June 11, 2010

Does ‘Delivering Happiness’ Deliver?

Like many women, I am a fool for shoes. I dress from the ground up, and I had an intimate acquaintance with Manolo long before Sex and the City ever aired. Naturally, I'm a big Zappos fan. Free shipping! Free returns! Delightful customer service! And a kabillion styles – including the adorable flats I’m wearing as I write.

So when I got the opportunity to review Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness, I took it, even though I find most business books tedious. (I’ll move my own damn cheese, thank you.)

Hsieh begins with his personal history, which from early on showed considerable entrepreneurial flair, and some of the tunnel vision that often accompanies it – he writes that he couldn’t see how learning to play a musical instrument “would result in any type of benefit that was scalable,” and I found myself wondering if that was a clever pun or execu-speak. I’m guessing the latter, because while Hsieh tells many good stories, he did not use a ghostwriter, and his prose, while serviceable (as one would hope from a Harvard grad), is flat, and suffers by contrast with segments of the book that were written by others.

It is, however, unlikely that you’ll read another business book in which the leader of a multi-billion dollar business confesses to his Red Bull addiction, explains how he got one of his most profound insights about what makes for a good work environment while at a rave, and shows so much passion for what he does.

Creating a work environment that empowers employees to do and be their best, and in doing so, fosters good relationships with customers and vendors, is what this book is really about. There’s a list of Zappos core values, discussions of how they were arrived at and implemented, and illustrative stories by many who’ve walked miles in Zappos shoes, as well as a chapter on happiness studies.

Hsieh comes across as smart, sincere and likable. And his success is undeniable: in October 2009, Amazon acquired (he prefers the term “married”) Zappos in a transaction valued at $1.2 billion. It turns out that happiness, at least, is scalable.

If you’re going to read a business book that will help you think differently, and you have a low tolerance for the fatuous, I’d recommend this one. (The book is currently #1 on Amazon, so others share my opinion.) And to do my part for your happiness, I’ll give one reader a free advance copy, cleverly supplied by the Delivering Happiness team (as was the review copy). The first person to comment with one way you’ve created happiness at work will win it. Please include your Twitter or Facebook contact info so I can get your mailing address.

1 comment:

  1. It was my birthday, Halloween 1985. Our year-old technology start up had run out of steam having lost 7 million dollar capital investment and an inability to get a Texas billionaire and Congressman Mickey Leland (sadly lost since in a plane accident) to invest. I was the only one of the 18 or so employees to stay late into the evening on the last day helping the CEO (who had become an object of indignation and blame) to pack up. It made him happy. 25 years later he called me on my 50th b-day and read a poem he had written for me (over the phone and mike) to the 80 or so people that gathered. The happiness we give we get back.