I had the pleasure of attending Tony Hsieh’s book signing for his latest book, “Delivering Happiness”. Frank Gruber, co-producer of Digital Capital Week, served as the moderator for the event. During its opening week, “Delivering Happiness” debuted at #1 on Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble. The book mainly discusses how to better create customer satisfaction and how his company (Zappos.com) delivers happiness.
Mr. Hsieh started a pizza making business in college with his roommate. After graduation, the two friends started LinkExchange. While they had fun with the company, employees were working around the clock, and it came to a point where Tony dreaded coming to work. In 1999, LinkExchange was sold to Microsoft for $265 million. (Yes, you read correctly-265 MILLION DOLLARS!) He decided to sell the company as the culture went downhill. The employees were qualified; they just were not good for the company culture. In 2005 when Tony became the CEO of Zappos.com, he wanted to build a brand that focused on customer service. Within 4 years, Zappos became the #1 online shoe retailer. Tony shared that the quality of great companies are a very strong culture and having a concept of a higher purpose. At Zappos, they have 10 core values, also known as commitable values, meaning that people can be hired or fired based on those values. Zappos.com also looks out for its employees by providing a comprehensive benefits package and encouraging entry-level hires to work on their personal and professional growth. It’s Mr. Hsieh’s goal that these new hires can reach senior management level within 5 years. This young entrepreneur believes it is possible to make customers happy, employees happy, and raise a profit in a successful business.
Mr. Hsieh took the time to answer a few questions from audience members. He was very forthright and honest with his answers as well, which was very refreshing coming from a CEO of a major company, as one attendee pointed out. He admitted that his biggest failure was that he hired people to quickly and was slow to fire them, when those should be reversed. He also admitted that he should have shared his core values on Day 1 instead of waiting 4 or 5 years to share that information with employees. Another tidbit Mr. Hsieh pointed out was that he encourages his senior level management team to socialize with their employees outside of the workplace. His experience has shown teams become more productive by increasing their out of work socializing by 10-20%. Free copies of “Delivering Happiness” were given to all registered guests; for a donation of $20 to LiveStrong, Mr. Hsieh would even autograph your book! I had an enjoyable time at the this event and even live-Tweeted from my seat at George Washington University. One quote that will stay with me for awhile was, “It’s better for co-workers to become friends than friends to become co-workers” meaning it’s not always a good business practice to hire your friend just because they are your friend. To get more information from Mr. Hsieh purchase the book or visit the book’s site at http://www.deliveringhappinesbook.com. I know I cannot wait to delve into my copy. As a budding entrepreneur I would love to hear more of his suggestions on how to create and retain a successful business, be happy, and ensure your employees stay happy. Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.