In this volume, Tony Hsieh (pronounced "SHAY") shares all of the business lessons he learned from success and (especially) from failure prior to and then during his association with Zappos.com, first as an adviser and investor in 1999 and then as CEO, a position he continues to occupy after the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon in 2009. He has organized the material in this book as follows: "The first section is titled `Profits' and consists mostly of stories of me growing up and eventually finding my way to Zappos...The second section, `Profits and Passion,' is more business-oriented, covering many of the important philosophies that we believe in and live by at Zappos...The third section is titled `Profits, Passion, and Purpose.' It outlines our vision at Zappos for taking things to the next level, and will hopefully challenge you to do the same." As Hsieh explains, the name Zappos is derived from the Spanish word "zapatos" meaning shoes. The company's gross sales exceeded $1-billion in 2009.
As I began to read the book, I was especially interested in sharing Hsieh's thoughts about subjects such as these:
Why he sold a company he co-founded, LinkExchange, to Microsoft
Why he became involved with Zappos initially
Why he agreed to become CEO
What the drivers of Zappos' extraordinary growth have been
How Zappos has differentiated itself from its competition
Why Zappos offers $2,000 to some of its new hires to quit
How and why everyone in the company is customer-centric
Those who have had the greatest influence on his development as a leader and manager
Why he agreed to have Zappos acquired by Amazon
How both he and Zappos have been able to retain an entrepreneurial spirit
Near downtown Dallas, we have a Farmers Market at which some of the merchants offer sample slices of fresh fruit. In that same spirit, I now offer three brief excerpts that suggest the thrust and flavor of Hsieh's insights.
"One day, I woke up after hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock six times. I was about to hit it a seventh time when I realized something. The last time I had snoozed so many times was when I was dreading going to work at Oracle. It was happening again, except this time, I was dreading going to work at LinkExchange." He was co-founder of a company whose culture, over time, had changed from an "all-for-one, one-for-all" team environment to one that was now "all about politics, positioning, and rumors." (Page 48) Hsieh realized then that the most successful organizations are those whose people love what they do and do what they love.
After Zappos was literally "saved" by a line of credit provided by Well Fargo Bank, Hsieh sent an email to Zappos' employees, vendors, and friends. After citing the increased sales (from "almost nothing" in 1999 to $32 million in $32) and noting that the company is "on track" to reach $60-65 million in 2003, he warns against carelessness and overconfidence. Zappos will continue to be customer-centric, not because it has to do it to achieve shirt-term results but because "we believe that in the long run, little things that keep the customer in mind will end up paying huge dividends" to everyone. "There will be a lot of changes ahead as we grow, but one thing will always be constant: our focus on constantly improving the customer experience." On this very special day. Hsieh reaffirms the company's commitment: "Deliver WOW Through Service."
Whenever asked what he would have done differently if doing Zappos all over again, Hsieh responded, "I do wish that we could have done things faster." He makes that point again on another special day when he sums up everything in one sentence: "Getting married to Amazon will allow us to fulfill our vision of delivering happiness to the world much faster... To me, that one moment [of celebration and appreciation] represented success far beyond what I could have possibly imagined would be achievable ten years ago...[The moment signified that] half intentionally and half by luck, we had found our path to profits, passion, and purpose. We had found our path to delivering happiness."
True to character, Hsieh devotes the final chapter of his book to his reader to whom he speaks directly and frankly, asking tough questions and making practical suggestions because he is determined to help his readers - as he continues to help Zappos colleagues - to find their own path to profits, passion, and purpose...a path on which they can also "deliver happiness."