Zappos.com CEO Tony Hseih has released Delivering Happiness: A path to profits, passion, and purpose. I have followed Zappos CEO and several others Zappos team members on Twitter for a while now, and I’ve enjoyed learning from him about his studies specifically on happiness. Since my title at my day job is Director of Happiness, it seemed a matter of professional commitment to keep up with Hsieh. By following him, I learning of The Happiness Hypothesis and commented on it here in my blog.
I enjoyed the book, which was a mix of autobiography and riches to risk to riches business story. Apparently he was a born entrepreneur: resourcefully avoiding piano and violin practice while starting several small businesses with his parents’ blessing – worm farm, button mail order business, magic tricks, and more.
Yet, what makes the book valuable for the rest of us is where he details moments where he failed and what he learned. Critical to Zappos success, it seems, was what he and his partners learned from an early failure hidden inside a success – the loss of culture that occurred in the growth of their first successful venture – LinkExchange (eventually acquired by Microsoft). He and his partners vowed not to grow Zappos that way, and Zappos has created and maintained a strong culture that they feel is critical to success of the business and maintaining it as a place the founders and the employees want to work.
And, everyone knows that their Las Vegas customer service team is amazing. In this book, he helps us understand how that evolved and what Zappos does to support that WOW culture. It has been codified into ten core values (Zappos website page on the core values), but what is obvious from the book is that the culture predates the values being crystallized. I participated in the session to draw up the core values for my current employer, and I admit to being more than a little jealous of Zappos’ core values. They are inspirational and wonderful. My favorite Zappos core value is:
create fun and a little weirdness
It just seems to recognize that teams are built by people being themselves (a little weird), through bonding events (by definition, these events stand out, so are also non-normal), and by laughing together.
Another critical learning was not to outsource key components of their business. The Zappos team outsourced their warehouse logistics in Kentucky, and then bore the brunt of dissatisfied customers and reinventing the warehousing operation to solve the problem (taking it back in house).
What impressed me about the book is Hsieh’s (and partners’) open leadership style, and his openness in sharing internal Zappos communications and their core values with the rest of us. The book reprints emails sent at times of stress and change, including a note from around the time of their layoffs in 2008, and then the one announcing acquisition by Amazon.com in 2009.
Giveaway x 2
I received a complimentary copy of the book through the Delivering Happiness advance copy giveaway program for bloggers. They were quite clear that I should provide an honest review.
Well, in true Zappos “Deliver WOW through service” style, they sent not only my advance copy, but an extra advance reading copy for me to share. If you’d like my giveaway copy of the book, please leave a comment on this post or on the Facebook note where this blog will be syndicated. I will choose a commenter at random on June 15 and award the book!
If the award period is past, if you didn’t get the book I’m giving away, if you prefer hardcover, or if you dislike commenting on my blog, of course it is available at Amazon.com/deliveringhappiness and at the book’s website DeliveringHappinessBook.com.