Delivering Happiness

About a year ago I read Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. For those of you who don’t know who Tony Hsieh is he was the founder of LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft for $265 million at the age of 24, and then turned, an online shoe and clothing store, into a billion dollar company.

Impressive none the least, but what he is probably best known for has been his ability to build an unusually strong culture at Zappos, rendering the company a place on Fortune magazine’s annual “Best companies to work for”-list.

In Delivering Happiness, Hsieh describes The Zappos culture and its core values that represent how they run everything from HR activities to customer service.

  1. Deliver WOW through service – Doing above and beyond what is expected of you. What is done must have emotional impact on the receiver. Practically this means that the customers shouldn’t expect to get monetary compensation if unsatisfied with Zappos, instead they are compensated with exceptional service.
  2. Embrace and drive change – To always stay ahead of the competitors they embrace change and encourage it bottom-up. Change should come from the people who are closest to the customers.
  3. Create fun and little weirdness – Zappos value being fun and a little weird to give the company a unique personality. This encourages creativity and innovation throughout the organization.
  4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded – It is ok to make mistakes and everyone at Zappos are encourage to develop their decision making-skills. When dealing with customers this leads to better, faster and more personalized service.
  5. Pursue growth and learning – At Zappos they encourage growth and constant learning. You need to always challenge yourself in whatever position you have. They see problems as mile markers showing that they are growing as a company and becoming even better at what they do.
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication – At Zappos they value strong and honest relationships throughout the organisation and they see that as the company grows, communication becomes crucial to understand the big picture.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit – They encourage a positive team spirit and expect their leaders to be servant-leaders; they serve those they lead, removing obstacles  and enabling decisions to be made bottom-up.
  8. Do more with less – In order to stay ahead of the competitions they are always improving their business through incremental innovation and never being good enough.
  9. Be passionate and determined – They are able to be passionate, determined and optimistic as all employees believe in what Zappos are doing and where they are going. They share the same vision.
  10. Be humble – No matter what happens they are always treating each other with respect.

However, a culture like Zappos doesn’t just evolve by formulating core values. To make sure that all employees live and breathe these values, they have created a pipeline talent management structure and the employees are evaluated and promoted on how they live up to the core values. 

Tony HsiehMoreover, the onboarding process includes a few weeks in customer service dealing with what is most important for the company – the customers. After the introduction weeks all employees gets an offer, accept a cash check and quit or stay on and embrace the culture. In this way they ensure that the people that work at Zappos are there because they want to be at Zappos and not because of the money.

What Zappos and Hsieh have succeeded with is something that has proved to be extremely rare. They have developed a culture that ensures all employees are always delivering shoes and clothes with service as their top priority, which, by no coincidence, is their competitive advantage.

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