‘Delivering Happiness’ Book Review And Thoughts

June 21st, 2010 by Greg Goodson Leave a reply »
  • SumoMe

I was excited when I received a package from Amazon a week ago with a copy of Tony Hsieh’s book ‘Delivering Happiness’. I actually got a copy for free because of some contest on twitter or something back in April or May. I thought it was a scam, like one of those banners that say “Congrats! You’re the 999,999th visitor!” Apparently, they gave away many copies to folks who signed up on their website and tweeted about the book. I guess it does pay to be on twitter.

Having heard all the buzz about Zappos for the last 4 years and seeing all the PR that the company was getting, I knew that it was a book that I was going to pick it up. During my several years working at Backcountry.com, I remember folks coming to my desk telling me that they had seen Zappos ads running on keywords that we were bidding on. Their ads read something like “Free Overnight Shipping, free return shipping”. I’ll be honest, it’s tough to compete with that! I had to know the deal behind this company in Las Vegas.

The book is organized into three sections and reads very well. The first hundred pages of the book were very entertaining. Tony told a lot of stories about his businesses when he was young, starting with a worm farm, progressing into a button mail-order company. Some of the companies did well, others not so much, but it was fun to read through all of his ventures and what he learned from each one. Hsieh attended Harvard, and had some great stories about his ventures in college as well, which included running a pizzeria in the bottom of his dorm.

Tony was always taking risks, from buying supplies for the worm farm from his allowance to throwing down a few thousand dollars to buy a pizza oven. When Tony got out of college, he took a job with Oracle, only to take another big risk 4 months later by leaving and starting up a web-design company with his college buddy and roommate Sanjay, who also worked at Oracle. Push comes to shove, they focused their efforts on an idea they called LinkExchange, which they built up and sold to Microsoft for $265MM.

While LinkExchange was growing, he realized that he was hiring people who were smart and passionate, but not passionate for the right reasons. I would say this is a turning point in the book where he began to realize that creating a company culture was underrated and would pay off in so many ways in the long-run.

I won’t give a play by play for the rest of the book, but Tony writes a great story of Zappos going through their ups and downs from when they were a small company in San Francisco to the time they sold the company in 2009 to Amazon. He tells us everything he has learned in his 10 years at Zappos; everything from creating a company culture, to the mistakes he’s made, and how happiness plays such a key role in the way he runs his business.

The book flows nicely all the way through the Amazon/Zappos deal in the summer of 2009, which I remember distinctly. When working at Backcountry.com, the day they announced this deal, our whole office was buzzing. Everybody in the office that day had their eyes glued to various news websites and blogs, reading the buzz that this acquisition was producing. I would be lying if I said we all weren’t a little envious of Zappos’ tactics.

For anyone out there working at a retail or ecommerce store, I highly recommend this book. On top of it being a fun read, I took away a lot of wisdom. Heck, you don’t need to work in retail to enjoy this book. If you’re interested in wondering how to bring happiness to your employees, to your customers, to yourself, and to the world, pick up the book. I’d put this book up there with ‘Good to Great’ and ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ The book has changed my outlook on a lot of subjects, and I hope to make changes to the way I run my business moving forward based on the stories and lessons found here.

Thanks for writing this, Tony! It was a tough book to put down.

For more info, check out these links:

Zappos home page

‘Delivering Happiness’ website

How Twitter Can Make You A Better (and Happier) Person


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