Book Review: Delivering Happiness by Zappos’ Tony Hsieh

Transparency. Alignment. Relationship building. Culture.

Many companies struggle to incorporate today’s new business memes. But some companies have embodied these ideas for years. Zappos, the online shoe store known for its tribal culture and customer service, is one of those companies.

Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh, tells his story in Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. The book covers both Tony’s personal entrepreneurial story and that of his company, Zappos. Delivering Happiness offers a feel-good look at the passion, culture, and, yes, happiness that could drive the next generation of companies.

Inside the Book

Delivering Happiness starts with a look at Tony’s childhood. Like many of today’s successful businesspeople, Tony was an entrepreneur, innovator, and achiever from a young age. You follow Tony into high school, through his Harvard undergrad education, and then through the inception and buyout of his first major company, LinkXChange, which made him millions.

After selling LinkXChange, Tony dabbled in new projects, from poker to investing, before realizing that building companies was his passion. At this point, he jumped into a young, struggling Zappos, betting most of his fortune on the company’s success. After several trials, Tony and his team get Zappos off the ground and growing.

The second part of the book leaves Tony’s personal biography aside to focus more on Zappos’ inner workings. Zappos has three priorities: customer service, culture, and employee training and development. Tony describes how Zappos uses each, and how each is a competitive advantage. Then, the same chapter goes through each of Zappos’ ten core values in detail, with employee anecdotes along the way.

The third part of the book describes the public relations and speaking lessons Tony learned, as well as what alignment means to Zappos. It then covers the Amazon buyout. Tony finishes the book with a chapter on happiness, what it means for both humans and business, and the questions you should ask yourself in order to find it in your own life and career.

Thoughts

If you’re a regular business book reader, some of the concepts inside of Delivering Happiness—building on your core values, learning what to outsource, impressing customers through service—won’t sound new. The character-building trials Tony describes are also a theme of any biographical business book.

Yet Delivering Happiness is timely. Buzzwords like alignment and culture are smoking hot in today’s business language. Zappos is emblematic of many such “conscious” qualities. If you haven’t yet immersed yourself in new corporate culture, Tony and Zappos’ story is a fun place to start.

Tony’s verve, passion, and openness also differentiate Delivering Happiness from your average business biography. He describes a wide array of experiences, including having an epiphany at a warehouse rave. Tony’s engaging writing style makes the book feel conversational, even in some of the more technical, business-y sections.

Should You Read It?

If you’re already familiar with today’s new corporate qualities, and are scratching your head about whether to pick up this particular book, I’d say skip it. I found it good, but not mind-blowing. Nothing really stuck with me after I closed it, because I’d learned about the importance of spectacular customer service and company culture elsewhere.

Still, I do think that some people would benefit. Delivering Happiness would make a great starter business book for Gen Y-ers. Tony sounds like a Red Bull-chugging, whip-smart kid at heart. Today’s 20-somethings can probably relate much more closely to him than to old-school titans like Jack Welch. I also recommend Delivering Happiness if you’re curious about Zappos (or a fan), or you want a primer on today’s new-school business qualities.

Disclosure: We received a free promotional copy of Delivering Happiness.

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Comments

  1. Norm Hill's Gravatar Comment by Norm Hill on June 8th, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I’ll probably pick this up. I’m a long time zappos fan and it sounds like a good read even if it has a lot of business things I’ve heard elsewhere.

  2. Hun Boon's Gravatar Comment by Hun Boon on June 9th, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Great summary of the contents.

    Like you, I received a free copy of the book to review. But I had many issues with his book. At the end of the day, it’s a fun read but I wouldn’t take what he says too seriously.

  3. Ian@ Personal Development's Gravatar Comment by Ian@ Personal Development on June 9th, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for the review. I saw this book the other day. I think I’ll pick it up as I don’t know much about Tony and Zappos but have been influenced by the buzz and publicity around them.

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