Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

“Zappos’ vision: Delivering happiness to customers, employees and vendors.”

In his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh talks about his fascinating entrepreneurial life. From growing worms in his parent’s backyard, to the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon in a deal valued at over $1.2 billion, Hsieh went through many entrepreneurial experiences, including a pizza business while in college, quitting Oracle after 5 months to set up his own web-design company with a friend, and creating an internet advertising company – LinkExchange– that he ultimately sold to Microsoft.

Hsieh entertainingly describes how he grew up in a “typical Asian-American way”. There was a lot of parental pressure to excel academically, so that his parents could flaunt his achievements in front of their friends. He graciously explains how after being accepted by all the schools he applied to, his parents pressured him into accepting Harvard, which was not his first choice.

Interestingly, while Hsieh’s entrepreneurial journey was driven by a pursuit of money in his teenage years, he realized early on that what ultimately moved him was not money, but the need to build something worthwhile and enjoy what he was doing.

(…) we wanted to run our own business and be in control of our own destiny. This wasn’t about the money, it was about not being bored. (…) We had no idea where it would lead us, but wherever it was, we knew it had to be better than feeling bored and unfulfilled.

The LinkExchange story is an interesting one. At one point, Hsieh and his partner received a $20 million offer from one of the co-founders of Yahoo!. Hseih, 23 years-old at the time, listed all the things that he would do with that money, and was delighted to realize that he could already afford buying a big screen TV or go on mini-vacations wherever he wanted! He declined the offer and a few years later, he and his partner ended up selling the company to Microsoft for $265 million.

I made a list of the happiest periods in my life, and I realized that none of them involved money. I realized that building stuff and being creative and inventive made me happy.

But not all of it was perfect. Hsieh describes how at certain point in the life of his projects, especially due to rapid growth, he found himself losing motivation and going through difficult times to find his north again. In those situations he went “back to basics”.

I thought about how easily we are all brainwashed by our society and culture to stop thinking and just assume by default that more money equals more success and more happiness, when ultimately happiness is really about enjoying life.

(…) I enjoyed creating, building, and doing stuff that I was passionate about.

Hsieh also describes Zappos’ history and business model, which revolves around great customer service and the “WOW” factor, which makes the company culture so unique and difficult to replicate.

At Zappos, anything worth doing is worth doing with WOW.

WOW is such a short, simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.

At Zappos, we think it’s important for employees to grow both personally and professionally. It’s important to constantly challenge and stretch yourself, and not be stuck in a job where you don’t feel like you are growing or learning.

We believe that inside every employee is more potential than even the employee himself / herself realizes. Our goal is to help employees unlock that potential. But it has to be a joint effort: You have to want to challenge and stretch yourself in order for it to happen.

Delivering Happiness describes the path that a young smart man took in his journey towards discovering happiness in business and in life. An easy, very entertaining, and inspiring read. Go for it!

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