The first quarter of the book about Tony Hsieh's childhood and the lessons he learned feels a bit forced (my button business taught me the lesson of ______). But, my doubts were quickly dispelled with the story of Zappos. I loved how Tony focused on one thing, the best customer service, and did it really well. To have the best customer service, they focused on company culture through a system of hiring (it's easier to hire people who fit the culture than try to change people) and through employee advancement opportunities through their "pipeline," giving employees perceived control of their careers. I can't think of any other large company that has been able to sustain a culture (Starbucks had a unique culture, but in recent years they've become too big to sustain it). Tony says that the Zappos company culture is their one sustainable competitive advantage. Will company culture work for your company? It's hard to say, but there probably is one thing that your company could do better than any other company...and it is probably worthwhile to develop that.
The argument was made about Tony "getting lucky." I have to agree, but I'd add that any business success is 80% luck and 20% planning, tenacity, insight, and work ethic. The 20% is critical to making success, but it's not sufficient. Even the most brilliant people will fail more often than they succeed, but you don't often see the entire journey of failures before success. You could use the "luck" argument for any success (Thomas Edison just got lucky, after all, he was wrong 999 times before he was right).
I thought that Tony did an excellent job of narrating his book. This isn't the case with many authors turned narrators (i.e. Beer School), but with several authors like Malcom Gladwell and Bill Bryson, hearing the book in the author's voice puts you into the story better than with a professional narrator. I'd put Tony's narration squarely in this category.
This is an amazing story, and one that inspires you to move forward with your passion. Success, as everybody knows it when it already hits the media, portrays the glory but not the story. Entrepreneurship is like surfing, you have to ride out the waves, you never know when you hit a great one.
I really enjoyed hearing about Tony's growth as an individual and listening to the trials and tribulations when building Zappos. Opposed to the standard book rambling off stats or uncommon words to give the perception of intelligence; Tony along with some other Zappos employees informally talk to you just like you were at Starbucks telling a story. Opposed to be lectured to like the professor in the last chapter of the book, it feels like you're experiencing birth and rise of Zappos alongside Tony and his staff. If you a business owner looking for an excellent inspirational book that provides a blueprint on how you can start thinking about changing your company's culture then this is the book!
The only thing I couldn't handle was the listening to an interview with Warren Bennis and Tony at the end. This guy is the typical professor who is obsessed with himself, self promotes another one of his ignoramus books, and talks down to Tony, all while trying to appear that his vast intellect is fair superior than Tony's while having no clue who Tony even is. I seriously would have rather listened to an air horn next to my ear than listen to Warren Bennis for another second. What's even worse that that the guy that introduces Warren and Tony to the group is so infatuated with him (Warren) that I wasn't sure if the guy was going to start licking Warrens big toe or start talking about the fan club.
I had heard of Zappos as the online shoestore, but never as the company that sees its culture as its core competence. The book outlines Tony Hsieh's (the owner/CEO) personal business biography and combines it with the steps he and his team took to build Zappos.
Tony shows that success is also a matter of luck: Zappos hovered on the brink of bankruptcy for a few years and only his own wealth prevented it until finally some investors put money on the table, and even then it took 4-6 years before Zappos was out of the danger zone.
The book is a very nice story, and although Tony is not a narrator (he speaks a bit fast) his enthusiasm and personal touch make him the ideal storyteller nonetheless. I am not much for biographies, so the book for me became really interesting when he starts to describe how he build the culture of the company step by step. Not planned or methodical, because that's not how it works, but purposeful with deep commitment from his colleagues, co-workers and the extended Zappos family.
For any organisation that wishes to strengthen (or make explicit) its culture, this book gives plenty of ideas and suggestions on how to do it and what might result from it. Not only for startups or internet companies, but for any organisation bigger than 25 people. Some ideas that Tony shares:
- hire only people that share your values: that way, the live what the company stands for instead of following their own agenda
- teach company values in a intensive introductory training
- live the company values also with your suppliers (it is easier with your customers)
- have your employees co-determine the values of your organisation. Re-iterate them regularly, to see if the culture is still where you want it to be. A 'culture book' helps to both verify the culture as well as share it with new employees
- encourage community and getting to know other employees outside your own department: this fosters a 'we' feeling (instead of departmental kingdoms)
- share, commit and take risk also as managers.
The culture of Zappos might not be the culture you wish or have, but that is not the point. The key is that a strong culture can strengthen your position and can be purposefully built. Try it yourself!
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This is a memoir by Tony Hsieh about how a company was molded through the founder’s philosophy and made into a successful company.
As Hsieh goes back through his childhood he provides funny and entertaining experiences that provide perspective on how he developed his unique business philosophy.
The book will provide entrepreneurs some useful information on developing a business and can act as a case study of a successful business. He shows how he built a tight-knit family like atmosphere that created happy employees. The employees then worked harder for the company. He also shows how he built team cohesion. At the end of the book there is a statement by Jeff Bezos and also a discussion group with a professor Marshall and Hsieh.
The book is well written and easy to read. The company Hsieh build was Zappos an online shoe emporium. Hsieh sold the company for $1.2 billion dollars to Amazon. Tony Hsieh narrated his own book.
Great book going through the history of Zappos and showing a successful business can be run a different way. Unlike other business books that put the owner on a pedestal this one keeps it real. What amazed me was the huge risk he took to make Zappos happen. While he should not read other books his voice added a level of authenticity and depth to this one.
Cutting edge business philosophy. This book is part autobiography and an inside look at Zappos and includes lots of great information for any business owner or employee who wants to be a leader in today's marketplace. I believe that any business that doesn't follow this modern way of thinking about the customer is in trouble. Zappos is huge but I am working to apply these concepts to small business. Any size business should have it's employees and owners read this book. It's a guide to business and personal fulfillment. I love that Tony reads the entire book himself, it adds a personal touch and you feel like he is talking to you. Best find of the year for me so far! AAA+++
It was an entertaining book to listen to on the road, great ideas about culture in companies, customer service, experience and capacity building. Will start to apply ideas in my company.
Here is the thing, the book is a good listen. It was a crazy trip the man took from start to finish and made for an exciting listen. But as for a business book, not good. There is nothing business about it. The book should be in Entertainment section.
I am in business, and i can tell you, if you are doing $46 millioin a year in rev. and not making a profit. you have issues and a horrible business plan. Yes in the end it worked out for him, but 999 out of a 1,000 times the person will be writting a book on how they lost everything. And he almost did, dont get me wrong i know how the story ended and they deserve everything they got in the end.
But not because of great business, if anything, it shows when the owner of Amazon (a real business man) wasnt interested in the company until years later when really business people made it profitable....
With that being said, like mentioned earlier, great listen, exciting, but dont plan on learning anything to help you in your business.. this should be in entertainment..
Delivering Happiness is part brief autobiography, part “here are my brilliant ideas for how to conceive, start, and run a business”. He is more strongly oriented towards creating a corporate culture than any other business guru, and presents interesting ideas for how to create that culture. However, I’ve got a problem with Tony and the book - proof (or at least viable evidence) and replication. Tony was at the right place at the right time once and pretty much by accident made millions in the process. Out of boredom he joined what was to become Zappos. 10 years later he has made Zappos the largest online store specializing in footwear, with sales over $1B per year. But Zappos has always been on the verge of failure and is completely dependent on an ongoing 100 million dollar line of credit with their banks. This tells me that they have less than $1M (less than 10%) in profit. This would not be considered a successful situation for any business. For all of the hype about how brilliant Tony is, he hasn’t proved that culture is the key to business success. I wish he had–I’m a huge believer in developing corporate culture, one based on integrity, contribution, and “doing what is right”. He as not demonstrated that if you build the right culture the profits will follow. He has not demonstrated anything except that he was successful at making money by accident one time in his life, and his Zappos isn’t it. More disappointing is he discusses the dozens, possibly over a hundred other companies he helped start, most of which failed, none of which had more than marginal success. So like most of the other business gurus, he provides no proof or evidence of his ideas, and has not been able to replicate his one (apparently accidental) success. Not someone I would consider a viable role model, leader, or even teacher.