If you had lived in the neighborhood where Tony Hsieh grew up, you might have met an earnest little door to door salesman just discovering his entrepreneurial spirit. Now at the ripe old age of 36, Hsieh shows us the path that took him from selling earthworms and photo buttons to running the success story known as Zappos.
As highly publicized as Hsieh and his company have been, his new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose tells a far more complex story. In the first part of the book, we get to know Hsieh; in the second part we get to see the evolution of the unique culture that is Zappos.
Hsieh’s story is so captivating (and I assume that his youth contributes to his recall of details) that you may find yourself identifying with his ups and downs—and cheering for him even though you know how the story turns out.
To my delight, I discovered Tony Hsieh and I have a number of things in common.
1. We both became fascinated with mail order when we were kids.
2. We both adopted Las Vegas as our hometown.
3. We both believe that business is about much more than just making money.
4. We both look for lessons from diverse places (i.e. poker) that apply to running a successful business.
Much of his story is wonderfully unique, of course. From his student days at Harvard where he was more excited about building his pizza business than he was about studying to his partying days in San Francisco, Hsieh seemed to be perpetually looking for opportunities.
Although many people start a business because they fall in love with a product or an idea for a service, Hsieh is one of the ones who are fascinated and challenged by the entrepreneurial journey. By his own admission, he isn’t all that crazy about shoes, but bringing them to the marketplace in an innovative way is the object of his passion.
Happily, for the reader, you don’t have to dream of building an online empire in order to find the useful ideas in Delivering Happiness. There’s a stunning lack of corporate hubris and plenty of examples of how Zappos walks the talk every single day in each and every part of the business.
Numerous Zappos folks share their stories giving us even clearer insight into how the much-quoted core values influence their daily lives. Even the story of how those values evolved shows us that this is not a business as usual operation.
Zappos Core Values
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble
While each of those values is described in great detail, it seems obvious to me that they provide a foundation for building a standout operation, even if you’re a one-person enterprise—or a school or nonprofit organization.
You’re going to be seeing Tony Hsieh and hearing a lot about Delivering Happiness in the coming weeks. There’s even a DH site to share in the festivities. I urge you to pay attention. This isn’t just a smart book—it’s a wise one as well.
After all, Zappos isn’t just a company that’s making it better; they’re also showing us how we can do the same.