Monday, May 10, 2010

Delivering Happines: Book Review

I just finished reading my advance copy of Delivering Happiness by CEO Tony Hsieh that I received at the Business Growth Conference. Overall, this was a great read! Tony’s casual writing style made it easy to pour through all 241 pages. The official release is June 7, 2010, and I recommend this reading for any entrepreneur who wants to build a solid employee and customer centric (ie successful) company!

The book explores Tony’s background and early entrepreneurial pursuits before becoming involved with Zappos. These provide an important perspective and reference to how and why he has shaped Zappos to be what it is today. Tony then goes into some of the early struggles of the company and how innovation, creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and PERSISTENCE, kept the company going after many flirts with failure. From here, we move into the core of what Zappos is about; its culture. It’s employees! has 10 committable core values that they are dedicated to. By committable I mean that they are willing to hire and fire employees around these values. That’s how important they are! It’s not just lip service. While they’re all very relevant, a few values of note are Deliver WOW through service, Create Fun and a Little Weirdness, Pursue Growth and Learning and Be Humble. People who work at Zappos and interact with its customers and vendors LOVE working there! They feel valued as employees and people, feel a shared sense of purpose, and are encouraged to grow. Are these virtues reflected in their interactions with customers and vendors? Absolutely! And this is a big part of why I endorse so strongly that Tony “gets it.”

Having spent five years in HR I appreciate that it can cost a company between 30% and 250% of an employee’s annual compensation to replace them. That’s a whole other subject on its own, but Zappos has created an environment where people are HAPPY to be there and want to stay and THRIVE. While there aren’t any specific turnover statistics provided, I expect its VERY LOW for Zappos. In addition, they encourage people to self select out of the company by offering $2,000 for anyone to quit between weeks 2-5 of their orientation training. Makes perfect sense! If you have happy employees who want to be there, you’ll have happy customers , both of which translate into company profits and smart business.

With such focus on company culture I couldn’t help but be reminded about Southwest Airlines and a book I had read about them, The Southwest Airlines Way. With cover tags such as “Using the Power of Relationships to Achieve High Performance” and “If you want to understand how one organization can change the competitive rules of the game for an entire industry, read this book,” it’s abundantly clear the Southwest book was an inspiration at Zappos. So much of what Tony describes echoes what Southwest set out to do.

Southwest airlines isn’t the only apparent source of solid inspiration for Mr. Hsieh and his Zappos team. There is respect to Sun Tsu’s The Art of War (“when you are weak appear strong and when you are strong appear weak”), Tom Peters and creating “WOW” (The Brand YOU 50 is the first book I came across this), and even Buddhism by stating that while we take different paths to get there, we all have the same goal in life: happiness. There are also many strong customer service themes that I had found in What’s the Secret to Providing a World-Class Customer Experience (endorsed by Tom Peters).

Delivering Happiness is a noble book and great story of the inspiring company that is Enjoy!

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