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Tony Hsieh, “Delivering Happiness”

April 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

Delivering Happiness

Tony Hsieh

Business Plus 2010

reviewed by Gary Levinson

WOW! Tony Hsieh’s life in the nascent eCommerce sector, as the CEO of Zappos, is fun to read about; it’s a vicarious thrill. This book centers around the history of his company seen through his eyes. He conveys interesting ideas about company culture, which he says needs to be based on real easy-to-understand company values, and customer service. Zappos tries to WOW! their customers with outstanding customer service. He gives one example of a colleague calling Zappos, an online shoe and apparel retailer, to ask for help in ordering a pizza, and the colleague gets the names of 5 open pizza delivery companies. A WOWing customer service must have it’s price, though. It’ll be interesting to see how Zappos deals with this as time goes on as part of the Amazon empire.

The book has many thought-provoking ideas and quotations (“Without conscious and deliberate effort, inertia always wins.”), and inspires much further reading of the titles, authors, and subjects he mentions. Less appealing was the apparent paid placement by an energy drink. It’s hard to understand why it’s there, and if it wasn’t paid, what was he thinking? Also, a concise list of the required reading for Zappos employees is lacking.

The final section of the book is about happiness in general, also called positive psychology. I found this a very engaging introduction, though it seems to border on the evangelistic. In today’s world the word happiness has too much of the transitory in it; maybe other words, such as joy, contentment, or something else might be better. He asks readers to ask themselves “What is your goal in life” and after they think about this, then: “Why?” The answers to these questions can help to orient or re-orient one’s direction in life.

In any case, this is an enjoyable, quick and easy read about Zappos, company culture, customer service, and happiness. I recommend it without hesitation.

Now, this is where a traditionally book review would end. However, in this age of converging media, there is a list of web sites at the back of the book. When one tries to explore these further, one discovers that they no longer exist. When one looks for more information about Tony Hsieh’s current undertakings, or the current situation in Zappos management, one comes up empty. The 6th core value is “Build open and Honest relationships with Communication”, in this book, he stresses over-communication, and an Ask Anything culture. As I write this it is somewhat less than 5 years since the book came out, this smacks of not doing what you preach, but then I reread core value number 2: “Embrace and Drive Change.” It just doesn’t seem for the better.

reviewed by Gary Levinson

review © copyright Levinson 2015