A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
by Tony Hsieh
“Delivering Happiness” was recommended to me by Alex Banayan, the author of “The Third Door”, which is an excellent book and the first one I reviewed. “Delivering Happiness” is Tony telling his story about how he journeyed from a childhood entrepreneur to a boring job at Oracle to investor in Zappos.
Tony starts at the very beginning with his first venture as a worm farmer all the way to CEO of Zappos at the time of the Amazon merger with lessons sprinkled in along the way. Tony’s writing is light and easy to read. His story kept me turning pages, anxious to see what was next or how they would find a way out their current predicament. Because make no mistake, Tony and his associates find themselves between a rock and a hard place more than once and you will often wonder how they are ever going to dig themselves out this time. Spoiler alert: They always manage to do it. But I guess it’s not much of a spoiler since it is public knowledge that Amazon acquired Zappos.
The thing I liked most about this book was how relatable it was at the beginning. Tony was in a job where he was bored. He wasn’t learning anything and he really wasn’t accomplishing anything. I’ve worked in for a large corporation so I have experienced this first-hand, just like many of you have. So Tony started looking for ways out. He and his friend decided to quit their jobs and start a web design business out of their living room. Unfortunately, they realized pretty quickly that they didn’t much care for web design. They loved the idea of owning and running their own business, but they found that the reality is pretty difficult.
So Tony and his friend started a service they called LinkExchange. This venture succeeded beyond their initial expectations and they ended hiring just about anybody they could to keep up with the demands of the business. Unfortunately, Tony found that within a year and a half, he was dreading going to work at LinkExchange just as much as he had when he was working at Oracle. As Tony thought about why this was the case, he realized that the culture at LinkExchange was the problem. Because they were focused on hiring so many people so quickly, Tony and the other executives hadn’t taken time to create a company culture. When LinkExchange was sold to Microsoft, Tony become a multimillionaire and began thinking of what to do with his time.
For a while, Tony played poker in Vegas until he was able to learn the game well enough to win more often than he lost. Tony realized that the happiest periods in his life did not involve money. They involved “building stuff and being creative and inventive.” Tony realized that he needed to be building something to be happy.
To make a long story short, Tony started a venture fund with the millions he made from the LinkExchange deal. That venture fund invested in a startup called Zappos and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, not quite. The Zappos story is a long and interesting read (and I don’t want to spoil it for you). Besides basically funding Zappos for the first few years, Tony brought the understanding to Zappos that they needed to be proactive about creating a company culture. This they did. Tony outlines the processes they went through to make Zappos what it is. Zappos defines itself by Delivering Happiness in many ways, whether it be through surprise upgrades in shipping, excellent customer service, or any other myriad of ways that Zappos goes out of its way to meet the needs of customers.
While Tony’s story is long and a bit involved, it really comes down to one thing: purpose. What is your purpose as an individual and as a company? If a company’s purpose is simply to make money, it probably won’t make much money. If a company’s purpose is to give and serve their customers, then they are much more likely to earn the trust and business of their customers. In truth, my main takeaway from this book is similar to the takeaway I got from the excellent book “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It is better to give than to receive. Giving a log to the fire first allows the fire to burn and give light and warmth.
Overall, this book deserves a place on my shelf. Tony Hsieh’s story is inspirational and empowering. Zappos overcame great odds against them and became one of the most valuable companies in the world, built on a culture of giving of themselves. This is a model to be emulated.
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