Unless you’re from another planet, you’ve heard of Zappos, the online shoe retailer that was acquired by Amazon last year. You’ve probably also read about the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, who has been interviewed often in the media, along with the amazing stories of Zappos’ success, and its legendary customer service.
Hsieh offers his thoughts in his new book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose,” (Hachette Book Group), 2010.
The “Delivering Happiness” team sent me an advance copy of the book to review, and as a shoe-a-holic and Zappos fan, I eagerly devoured it.
A Billionaire’s Background
If you’re interested in how Hsieh became a young billionaire, you won’t be disappointed. Hsieh spends a good amount of time detailing (in his best attempt to be self-deprecating) his childhood entrepreneurial spirit and ventures, his education at Harvard, and the business he co-founded, LinkExchange, and sold to Microsoft for $265 million.
After making a boatload of money, Hsieh and some of his former employees started a venture capital fund. Soon after launching the venture capital fund, Hsieh was contacted by Nick Swinmurn, who had just started ShoeSite.com, which would later become Zappos.
Lessons from Poker
Around the same time, Hsieh started playing a lot of poker. In one of the more “how-to” parts of the book, Hsieh offers a list of the lessons he learned from playing poker that could also be applied to business. Here are a few of the gems:
- Table selection is the most important decision you can make
- The guy who wins the most hands is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run
- Make sure your bankroll is large enough for the game you’re playing and the risks you’re taking
- Figure out the game when the stakes aren’t high
- Differentiate yourself. Do the opposite of what the rest of the table is doing
As Hsieh explains how he began investing in and getting more involved in the operation of Zappos, we learn how each of these poker lessons was put to use.
Nuts and Bolts
Here are some other lessons/themes from the book:
- Friends are important in creating a happy, successful business and life
- Zappos went through some dire financial times, and several times it was on the brink of shutting down due to lack of funding; at one point Hsieh had to liquidate most of his assets to get needed dollars
- Do not screw over Zappos – they will name you by name (hello, outsourced fulfillment center that didn’t do a great job); but if they love you, they’ll promote the heck out of you (UPS)
- How the company decided to brand through customer service and how it transformed the company
- Why the company is headquartered in Las Vegas
- The Zappos hiring and training program – examples and details
- If you focus on the “Wow” experience, eventually the press will pick up on it
Hsieh also describes the process of being acquired by Amazon, and detailed the employee questions and experience during that time.
The book ends with the explanation of the Zappos current vision and purpose: Delivering Happiness to the world. Hsieh hopes that he has inspired the reader to make “your customers, employees or yourself” happier.
Now, who can argue with that?