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.
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