Social Media Case Studies, Book Reviews

Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed

Delivering Happiness Delivering Happiness Delivers IndeedYes, nice guys can finish first. This is the overarching theme of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness, a Path to Passion, Profits, and Purpose. Released today (I was given a free, preview copy), Delivering Happiness chronicles the rise of Zappos from a half-baked notion to multi-billion dollar pinnacle of high touch customer service.

The book is presented in three sections. In the first section, Hsieh recounts his personal story, including his early childhood and nascent entrepreneurial adventures, including a misguided effort at worm farming. The details of his somewhat haphazard education at Harvard, and his kismet kissed co-founding of LinkExchange (ultimately sold to Microsoft for $265 million) are downright fascinating.

As befits the CEO of a company built on a wide-open corporate culture, Hsieh is remarkably candid about his successes, failures, and fortunes throughout, and this first section is the strongest in the book. He writes in a breezy, accessible, invigorating style that makes Delivering Happiness the rare business book that is also a genuine page turner.

As a long-time Zappos customer, and admirer of Hsieh and his customer-first mantra, I thought I had a handle on this tale. But, I was shocked by the number of times that Zappos narrowly averted ruin in its early days. Hsieh and his co-founders’ went to truly extraordinary lengths to keep the company alive, including housing employees in their homes. Each harrowing near death of Zappos makes you cheer that much louder inside when the company eventually succeeds on a grand scale.

The middle section of the book is devoted to Zappos’ legendary corporate culture, especially its 10 core values. Hsieh is refreshingly candid in his admission that the core values were not created soon enough, and were partially developed as protection against the cultural malignancies that plagued LinkExchange. While Hsieh cautions that Zappos’ core values are not a playbook that can be copied by other companies (because they both shape and reflect the unique culture), you can’t help but wonder why more companies don’t try to adopt his concepts of building long-term value through the short-term smashing of middling customer expectations.

While interesting as a concept, the inclusion of employee stories to accompany each of the 10 core values unfortunately slows the momentum built in the book’s first third. The personification of the principles helps clarify how they are utilized day-to-day, but the shifting tonality that stems from multiple contributing authors inexorably weakens the focus and urgency of Delivering Happiness.

The third section of the book covers Zappos’ sale to Amazon.com (for $1.2 billion), and the founding of the Zappos Insights program (where companies can receive training on Zappos’ customer and culture-centric methods). This component is most noteworthy for Hsieh’s admission that the Zappos board of directors was unhappy with his metamorphosis toward long-term success at the expense of short-term profits. The word-for-word reprinting of Hsieh’s emails to employees regarding the Amazon acquisition are also priceless.

The book concludes with a few pages about the science of happiness, and how personal and business happiness can be inextricably linked. Hsieh acknowledges that the study of happiness is a personal hobby, and while his passion for the subject is apparent, a clear theme or call to action is largely absent.

And ultimately, that’s the challenge with Delivering Happiness. In parts, it’s one of the best business books I’ve ever read, but most of those are the elements that are driven by a narrative and timeline. And in truth, an entire book devoted to Hsieh and the history of Zappos would have been a terrific read.

And, a book devoted solely to Zappos’ philosophies and core values would also have been a terrific read.

But instead, we have a little bit of each, and unfortunately, 1 + 1 does not equal 3 in this circumstance. It doesn’t really feel to me like one book, but rather like parts of three books fused together.

A Lot of Lessons in Delivering Happiness

There are some excellent takeaways in Delivering Happiness, especially around the thin line between success and failure, how to treat business partners and vendors, and ways in which Zappos continues to build a family-like culture among hundreds (perhaps thousands) of employees. My favorite is the “Face Game” whereby every time an employee logs on to the Web, he or she is presented with a photo of another employee, and a list of names. Whether or not the employee guesses the correct identification, the bio of the team member is shown, building familiarity in the ranks. Brilliant. Also, the discussion of Zappos’ talent development and nurturing program (called Pipeline) is detailed and fascinating.

But ultimately, I finished Delivering Happiness wanting more. A lot more. A playbook. A mission. A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive, and that Tony Hsieh is a special person. Did Delivering Happiness rock me to my core? No. But the stories and nuggets of insight make it well worth the purchase price and then some.

Note too, the partnership between Delivering Happiness and Livestrong (they are trying to raise $33,333 to fight cancer). Donate just $33, and get a copy of the book, and an entry into a trip to NYC. Also, the official Web site at www.deliveringhappinessbook.com will be morphing soon to an online community where readers and others can share their stories and work together to create and spread happiness in the workplace and beyond. See you there.

(Tweet this review and you’re automatically entered to win a free copy of Delivering Happiness, courtesy of the author, and me)

Related
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  • http://twitter.com/annamarketave/status/15657760120 Anna Woolliscroft

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  • http://twitter.com/life_is_earth/status/15659667134 ~ Life_is_eARTh ~

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  • http://twitter.com/life_is_earth/status/15659667134 ~ Life_is_eARTh ~

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  • http://twitter.com/kathysacks/status/15660929838 Kathy Sacks

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  • http://twitter.com/kathysacks/status/15660929838 Kathy Sacks

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  • http://twitter.com/christelhall/status/15661924803 Christel Hall

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  • http://twitter.com/christelhall/status/15661924803 Christel Hall

    Thanks @jaybaer for this: My review of Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh of Zappos (his new book is out today): http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

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  • http://www.jimjacksonlive.com Jim Jackson

    I saw Tony speak at the CES 2010 show in Las Vegas. He was very passionate about happiness and creating a culture to support the vision. I talk about similar core values but he was the first one to embrace the values to the extreme commitment level. To make this work you need a leader who is willing to emotionally jump into the game and have an extreme commitment level.

  • http://twitter.com/redlincook/status/15663001399 Elise Redlin-Cook

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  • http://twitter.com/redlincook/status/15663001399 Elise Redlin-Cook

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  • http://twitter.com/paulalovell/status/15667783480 Paula Lovell

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  • http://twitter.com/bethharte/status/15673279935 Beth Harte

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  • http://www.Twitter.com/TheGirlPie @TheGirlPie

    Thanks for the terrificly useful review of a book I think I'll be reading now. (well, not NOW, but eventually.)

    Your assessment of and reaction to each section was very clear, giving a heads up of what to expect and what not to — your takeaways and cautions, even your editorial suggestions — all delivered with a direct, lean voice that I appreciate. After reading so many book reviews used by authors to show off their own vocabulary or choices, your approach and execution was a welcome relief.

    The additional business info about the book and Livestrong was a nice tag — thanks heaps for the good work –

    Your pal,
    ~GirlPie

  • http://twitter.com/kjjaims/status/15678926571 kjjaims

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  • http://twitter.com/daveimre/status/15701153503 Dave Imre

    Amazon/via @tompoe just delivered my copy of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s new book …good review by @jaybaer at http://bit.ly/dhDSeb #in

  • http://twitter.com/atimarketing/status/15704576090 ATI Attraction Mktg

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9IY3MI #Business

  • http://twitter.com/nateriggs/status/15708753614 Nate Riggs

    We all have sooo much to learn from @zapops (Nice take on the new book by @jaybaer) – http://ow.ly/1Vo9F

  • http://twitter.com/nateriggs/status/15708753614 Nate Riggs

    We all have sooo much to learn from @zapops (Nice take on the new book by @jaybaer) – http://ow.ly/1Vo9F

  • http://twitter.com/venson/status/15709248040 Venson Kuchipudi

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed – http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/mpkahuna7/status/15713532273 Michael Phares

    Zappos' CEO Tony Heieh's amazing book reviewed by @jaybaer: Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/dadosmarcompr/status/15713534307 Mike Dado Phares

    Zappos' CEO Tony Heieh's amazing book reviewed by @jaybaer: Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/internetcoachfr/status/15718935327 sadie harris

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9nlWoM

  • http://twitter.com/sadiemharris/status/15720200459 Sadie Harris

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9nlWoM

  • Michelle Corteggiano

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9IY3MI #Business

  • http://twitter.com/mcort/status/15747482846 mcort

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9IY3MI #Business

  • http://twitter.com/down2earth2/status/15748122398 Jill Nicholson

    RT @jaybaer: Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/lky64/status/15761756743 Lionel Lau Kuan Yew

    RT @jaybaer: Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/paigeholden/status/15787195243 PaigeHolden

    Your post timing is always impeccable for me. RT @jaybaer: Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/internetcoachfr/status/15793096850 sadie harris

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/az5qFw

  • http://twitter.com/internetcoachfr/status/15793096850 sadie harris

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/az5qFw

  • http://twitter.com/sadiemharris/status/15794075268 Sadie Harris

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/az5qFw

  • http://twitter.com/mmesocialmedia/status/15802494584 sadie harris

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/az5qFw

  • http://twitter.com/btdirectories/status/15876486547 BTCustomerstreet

    Awesome Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed – http://bit.ly/b2EbxR #BTCustomerstreet

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.usa-basketball-shoes.com air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://www.air-jordan-7.com/ air jordan 7

    A mantra. Perhaps Hsieh is just too unassuming and humble to kick us in the collective ass in the pages of his book, or perhaps he’s saving the tough love for the next one. Either way, reading Delivering Happiness will convince you that there is a better way, that success and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive

  • http://twitter.com/tena_hartwig/status/16234904074 Tena Hartwig

    I can't wait to read this book by @zappos CEO! RT @jaybaer: Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/btdirectories/status/16387704923 btdirectories

    Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed – http://bit.ly/b2EbxR #BTCustomerstreet

  • http://twitter.com/btdirectories/status/16409166490 BTCustomerstreet

    Nice – Delivering Happiness Delivers Indeed – http://is.gd/cMAmz #BTCustomerstreet

  • http://twitter.com/charliecurve/status/16661183363 Charlie Wollborg

    I like @jaybaer's balanced review of @Zappos new book Delivering Happiness. http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/charliecurve/status/16661183363 Charlie Wollborg

    I like @jaybaer's balanced review of @Zappos new book Delivering Happiness. http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/charliecurve/status/16661183363 Charlie Wollborg

    I like @jaybaer's balanced review of @Zappos new book Delivering Happiness. http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/turbobrown/status/16661920543 Andy “Turbo&quo

    .@jaybaer's balanced review of @Zappos new book Delivering Happiness. http://bit.ly/9EVkbN (via @CharlieCurve)

  • http://twitter.com/lorensan/status/16688633883 Loren Sanders

    RT @CharlieCurve: I like @jaybaer's balanced review of @Zappos new book Delivering Happiness. http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • http://twitter.com/lorensan/status/16688633883 Loren Sanders

    RT @CharlieCurve: I like @jaybaer's balanced review of @Zappos new book Delivering Happiness. http://bit.ly/9EVkbN

  • letstalkandchat

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out: http://www.mikelmurphy.com/easy-info-product-site-system/