on 28 October 2010
At some point in each of our lives we draw up a balance sheet of our achievements - What was the meaning of our life and what part did I play in the chain of being? Did I manage the trade off's? Did I find the right balance? This book is about one man that did.
Tony Hsieh book is compelling because it is clear his vocation and destiny is mapped out from the outset. He already had that extra bit of wiring that turns an individual from good into out performs.The first section of the book that maps out the early years is an important part of the autobiography but not the reason for buying the book.
However, it is the insights offered into the unique culture that is Zappos, which went on to be sold to Amazon in just 10 years after it was founded for $1.2bn, that makes this book unmissable for anyone interested in corporate culture, employee engagement or the creation of a great place to work. Above it is the way Tony Hsieh makes key transformational ideas deceptively simple as he sets them down in what becomes, through out the book, his characteristic voice - vivid, self-deprecating and bluntly realistic. His messages are compelling.
Whilst the Zappos culture is unique and not readily replicable, particularly in a large long-established organisation, it provides real insights to help you come up with your own ideas for creating a culture that is unique and special for your own business.
So if you're one of those people who thinks that going to work should be fun, loves the experiential approach to business, this is an autobiography that has a great and inspiring story to tell, from Hsieh climbing Kilimanjaro while the company was running out of cash, uprooting the entire company and moving to Las Vegas, and the trials and tribulations of managing stock the supply chain - Product availability, cost of inventory, overall cost to serve. Yes he even makes that interesting.
Like many people in business I have read many autobiographies This book is different and none of them save Jack Welch's winning and then only in places are a patch on this book.
If you're a student of business culture, responsible for customer service, a struggling entrepreneur, or someone fascinated by leadership,or somebody convinced that the holy grail to a meaningful life is getting a proper work, self, home life balance then this is a gold-mine of a source-book.
If you are a member of the BUSINESS COMMUNITY church believing that the only route to profitability is to "extract productivity under duress" and doubt that making people (customers and employees) happy is a profitable business strategy, then prepare to be convinced!
Recommended to readers of Funcky Business, Karaoke Capitalism and Superfreakonomics and other books by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner et al
on 13 July 2010
Delivering Happiness is very simple, easy to read, funny and fantastic book. After I finished reading the book, I had a very nice feeling, was happier but I was expecting more, lot more material.
In this book, Tony writes from his experiments as young entrepreneur to creating a successful business model based on (simple) core values. He narrates his experiments with worm farm, photo button and pizza business as a boy; his stint with oracle that ended with setting-up LinkExchange as young entrepreneur; his learnings from LinkExchange deal with Microsoft ($265 Million) and as investor; his experiences (and experiments) in building $1 billion Zappos brand in less than 10 years from nothing and finally Zappos "marriage" with Amazon ($1.2 Billion).
He also writes about personal experience and learnings on the way as a kid, in school, at university, first job, raves and parties, hikes and marathons, hiring and layoffs..
Book is very good initially but as it progresses, looses kind of plot and appears to be over hyped. It seems to pass on the message of self-glorification and suggest "my way is high way". This pretty much could be Tony's style, which he has proved to be successful.
Still it is true (as Tony mentioned in closing lines) this book can potentially help you:
- make your customers happier (through better customer service) or
- make your employees happier (by focusing more on company culture) or
- make yourself happier (by learning more about the science of happiness)
Good: written in very simple language unlike other business books, with lot of humor and real life examples, fast-paced, will force you to think, motivational and inspiring.
Not so good: seems like selling self or company, appear incomplete at places, could have been much better, unnecessary sarcastic humor
Must read for at least to be entrepreneurs. Lot of things could be grabbed from Tony's experiences learnings.
-- ashutosh jhureley
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."
on 9 June 2014
I bought this book after several recommendations from friends and a business coach. My main purpose for buying it was because I own some hotels and our main, flagship hotel has been performing particularly well on Trip Advisor...but I'm always seeking new inspiration for new ways of doing things. Tony Hsieh's book came highly recommended and it didn't disappoint.
My reading tends to happen very slowly - I tend to read about 6 pages at night before I drift off to sleep. I read this book in four sittings (which is unheard of) and I now know what people say when they say "I couldn't put the book down".
The back-story that led Tony to be leading Zappos is hugely interesting and inspiring and there were so many useful nuggets of information and ideas which we can modify and implement in our own business. He seems genuinely keen to share best practice with other business owners and I had a chance encounter with someone only yesterday who had met Tony - and said that the book genuinely matches his personality and enthusiasm.
A very good read if you are looking for a story of triumph and togetherness - a frankly superb read if you are also looking for ideas of how to instill a culture of exceptional customer service into your business/organisation.
It's ironic that this man who started life thinking that money was more important than anything else would end this book by being an advocate for happiness and culture over profits... but is that really the message we get from this book?
This book is the story of Tony Hsieh and Zappos. It is a seemingly honest book that is just as happy to expose the errors and mistakes made in the past as it is in highlighting the successes. It really is a story filled with a lot of ups and downs and this lends a wonderful sense of balance to the story.
To make this all the easier to read, the narrative is humourous, witty and (as expected considering it is one of Zappos' key values) humble (relatively at least). Filled with a large number of funny anecdotes from the author's life as well as some interesting snippets from employes and other key figures in this story, the book flows nicely and always keeps you wanting to read more.
To be put simply, this is as enjoyable a story about the creation of one of the internet giants as any I've read. Though Zappos doesn't have a real presence in the UK it is still fascinating to read about these kind of stories. It is especially successful in selling me on the idea that you have to love what you do and that good experiences are more important than money.
However, though his book really does try to hammer that message home, and it's a good message to take to heart, it fails to highlight the fact that though money doesn't directly equal happiness, it really does help. I do admire this company for putting enjoyment first, but the truth of the matter is that they are clearly making money... a lot of it.
But that's just the cynic in me talking. The truth is I really enjoyed this book and it made me want to try to get a job with Zappos (not sure if that's a good thing or not, it feels a bit like brain washing).
I recommend this book as a good book about businesses but also to people who are not happy in their working life. The core message that culture and enjoyment are just as important as money really comes across strong and inspires the reader to want to achieve that goal... though a little money would be nice too.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. However, I did anticipate that I would be sharing it, so I bought the hardback version. I found myself gripped by a good story and in possession of a book that I didn't want to put down. This will come as a relief for those that that are being coerced into reading a book that they SHOULD be reading. Most of us readers would have sold the first business, bought a house by the beach and idled away the rest of our days. The book gives a very open insight into how wealthy people are pulled and motivated by a different force to be and to do and not just to have and to keep. The 3 P's on the path, profits, passion and purpose are certainly delivered. Did you settle for profits and ignore the other two?
What makes the story compelling is that even though you know how the story ends, the story of how the business began and grew has some peril and jeopardy along the way, which convinces you that it could all go badly wrong at any moment along the way. So is he lucky? Not really. This is not the story of a compulsive gambler. It is a story recognisable in many business stories where success is rescued from the jaws of failure by talent and determination. This is perhaps told best in the part where he and his business colleague drive a truck across America as driving buddies. So why didn't they just have a stopover or two? No there was a determination and commitment whereby they just had to keep going. The story contains warmth and humour and a surprising lack of commitment at times to work and study. If he ever needs a job there are bits of his CV that he might expect a few questions on.
The slight spoiler for me is the insertion of other people's accounts of their story randomly inserted at times, which breaks up the momentum of the story. I am not saying that their account isn't relevant. Of course it is relevant in the way that it captures the spirit of the company but I personally feel that the story should come first and then the personal accounts at the back, like outtakes at the end of a film.
Most non-fiction books I have read recently appear, absent the author's need to write a full-length book, fit to be or have remained a long-form essay. Not this one though although it too could have benefited from some editing. Yet, once one makes peace with the colloquial tone - which is a refreshing change from many "business books", but then again this isn't exactly one - the book is a page-turner. At just over 250 pages - not including the appendices - for the paperback edition I read, it took me just under 5 hours to finish.
The book is above all a story: of the making of Tony Hsieh (now the CEO of Zappos.com), of his entrepreneurial journey starting in his childhood through college and later, of how he came to be involved in Zappos.com first as an investor and then as the CEO, and finally of what made Zappos.com the unique e-commerce success story it is. Organised in three parts, titled "Profits", "Profits and Passion", and "Profits, Passion and Purpose", it appears to map Mr Hsieh's journey of personal and professional growth.
Mr Hsieh is a child of Taiwanese immigrants. The parents feature in the book, but refreshingly not in the holier-than-thou tone, which is the staple of much immigré writing. They have made seminal contribution to his entrepreneurial spirit, mainly by not strangulating it with the burden of parental expectation, although Mr Hsieh himself, as a young person, wasn't above some mischief to get his own way. In many ways, it made me wonder if Mr Hsieh's story could pan out the same way anywhere but in America.
The story slowly morphs from being about Mr Hsieh's entrepreneurial adventures and misadventures - including the lessons he learnt at Link Exchange and the Venture Frogs fund he ran jointly - to being about Zappos.com. It is in the description of the the mechanics at Zappos.com that the tone changes to more business-like, especially the emails he has included. In illustrating what the famous Zappos.com values mean, he has included write-ups from his colleagues and Zappos.com employees. That is a nice touch. The story culminates with the share deal Zappos.com made with Amazon, after which Amazon let Zappos.com continue to operate independently.
The recurrent themes in this story are loyalty, relationships and risk-taking, besides the obvious ones in the title of the book, namely, profits, passion and purpose.
There is intended and perhaps, unintended, humour in the book. For instance, Mr Hsieh writes about how his parents appear to have found "all ten" Asian families in Marin county for regular get-togethers. Michael Moritz of Sequoia doing the Macarena is not an image easily banished from the mind! There are also some notable gaps. Not all key characters in his story are featured, a sometimes deliberate exclusion which Mr Hsieh explains in the foreword. But while Fred Mossler appears prominently, rightly so, Nick Swinmurn, the founder of Zappos.com appears to have been glossed over and his departure doesn't figure in the book. This seems a bit strange seeing as the Zappos.com story is about motivating the team, and engaging and leading them to a higher purpose. Towards the end, the book become a tiny bit tedious and "corporate". Especially in the chapters titled "Taking it to the next level" and "End game".
But if one can get over those quibbles, it is an engaging, hilarious, often moving, thought-provoking and inspiring read about creating a business that many now look to as the exemplar in customer service.
Usefulness note: While reading it, I thought of mentors, friends and young entrepreneurs I know and admire. Many of them appear to have read the book already; others will certainly benefit from reading it.
on 20 November 2011
In the beginning you find it strange, in the end you can't be estranged from it.
It's not an ordinary book. And the author is not an ordinary man.
I didn't know much about Tony Hsieh when I bought the book. I'd seen an interview and thought it might be interesting to read what he had to say. From the interview and the sound bytes I'd heard, I thought Tony was the kind of successful guy that always gets it right. With "Delivering Happiness" you understand that that's not the case, and sometimes he almost got it very wrong.
He is successful, all right. And he has done it twice. But it was not all a fairy tale.
The book is a roadmap of his life so far, and a guide to the way he thinks.
From the writing style point of view it is not a great book. Tony Hsieh leaves a warning about it in the beginning and it is an appropriate one. But it is not a difficult book to read. On the contrary, it's written in a very simple style, with short sentences and straightforward ideas: This makes it easy to read and to understand without second interpretations.
On the other hand the story is good. It's a biography of a successful man focusing on what he considers to be the most important things to achieve success.
The downside is that it seems that the objective of the book was not defined from the beginning. The reader understands how he got there, but it seems that something is missing to put together what begins as a biography, told in a chronological sequence of events, and ends as a manifesto. The first two parts of the book are a biography. It's about one man story, how he built one company, sold it to Microsoft for some millions, took sometime for himself, made some investments (most of them not that good), joined another company (or an idea of such), made it grow and was able to sell it to Amazon for a billion! It leads you through his life, his achievements, his growth, what he learned from his experiences and how he became the man he ended up being. The third part is about the man he is now and his ideas. The author presents his thesis and defends it, arguing his position.
All things summed it is a good book (although not a great one), but it has some great moments and I became convinced it was written by a great man.
on 5 February 2011
Facinating story of the journey to a purpose.
A very strong pamflet on being yourself, and finding a team of people who share your values and beliefs.
Reads like a novel. A nice novel.
Leaves you with a positive feeling: this really happened! In this unpersonal, individual, political world, this kind of good things happen. Riding the wave of customer satisfaction, individual dedication, passion. Things most of us strive for. Critic might be, that the people not fitting in the culture, are just neglected. Whereas I tend to believe quite some existing companies have to cope with quite a lot of this kind of people which would never have been selected at Zappos in the first place. Another thing is for instance the Purpose-like upgrade to VIP by Zappos: perhaps well perceived in the US, but for instance in Holland, customers would feel a bit betrayed: seems like if you had not called, you would not have received this VIP treatment. Meaning you were treated worse before, which does not seem fair. Perhaps to do with exceeding customer expectations, which is by definition a bit cheating (since you deliberately set the expectations too low). Some people do not like this at all: exactly meeting expectations is the real Wow.
Yes, a very Amercain Dreamlike story, but why not? I reckon if Tony was born in another country, it only would have taken him longer. And Fred, and all the others.
on 7 July 2012
One of the best business books I have read in a long time. If you are thinking of starting your own enterprise or need further motivation to take your venture to the next level, then this book should be high on your list of priorities.
The author, who happens to be the owner of online shoe retailer Zappos, has a very humble, honest and open minded attitude to both life and business and each page highlights his genuine passion, commitment and desire to lead a happy and content team of employees!! Inside this gem of a book, you will come across ideas and setbacks, which the author implemented in both of his successful online ventures. If you are the type who likes to take action, then this book will be an invaluable reference tool and to the rest, it will be a great source of inspiration to put your plans into action.
In this book Tony Hsieh will take you from his childhood, to the point where he puts great emphasis on customer service to catapult Zappos to the top and eventually to the merger with Amazon. Keep your highlighter handy, as the author generously gives you priceless guidance to make your business become a success.
On an end note, you may want to brush up on Maslow's Hierarchy, as the Tony refers to it on a regular basis throughout the book.