Book Club #19: Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh

happinessMany business books offer solutions or systems or case studies to make their point.  Very few offer a simple narrative with lessons gleaned on the journey.

Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, happens to be one of those books.  

It had no agenda other than telling the story of Zappos, and yet, when you tell the story of a company that gets acquired for a billion dollars in stock by Amazon ten years after its founding, no agenda is really necessary.  

The journey itself is a compelling narrative.

Pay Employees To Quit

Hiring is such a challenging part of any business that one would think that once you’ve got a new hire, you want to do your best to keep him/her.  Zappos agrees, but adds a twist.

During the training process, they offered a $2,000 bounty to anyone who quits during a certain time period, in addition to getting all pay/vacation time accrued.  

This worked so well in making sure the best people stayed (and the few short-sighted ones left) that Amazon created their own program after acquiring Zappos called Pay to Quit. This program allows full-time associates to take a $5,000 one time bonus to leave the company, but it means they can never work for Amazon again.

Instead of the focus being on bringing on warm bodies, it was on bringing on long-term players, part of a team, part of a family.

Customer Service That Matters

More and more companies are making it difficult for you to contact them if you have problems, questions, or just feedback.  Zappos chooses to go the other way, by plastering their 24/7 telephone number at the top of their website.

In the book Tony mentions at the time of publishing their longest customer call was 6 hours long.  They chose to focus on the relationship with each individual customer.

And when you are focused on relationships, you aren’t focused on metrics like quick turnover times on calls. You want every part of the buying experience to be fun and delightful, and Zappos lives that.

Giving employees the freedom to really represent the brand, as a partner of sorts, inspires them and rubs off onto customers, who go on to become loyal customers, right after they rave about you on social media.

A Culture on Display to the World

Tony would make a point of posting internal company emails and memos to a public blog. He did this only moments after sending them out to the company.  

He also compiled a culture book each year which was printed and distributed to all employees and was then made digitally available to the public.  

The only rule was that no one at the company could censor what each employee wrote. (which, by the way, was their own personal experience of what Zappos company culture was to them).

Culture can’t be made.  It can only grow by the environment created by the work you do together.  Being unafraid of sharing only adds sunshine to an already fertile project.