After finishing a good book, I typically lie back, savor the moment, and say to myself, “that was a good book.” Then I try to think of ways of applying what I learned in different aspects of my life.
In the middle of finishing Tony Hsieh’s (pronounced “shay”) super cool book, Delivering Happiness, I HAD to talk about it to my team immediately. This book makes you want to jump out and change the way you do things. This is a great book.
Structurally, the book talks about 2 main things in sequence:
a) Tony Hsieh’s personal entrepreneurial journey (he started out wanting to be the King of the Worms)
b) The rise of Zappos (an amazing story)
But the neat thing is, he makes the book into something of a reference/how-to by providing quick lists and ordered suggestions.
The result is something unique: the book tells an engrossing story while providing practical tips in a very informal, accesible manner.
This was the overwhelming lesson which was tatooed in my mind as I was reading. Zappos made customer service their number one, put-our-money-where-our-mouths-are priority. The Zappos brand is now synonymous with customer service – which is the main reason for their success. The internet is riddled with people telling stories on how Zappos made their day with jaw-dropping customer service. (just google) After all, the goal of their every employee is to wow every customer and to “deliver happiness.”
The result? One billion dollar sales on just their 10th year of operations.
Every company would love to have this sort of customer service quality right? (well, maybe not)
Hsieh talks very transparently on how they achieved this: by focusing relentlessly on something a lot of firms ignore – culture.
“We may have 1200 to 1500 brand relationships and a good head start against the competition, but that can be copied. Our websites, policies – all can be copied, but not our special culture.”
Zappos’s competitive advantage is clearly their culture. Pause and consider this for just a minute, to help you realize how awesome it is.
Zappos has ten values which they passionately build their culture around:
Zappos 10 core values (p154)
- Deliver WOW through service
- Embrace and drive change
- Create fun and a little weirdness
- Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded
- Pursue growth and learning
- Build open and honest relationship with communication
- Build a positive team and family spirit
- Do more with less (see more in further reading)
- Be passionate and determined
- Be humble
They are extremely passionate about these 10 things, and make key decisions and structures around them. Hsieh talks about rejecting highly talented individuals whom they knew would help the company out immediately, but rejected them because they didn’t fit the culture pillars above. That’s thinking long-term. That’s making sure the culture is protected.
Another amazing thing about recruitment? At the end of the recruitment process, once you pass everything, you’ll be offered $2000 if you decline the job. Yep, you read that right. To filter people who are only in it for the money, they offer a you $2000 to reject their offer. That’s literally putting money where your mouth is.
Throughout the book, Hsieh wows with dry wit, humility, honestly, and self-awareness.
Part of the reason why this book resonated with me is my Human Resources background. Back in the day, I was the flag bearer for “Vision,” “Mission,” and “company values.”
Jumping into startups, I slowly felt that it mostly a crock of BS. Here’s the evidence. I felt it was how corporations “herded” their employees into docile sheep.
This book has singlehandedly shifted my paradigm, marrying my HR sensibilities with my entrepreneurial ones.
Vision and Values can be more than a plaque on the wall. Done right, it’s downright transformative.
Read this book now! (startup founders, HR people, customer service people – I can’t say enough how important this book is)