Book Review: Delivering Happiness is About Company Culture

August 13, 2010

10:47 am

On the New York Times Bestsellers list, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose chronicles the success of Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. The book is part history, part business, and part happiness movement from the most successful online shoe retailer.  Zappos’ tagline says it all, “Powered by Service™”; Hsieh also has an ultimate agenda – Happiness.

The Profits and Passion sections highlight Tony Hsieh’s path to business bliss.  His early years and the evolution of Zappos’ culture, core values, and customer service cover 2/3 of Hsieh’s story. The last section, Purpose, outlines plans to move beyond the company’s cultural circle to deliver happiness on a larger scale. Realizing what he built with Zappos is something much larger that a successful business, Hsieh transcends the new school business culture to a higher level. The last 14 pages are the golden nuggets where Tony admits the purpose of writing the book is “to start a happiness movement to help make the world a better place.”

Successful Road
During the early survival mode of Zappos, two key components converged that set the stage for success: a culture for passion and unity, and the focus on customer service.  Zappos’ competitive advantage is wrapped into 3 key areas – customer service, word of mouth, and culture building. Hsieh believed that the Zappos brand would happen on its own when these 3 elements aligned.

Culture
Zappos’ number one priority, culture, became more important that customer service. To infuse passion throughout the company and work as a unified team is the mantra of employees.  A two part hiring process ensures only those who embrace the delivering happiness culture are selected to join the Zappos family. The birth of the “Culture Book” evolved out of this quest.  A new edition is produced each year and shared with anyone interested in its content. Include your mailing address in an email to tony @ zappos.com for a free copy.

Growth & Learning
Zappos has a unique Pipeline Team to provide stepping stones for personal and business growth. New hire training includes the Zappos Family Culture, Wowing the Customer, and Understanding Core Values. Zappos Library evolved out of this support for growth and learning. The library now has over a hundred titles not only free to employees but to visitors who tour the Las Vegas headquarters.

End Game
Hsieh saves the best for last in the chapter titled End Game. Tony is a student of positive psychology – what makes people happier. Tony asks: “What is your goal in life?” The Science of Happiness is explained by three happiness frameworks. Just a year ago, Zappos expanded their purpose to “delivering happiness to the world.” In Tony’s words, “companies have a greater purpose and bigger vision beyond just making money.”

Business Takeaways
Woven within Hsieh’s stories are a few  business lesson gems:

  • Never outsource your company’s core competency. Choose wisely what is outsourced and to whom you give that component too. Zappos almost lost the company when they outsourced the warehousing of their products.
  • Treat vendors as an extension of the company – they know their product line better then you and now you have hundreds of extra support mechanisms for your team.
  • Make your Contact phone number easy to find. Zappos believes the telephone is the best branding device available. This personal touch point engages the customer’s undivided attention for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Run your Call Centers as a Branding Lens – don’t focus on time efficiency as a lens of expense minimization but on a lens of brand building and brand loyalty. Get the interaction right and you have a longtime customer.
  • Refer customers to competitors when out of stock. I think of this as the Miracle on 34th Street philosophy – a movie reference when Kris Kringle is Santa for Macy’s and refers customers to Gimbels for items. Zappos believes this also facilitates a lifelong relationship with customers.

Hsieh pulls insight from two books, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins and Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization co-authored by Dave Logan, John King, & Halee Fischer-Wright.  A free audio download of Tribal Leadership is available on Zappos.com.

Now for the Tony Hsieh call to action!  He is inviting you to join the movement of delivering happiness. There is a Delivering Happiness Bus Tour starting Aug – Nov 2010. Are you on board?

Photo courtesy of Jim Darling.

Side Note: I was impressed by the dedication of this book. A very young lady, Ava Zech (age 11), and other aspiring young entrepreneurs and future business leaders get a wink and a nod of encouragement from Hsieh. I hope the movement will energize the next generation of entrepreneurs to change too.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Gloria Antonelli. She is a social media mentor and web design consultant. You can connect with Gloria at gloriaantonelli.com and follow her on twitter at: @gloriaantonelli.

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Gloria Antonelli is a social media mentor and web design consultant. You can connect with Gloria at gloriaantonelli.com and follow her on twitter at @gloriaantonelli.

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