Delivering Happiness – A Second Look at What Drives Zappos Success

When it first came out in 2010, I read Tony Hsieh’s, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. So after I learned that we had a copy of the book to give away (more on that later), I thought I’d see how well the book has held up almost a year and a half later. My big question: should you still want to read this book if you haven’t, and if you have, should you read it again?

More than a Biography

I originally picked up the book thinking it’s about (confession: I love Zappos). So my first time through, I was a bit taken aback at how much of the first half focused on Hsieh’s life (if you don’t know, he’s the CEO of Zappos). On review, it now makes much more sense and offers a valuable lesson.

We may not have reached our personal Zappos moment yet, but we’re still presented with opportunities along the way to learn more and refine our ideas. I strongly suspect, for example, that if Hsieh hadn’t been through LinkExchange, there wouldn’t be Zappos. And perhaps that’s a takeaway we need to be reminded of more often. Despite our rush to some magical moment, it’s foolish to assume that we don’t need these other experiences to make that moment possible.

Even Great Ideas Stumble

Zappos wasn’t an immediate success from top to bottom. Everything from securing money to managing inventory hit serious snags along the way. While most companies experience similar problems, Delivering Happiness provides clear context for what it once was compared to the company that bought for $1.2 billion. Hsieh’s honesty about what they tried, what worked and what didn’t, and recognition that they needed to own it, literally, are lessons any entrepreneur will value.

Building Customer Loyalty

A big part of what makes Zappos so distinctive comes from its commitment to customer service. While other companies talk about customer service, Zappos makes a point of being about customer service. I can confirm this goal based on personal experience. Every contact I’ve had with Zappos leaves me thinking, “What an amazing company. I’ll definitely buy from them again.” Corny, but true.

So I was intrigued to reread the book’s section on Zappos’ core values. In some ways, the values are specific to Zappos, but I think Hsieh’s bigger point that a company can benefit in big ways by having core values is often overlooked. If pressed, can you list 10, even five, values that drive your company? What, if anything, makes your company distinct from its competitors? In business, maybe knowing who you are and what you stand for can be the very thing that makes you distinct.

What Will You Do?

In the final chapter, Hsieh tackles happiness and what it means to be happy. It’s not a long section or particularly detailed. In fact, Hsieh points to a lot of work done by others on the subject. But it does demonstrate a curiosity that I think is missing from the general approach to business. Hsieh started looking at happiness because he believed it held relevance to the ongoing success of his company. It seems like other companies could benefit, too, by looking at subjects that on the surface appear less than connected.

Some companies seem to thrive on innovation and look for new ways to do things. Other companies get so focused on moving the whos-its and whats-its from point A to point B that the process becomes central and all important. Reviewing this section again reminded me that our approach to business is a choice. We don’t have to do it the Zappos way, but we’re incredibly foolish if we fail to learn the lessons.

A Book in Review

For a business book, Delivering Happiness wears surprisingly well over a year later. In large part it comes from the personal stories of Zappos employees. This is not a book that walks you through how to create a business plan or how to set up a fulfillment center. It is a book that underscores the value of what makes a company work and grow: its people.

If you haven’t read the book, it still remains a source of insight about why one particular business works so well with lessons you can apply. If you have read the book, you will want to return to remind yourself that business can work in new and better ways. Sometimes we need that reminder when we’re surrounded by a lot of the crap that passes for business as usual today. We don’t have to stick to the same models to achieve success. We can create our own. And maybe that’s the biggest lesson of all.

On Tuesday, will host a book giveaway for a copy of Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness. Make sure you’re follow @revenews on Twitter for details.

About Britt Raybould

Britt Raybould has a passion for telling stories and she specializes in helping companies figure out how to tell their own stories. Through her firm, Write Bold, she shows companies how storytelling can define them, both to their customers and within their industry. When she remembers to, Britt blogs on her personal sites at and You can find Britt on Twitter @britter.

Twitter: britter

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