For example, there were no insights into how parenting or elder care needs are handled either informally or through policy.
Rather, there were stories of walking away from your entire life with two hours notice and not getting home again for three months. It was, as always, the absolute dedication to the company kind of stories that came through loudest. There was a great deal of discussion about creating a family, creating a group of people who you want to be with every day. This is a wonderful thing in a work environment up to a point, but homogeneity, even the weird and wacky kind, can be stifling over the longer term.
As I read stories of bar room and golf course decisions, I did wonder if that self-selects the real Zappos stars as being single and childless, or with a partner at home full time who raises the children or at least has a much less demanding career? Certainly the book makes it evident that a non-drinker like myself would not be progressing very far! Zappos - can you help me understand more?
Things that most impressed me about Hsieh's story and the Zappos culture. The Pipeline - how most recruiting is done at entry level with incredible on-going training and continual internal promotion opportunities. He is very clear about the kind of person he wants to work with every day, knows how to find them and wants to make sure they have a trajectory. I also thoroughly enjoyed his cheekiness and regular rule breaking, his loving poke at Asian parental pressure stereotypes and his deep hunger for a community. Hsieh and his team have certainly created something unusual in corporate America. I take my hat off to what this daring 36 year old has built so far and will watch with interest as to what comes next.
My heretical closing thought. As his people get tired of partying and look for their higher purpose outside of the Zappos family, I do wonder how sustainable the culture will be over the longer term. I too have created a family of people I want to be with every day and it's called my husband and children. He talks a lot about work being a calling, not a job. I'm not sure free pizza and shaving your head days are gonna cut it in 20 years time. Then again, they might not need to.
36 of 45 found the following review helpful:
Delivering Happiness, Not SuccessJul 16, 2010
By Marc L. Mintz
This book has been widely acclaimed as the latest "Great Ideas in Business" books. Delivering Happiness is part brief autobiography, part "here are my brilliant ideas for how to conceive, start, and run a business". Tony has some interesting and different ideas on how to run a business. He is more strongly oriented towards creating a corporate culture than any other business guru. However, I've got a problem with Tony and the book. It's the same I have with most of the gurus - proof and replication. Tony was at the right place at the right time once and pretty much by accident made millions in the process. Out of boredom he joined what was to become Zappos. 10 years later he has made Zappos the largest online store specializing in footwear, with sales over 1 billion dollars per year. But Zappos is always on the verge of failure and is completely dependent on an ongoing 100 million dollar line of credit with their banks (at least this was the case prior to their purchase by Amazon). This tells me that they have less than 100 million in profit. Not a rosy situation for any business. For all of the hype about how brilliant Tony is, he hasn't proved that culture is the key to business success. He has not demonstrated anything except that he was successful at making money by accident one time in his life, and his Zappos isn't it. More disappointing is he discusses the dozens of other companies he helped start, most of which failed, none of which had impressive success. So like most of the other business gurus, he provides no proof of his ideas, and has not been able to replicate his one success. Not someone I would consider a viable role model, leader, or even teacher.
Marc Mintz ACSP, ACHDS, ACTC
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