Delivering Happiness – Book Review

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh takes a divergent path from most business books. The writing style is a little goofy and unorthodox. The use of buzzwords and newly created business terms is almost completely absent. And Tony goes into quite a bit of detail about some of his personal adventures that seems a bit odd to read about – not sure how much I need to know about Rave Parties. The book covers areas outside of the Zappos history including quite a bit of Tony’s personal history and some of his thoughts on happiness in general. Overall though the book is very easy to read and contains a ton of good information. A number of the sections covering Zappos reminded me of the Core Values and Concepts of the Baldrige criteria.

Visionary Leadership

Numerous examples in the book demonstrate how the Zappos senior leaders communicated their vision with employees, customers, and other stakeholders and included specific calls-to-action in the communications. The leaders recognized early on that their competitive advantages were in superior customer service, their culture, and the training and development of their employees. They tagged these three key areas of investment as BCP: Brand, Culture, and Pipeline.

Tony Hsieh and the rest of the senior team explain that the goals of the investment group were shorter-term than theirs. So they worked out the deal with Amazon to allow the initial investors to get their payout and for Zappos to continue working with some degree of autonomy and have the financial backing to pursue growth goals. It really appears that the leaders were seeking wins for all of the stakeholders.


It is very interesting to read how flexible and quick Zappos was to act when the situation required it. There is an example in the early days of the company of how they established plans and partnerships for shipping over the course of a few days. They also quickly made the decision to move the business model from direct from the manufacturer shipments to ship from stock and converted the reception area of the office into a store. There is more than one example that could be applied to any business especially those involved in some form of distribution or retail sales.

Valuing Workforce Members and Partners

Zappos employees are pretty obviously a huge part of their success. Tony Hsieh spells out ways leaders can engage their workforce in the book. From identifying the key processes that should be optimized in house rather than outsourcing them to the involvement of the employees to formalize the culture, numerous examples of approaches that are repeatable and well deployed and cycles of learning are evident. The “Top 10 Ways to Instill Customer Service into your Company” on page 147 is a checklist that could be utilized by anyone.

One of the most interesting comment in the book to me was the level of conviction Hsieh showed in developing Zappos core values  and his determination to ensure they weren’t just another un-utilized document. He states in the book, “We wanted a list of committable core values that we were willing to hire and fire on.” How many companies actually live their published values in this way?

The book is now available. I think it is worth reading.

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