With a title like Delivering Happiness, you might think that this book contains enough fluff to supply a goose down pillow factory. Thankfully, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh fills the book with interesting stories and important lessons.
The book is divided into three sections: “Profits”, “Profits & Passion”, and “Profits, Passion, and Purpose”. In “Profits”, Tony talks about growing up, going to college, getting his first job and starting LinkExchange. This might be my favourite section of the book because it gives the reader a good idea of who Tony Hsieh is and how he views the world. The word that comes to mind is “hustler,” not in the Three-card Monte sense but in the Gary Vaynerchuk sense of the word. A guy who is out there doing it, making things happen while others never get past dreaming, “What if?” Tony talks about the businesses he had as a kid and how he took jobs to earn money during high school.
The “Profits” section talks about how Tony and his friend, Sanjay, started LinkExchange. He tells the story in enough detail that the reader can really get a good picture of what happened. Many entrepreneurs tend to gloss over the start of their companies in these types of books, which doesn’t do much for the kid in his dorm room, who is just getting started.
In “Profits and Passion”, Tony describes the early stages of Zappos, the company’s move from San Francisco to Las Vegas, and how the culture developed along the way. I was a bit surprised to learn that Zappos came close to death a couple of times. In many ways, the success of Zappos is much more impressive than Tony’s first success with LInkExchange.
Tony writes that Zappos competitive advantage comes from brand, culture, and the talent development pipeline. He feels that any other advantage that Zappos currently has, can and will be copied.
These three advantages were all put to test when Zappos decided to lay off 8% of its employees. For a high commitment culture like Zappos has, this could be the beginning of the end. They handled it in the best way possible and they don’t seem to have taken any long term damage. I think the most revealing statement regarding this time is when Tony writes that they made a mistake by over-hiring. Most other CEOs would write some nonsense about strategic realignment.
Amazon’s recent purchase of Zappos is covered along with the reasons why the management team decided to sell the company. Tony includes his emails to employees about the sale. These speak volumes about the culture of the company and Tony’s leadership.
The final section “Profits, Passion and Purpose” is where Tony ties the previous two sections to the title of the book. He theorizes that the things that truly make an individual happy, serve to make a successful company as well. When the individual’s goals are aligned with the company’s, great things can be achieved. He approaches this from a scientific point of view, referring to some of the recent academic study into happiness. They have applied these findings at Zappos with a great deal of success.
The book reads easily. Tony apologizes in the Preface for any mistakes in grammar because he didn’t use a ghost writer and he wanted the book to read like he speaks. This makes it like someone telling you a story rather than someone who is showing off that they own a thesaurus. The book is genuine in trying to get its message across. There are a couple of self-indulgent parts about poker and Red Bull but these are easily forgiven.
I highly recommend reading this book. Although Zappos is an internet company, this book is written for a much wider audience. It focuses on things at a high level. He doesn’t talk too much about the technical details of running Zappos’ site. I think it teaches a lot about company culture, brand, and ethical business.
For more information about the book, please visit http://www.deliveringhappinessbook.com
In the interest of full disclosure, we received a few advance copies of the book, free of charge from Zappos. They only asked that we give it an honest review, which we have.