Monday, June 7, 2010

Delivering Happiness

This week I’m breaking with “tradition” a bit in order to write a review of a new book. Like I’ve mentioned before, I received an advance copy of Tony Hsieh’s (CEO of upcoming book – it’s actually released today – Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Let me just tell you this – it’s a must read.

Many books on business jump right into the business at hand without a lot of early background. Tony takes us on a journey from his early childhood entrepreneur beginnings to the billion dollar success of He tells us about his money making ideas as a child, including making buttons (which he advertised in Boys Life) and selling greeting cards. He manages to take us “mid-agers” right down Memory Lane.

We get an inside look at how Zappos grew, following Tony’s sale of LinkExchange (to Microsoft) in 1989 for $275 million dollars. Eventually all of the money would be gone as a bunch of friends tried (and succeeded) to keep afloat a company they dearly believed in. During that time, Tony would grow a relationship with a friend that may be seen accompanying him, to this day, to “breakfast, lunch, and dinner”. That friend being a little drink called Red Bull.

The ups and downs that the Zappos team went through prior to becoming a real success story would have been enough to cause most mere mortals to give up. Not so here. Zappos has a close, family-like, relationship that embraces every employee. They work together, play together, drink together, and basically have fun together.

Zappos’ main focus has always been on customers. The customer experience is literally number one on their list. I challenge you to find another company that allows returns, with free shipping - for an entire year. Do any of the internet companies you work with automatically upgrade to next day shipping? Free of charge?

Sure Tony and friends have made mistakes along the way. But they learned valuable lessons with each one of them. Most notably was that you “never outsource your core competencies”. If you want the best warehouse – run it yourself. If you want the best customer service – take the calls yourself.

Probably the best example of all of how important and transparent the customer experience is, is the Zappos Culture Book (I have one). They put together a hardbound culture book that includes comments from employees, customers, partners and even vendors. Included are the good AND bad comments. Again – how many companies do you know that would do that? Needless to say, most comments ARE good. The book is described as a short-term expense for a long term investment. Get one for free at

Now I could go into so many more examples and stories, like the 10 Core Values, or the leadership training available to everyone, but I don’t want to take anything away from your reading experience. If you’re interested in employee motivation, leadership development, corporate culture, or just Zappos in general, do yourself a favor and head out to your local bookstore (or go to and pick up a copy. Then grab a Red Bull, sit back, and enjoy.

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