Monday, April 14, 2014

About the author - Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Came across this article that I found interesting: - I'm gonna get this book!

Zappos, the online shoe retailer
CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, book, “Delivering Happiness:  A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

The son of two Taiwan­ese immigrants, he was raised in Northern California and spent his early years experi­menting with entrepreneurship, selling earthworms, greeting cards, and later, as a student at Harvard, pizza. His first business after college was an Internet advertising startup called LinkExchange, cofounded in 1996 with his friend Sanjay Madan. They sold it two years later for $265 million. Hsieh, 24 at the time, was rich, but he realized that he hadn’t been happy.

Hsieh describes how LinkExchange’s rapid growth led to a dissolution of its values and a lack of community. Too many people, he concluded, were motivated by money and short-term reward. Too few were having fun. For him, going to work had become a drag. For the company, he wrote, it was “like death by a thousand paper cuts.”

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, 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

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
  • The Zappos hiring and training program – examples and details
  • If you focus on the “Wow” experience, eventually the press will pick up on it
1. urging employees to form personal connections with customers
2. compiling an annual Culture Book in which workers share what Zappos means to them
3. providing everything from a nap room to frequent parades.

He seems, in his mind, to be carefully tracking what everyone around him is doing, how they contribute to the overall plan. During the course of a couple of days, Hsieh intro­duces me to probably 40 people, often while he’s standing in the glaring sunlight on the Fremont Street sidewalk, never once forgetting a name or a critical detail, never failing to emphasize both the whimsy and the ambition of his people and their plans.

Hsieh is a believer in the idea, popular in organizational psychology, that random, unplanned interactions between people often yield the most innovative results. His life, as I witness it, involves the same raft of scheduled business meetings you’d expect any busy CEO to have. (Hsieh’s daily agenda, along with those of most Downtown Project team members and even visiting guests, is rigorously maintained by one of several “time ninjas” on staff.) But those meetings almost always take place in a bar or a coffee shop or an open workspace, leaving plenty of room for casual bump-ins and idle chat on the edges. I see him kick off meetings with whiskey shots. I see him rush off to get his head shaved in front of hundreds of Zappos employees for the company’s “bald and blue” mass-shaving event held with the Blue Man Group. More than once, I watch him rearrange other people’s dinner plans so that new parties can be added to the table. Or he may expand his own plans, collecting tagalongs as he moves around until, by the end of the night, what might have started as an intimate get-together now includes a wandering flock of 20 or more.

Finding Happiness
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.

he doesn’t speak much, that he maintains an alert but unreadable expression, 
tendency to hang back and observe

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