Most of you have probably heard of Zappos, the online shoe store that offers free returns (!) on all of their products. What most of you probably don’t know, however, is that Zappos CEO Tony Hseih has been quietly building his company into a business that people are flocking to work for, even in entry-level customer service jobs. I had seen some TV spots on Zappos culture, and at one point saw some footage of what their office space looks like (hint: super fun!) and I got the feeling that what was going on at Zappos was a little bit different than ordinary cubicle-land corporate America.
So when I was offered an advance copy of Zappos’ CEO Tony Hseih’s new book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose”, I jumped at the chance to learn more about Hseih and why his company was so different.
I absolutely loved this book, and I feel strongly that it should be required reading for any entrepreneur or manager so they can learn about how to recruit and retain great employees, how to cultivate magnetic company culture, and how to make customer service their company’s #1 priority without coming across as smarmy or car salesman-y.
Hsieh’s book begins with the story of how he became the man who runs Zappos, beginning with his early entrepreneurial efforts as a kid (worm farming, anyone??). Then he talks about launching Zappos, and how hard he and his team had to work, month by month and year by year, to keep the company alive until they could receive investor funding or become profitable (or both, preferably). And it was truly a struggle for a long time. He describes the journey of going through huge problems. What happens when the company you hired to do your shipping – presumably one of the most important elements in an online business – is doing a lousy job and is hurting your company image? You take over shipping yourself, and you bootstrap it until you can find a good process!
Here’s what struck me the most about this book:
- Hsieh and his team, when considering who to hire for any Zappo’s position, whether it’s an entry-level customer support person or a vice-president, hire for culture first and skills second. If the person they are considering hiring is not the right personality or culture fit for the team or for Zappos as a whole, they won’t get hired, no matter how good their skills are. The Zappos teams believes they can teach the skills – but they can’t teach personality. Using that policy to do all their recruiting ensures that every employee they hire will be a great fit for the company and will contribute to their overall culture.
- Hsieh’s book inspired me, completely and utterly, to make customer service the first priority in my business. He has a wonderful way of writing about giving your customer what Zappos calls a “WOW experience” every time they interact with the company – whether it’s on the phone, over email, or in person. If you’re a business owner, how does this idea inspire you? What changes might you make to your business processes in order to provide a “WOW” experience to your client? Zappos example: Zappos provides FREE overnight shipping as an occasional surprise to some of their special customers. Real-life example: Perhaps you can make sure that every email inquiry gets answered, without exception, in 24 hours or less. What are some other ideas?
Part of the magic of Zappos – and the reason you feel (when you’re reading this book) as if you’d like to pack your bags and move to Vegas to work for them – is that the founders of Zappos were very intentional during every step of their journey about creating the company culture. They wanted to create a place where people wanted to work, a place people would consider more than just a job and a cube where they sit every day. They wanted their employee to think of Zappos as their family, and their efforts are clearly paying off. And what’s great about this book is that Hseih gives advice on creating an intential culture for your company – one that fits YOUR employees, not his. I loved that section of this book, as I enjoyed the rest of it.
For a jolt of enthusiasm and positive energy to your day (and to your life), I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose. Then hang on to your hats for a real WOW experience of your own!