Saturday, July 10, 2010

Delivering Happiness: The Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose

By Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay)

Audiobook, read by author

Would you pay a new employee $2,000 to quit or make company culture your organization’s #1 priority? What about randomly sending an employee flowers or insisting that your vendors let YOU treat them to dinner? Would you fall out of your chair if I told you that reading a business book by a CEO will make you want to be a better person?

The motto of might be delivering happiness, but this book by the CEO of Zappos delivers, period! I really liked this book and had to listen to the entire selection in one day.

The book details Hsieh’s early years, growing up in California in a strict and close knit Asian family where he started various small businesses and faked his way through forced piano and violin lessons. It goes on to follow him through his Harvard graduation and his first big business, Link Exchange. The business made him a multi-millionaire when he sold it to Microsoft for $265 million when he was in his early twenties. Hsieh sought to keep his tribe of friends from college together through the early dot com days and the craziness of the late nineties. Keeping his tribe together (they even all bought lofts in the same building) would lay the foundation for the revolutionary way he would look at customer service and corporate culture while at the helm of Zappos.

Using his Link Exchange monies Hsieh became an investor and later the CEO of and would eventually steer the company to over a billion dollars in sales. What is really inspiring is the way Hsieh forever changed the way corporations look at branding. Long gone are the days when a company can draw a logo and spend truckloads of money advertising to tell consumers what their brand and image is. With the pace that modern information moves, your brand emerges from the company culture that you create. The whole book was fantastic.

The only thing that was off for me was the author dedicates the book to his eleven year old daughter and mentions his parents three times in the book, but otherwise the book is void of any family references. There is no mention of his daughter being born, or adopted if that is the case. There is no mention of a marriage, a bad date, a first date, a kiss in college. It is all wiped clean as if by a court order. While you might not think this has a place in a business book, for most adults balancing career and family is an ongoing daily struggle.

I am always interested in how the brightest and best minds in business attempt to have it all. Hsieh also really promotes a work culture of employees socializing after hours. It is encouraged at Zappos and Tony even flew the entire team from San Diego and Kentucky in for an all expenses paid weekend in Vegas in the early years of the company. Some of the company’s innovative ideas came while having a few beers with co-workers during happy hour or on the golf course. I was a little further curious because such robust socialization, while fun, can wreak havoc on marriages and relationships. I wondered again how it was all balanced.