For this week's
, we look at an entertaining -- even hilarious -- book on what it takes to succeed in business and make lots of money, without necessarily having to work on Wall Street.
, Tony Hsieh writes about his interesting career journey -- from operating a primitive mail-order buttons business to building an online store selling shoes. Ever heard of Zappos?
just acquired it last year for a whopping $1.2 billion.
>>Video: Tony Hsieh on Amazon
The book reads a lot like a journal (complete with entries from business partners and emails sent to co-workers), but Hsieh is quick to point out that
is not a history book on Zappos nor is it his complete autobiography. While he writes a lot about how he made his first million and how he kept on growing his wealth, Hsieh focuses on the mistakes he made along the way -- some of them, really big ones. Like the time he dabbled in day-trading, putting money in stocks he knew nothing about. Or the time he invested in a forgettable movie in which he played a cameo role.
"They were expensive lessons," he writes, "but I guess what I ended up learning was that it's a bad idea to invest in industries you don't understand, in companies you don't have any control or influence over, or in people you don't know or trust."
We know Zappos today as a huge success story but it wasn't always the case. It just barely survived a recession, the dot-com stock market crash, and 9/11. The company stayed afloat, thanks in part to employees, who accepted either a pay cut or no pay at all, in exchange for a rent-free stay at Hsieh's San Francisco loft.
When Hsieh made the decision to move Zappos to Las Vegas, his committed employees -- those who shared his vision of making the brand all about the very best customer service -- followed as well.
These were the same people who embraced the company's slightly weird culture; the same ones who started the "bald and blue" tradition, where for one day, brave Zappos men had their heads shaved by Zappos women in a "just because" event.
"We're always on the lookout for ways to improve our company culture, no matter how unconventional or counterintuitive the approach may be," Hsieh writes. For example, while most of us would log in to our office computers with a username and password, over at Zappos, computer screens prompt users to identify a co-worker's photo. It goes back again to the company culture which is really mostly about getting to know people and building relationships, whether it's with co-workers or customers.
Hsieh goes one step further. He encourages his employees to give each other and their customers, "wow" moments. He's not only suggesting a "Wow, that's a low price" scenario. As he explains in the Zappos mission statement, to wow is to do something above and beyond what's expected. Like delivering a package just eight hours after the order was made. Or giving buyers 365 days to decide whether or not they want to keep their purchase.
That's happiness in a box -- and mind you, it's not all about the shoes.
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.
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Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Business Plus, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. Copyright (c) 2010 by Business Plus. All rights reserved.
By Tony Hsieh
Finding My Way
Wow, I thought to myself. The room was packed. I was on stage at our all-hands meeting, looking over a crowd of seven hundred Zappos employees who were standing up cheering and clapping. A lot of them even had tears of happiness streaming down their faces.
Forty-eight hours ago, we had announced to the world that
was acquiring us. To the rest of the world, it was all about the money. The headlines from the press said things like "Amazon Buys Zappos for Close to $1 Billion," "Largest Acquisition in Amazon's History," and "What Everyone Made from the Zappos Sale."
Amazon Won't Change Us, Says Zappos CEO
In November 1998, LinkExchange, the company that I'd co-founded, was sold to
for $265 million after two and a half years. Now, in July 2009, as CEO of Zappos.com, I had just announced that Amazon was acquiring Zappos right after we had celebrated our ten-year anniversary. (The acquisition would officially close a few months later in a stock and cash transaction, with the shares valued at $1.2 billion on the day of closing.) In both scenarios, the deals looked similar: They both worked out to about $100 million per year. From the outside, this looked like history repeating itself, just at a larger scale.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. To all of us in the room, we knew it wasn't just about the money. Together, we had built a business that combined profits, passion, and purpose. And we knew that it wasn't just about building a business. It was about building a lifestyle that was about delivering happiness to everyone, including ourselves.
Time stood still during that moment on stage. The unified energy and emotion of everyone in the room was reminiscent of when I'd attended my first rave ten years earlier, where I'd witnessed thousands of people dancing in unison, with everyone feeding off of each other's energy. Back then, the rave community came together based on their four core values known as PLUR: Peace, Love, Unity, Respect.
At Zappos, we had collectively come up with our own set of ten core values. Those values bonded us together, and were an important part of the path that led us to this moment. Looking over the crowd, I realized that every person took a different path to get here, but our paths somehow all managed to intersect with one another here and now. I realized that for me, the path that got me here began long before Zappos, and long before LinkExchange. I thought about all the different businesses I had been a part of, all the people who had been in my life, and all the adventures I had been on. I thought about mistakes that I had made and lessons that I had learned. I started thinking back to college, then back to high school, then back to middle school, and then back to elementary school.
As all the eyes in the room were on me, I tried to trace back to where my path had begun. In my mind, I was traveling backward in time searching for the answer. Although I was pretty sure I wasn't dying, my life was flashing before my eyes. I was obsessed with figuring it out, and I knew I had to do it this very moment, before the energy in the room dissipated, before time stopped standing still. I didn't know why. I just knew I needed to know where my path began.
And then, right before reality returned and time started moving again, I figured it out.
My path began on a worm farm.
Have you read this book? Add your comments below.
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