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Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose Paperback – 24 May 2012
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This book is awesome. How Tony and Zappos grew to $1 billion in gross revenue in 10 years is just the beginning. From fundraising to finding happiness, from actual e-mails to checklists, it covers it all. Intensely personal and intensely practical. -- Tim Ferriss, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Of The 4-Hour Workweek In this fascinating (and often hilarious) account, Tony explains how he turns his beliefs into actions that really do deliver happiness. -- Gretchen Rubin, Author Of The Happiness Project
Now in trade paperback, the hip, iconoclastic CEO of Zappos shows how a different kind of corporate culture can make a huge difference in achieving remarkable results -- by actually creating a company culture that values happiness - and then delivers on it.See all Product description
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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.
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.