Delivering happiness, humor and inspiration

Picture of book coverToday marks the launch of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. I was sent two advance copies and was asked to give an honest review of the book and give one copy away. I was not told what to say or paid for this effort. And, if you comment on this blog post, you will have a chance to win one of my advance copies. So, let’s get to it.

Who is Tony Hsieh?

Some of you may not know who Tony Hsieh (pronounced ‘shay’) is, and that’s ok. You don’t have to in order to enjoy the book. He’s the CEO of Zappos, a company he got involved with in 1999, shortly after selling his own company, LinkExchange, to Microsoft for $265 million in 1998. He was only 24 years old.

Delivering happiness

In Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh shows you what it would be like if a kid ran the world—a smart kid. Reading his book is like being on a rollercoaster ride. Half of me thinks, “How is this guy not completely broke?” and the other half marvels at his dedication and pure genius and sees exactly why he is so successful.

His story made me laugh out loud at times and shake my head in wonder at other times. Most of all, for me, it delivered inspiration.

It’s inspiring to see that a CEO can run a company based on real values, not boilerplate ones that are made for show. In a time where more and more companies take advantage of their employees, who work in fear of losing their job in a bad economy, it’s refreshing to see a company that gets it right.

And it’s proof that you don’t have to do things the way everyone else does to be successful.

Zappos Core Values

Do your company's values look like this?

Path to profits, passion and purpose

Tony’s path started on a worm farm at the age of 9 and is now at a company he helped build that’s making over $1 billion in sales a year and was just acquired by Amazon. Why wouldn’t you read this book?

At the start of the book when Tony said he insisted on writing the book himself, I rolled my eyes and braced myself. As a writer, I was skeptical. But it couldn’t have been written by anyone else. Once you read the book, you’ll see why. Tony is genuine and didn’t want one word to sound like it didn’t come from him.

Except for a few spots of awkward writing and redundancy—and an ending that while matching his intention, strays from the path—the book is written well. And it’s a fast, informative and entertaining read.

Who should read this book?

Many great lessons pop up throughout the book. The lessons are for businesses, for businesspeople, for adults and for kids.

Adults and children will both laugh at how Tony recorded himself playing the piano and violin and replayed it at times to get out of practicing. Really, why not give your kids an inspiring story of how an energetic, creative kid found happiness and great success at an early age?

Cynical people might not like the book. Positive quotes appear throughout and Tony can lay the happiness stuff on a little thick at times. But that is the point.

Tony Hsieh is an idealist, a venture capitalist, a realist, an adventurist, an entrepreneur, and now an author. Most of all, he’s a fearless humanist. That is what makes him and this book special.

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What do you think? Leave a comment and your name will go into a random drawing in which the winner will receive an advance copy of the book. If you want to buy the published version, go here. (I do not get any money for referring you here.) If you’re feeling brave, send a copy to the CEO of your company.

The simple truth about Google’s home page

What makes Google’s home page a lesson for businesses everywhere? Probably a lot of things, but I’m focusing on three because keeping it simple is the point.

Pac-Man Google doodle

But first, how many of you played the mini Pac-Man game Google converted their logo to Friday and Saturday? I did on both days. And I left smiling. (See where I’m going with this yet?)

How many times do you walk away from an interaction with a company or website smiling?

How many times do your customers walk away from your company or your website smiling?

For Google, this type of positive experience stems from their  “Ten Things” philosophy. But before you start thinking of 10 things your company should be doing, let’s just start with the 3 lessons you can learn from Google’s home page. (#1 comes directly from Google’s own list.)

1. Focus on the user (customer) and all else will follow.

On their website, Google says, “We’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible.” Even better, they add that they “take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line.”  (Ah, refreshing!)

So many companies serve their own profit first and put their customers further down on the list. But if you’re not serving your customers, they will go away—and so will your profit.

Is your number one priority your customers? Don’t just say it is, because if it’s not, they will know—and they will go.

2. Keep it simple.

How can you focus on your customers? Make it easy for customers to find or get what they need.

Google has the cleanest home page around. What are you there to do? Search. Google doesn’t get in your way.

Think about your own website or your store. How easy is it for customers to find what they need?

How do you speak to your customers? Do you tell them they can leverage the bandwidth of your expertise to maximize their optimum experience? Or do you tell them they can use what you know to their advantage?

Simplicity sells. Ask Nike. (Or, better yet, read Jack Trout’s The Power of Simplicity.)

3. Remember the fun.

Be creative! No matter what industry you’re in (well, almost), fun can boost your brand. Why is Google better than any other search engine? There are a lot of reasons, but one is that they make it so that people look forward to going to their site.

Google doodles (their word for their different logo designs) have always been a hit. I know I look forward to seeing what they will think of next. Google doodles celebrate all sorts of occasions in countries worldwide.

Cookie monster Google doodle

Simple fun, like this, makes people smile, and incorporating fun into your business can:

  • Make you more memorable
  • Put customers at ease
  • Promote a positive experience

Isn’t that what you want?

Remember this: The atmosphere you promote internally in your company, leaks out and infects your customers. Laughter and fun are just as contagious as misery and negativity. Which are your customers walking away with?

Ask Zappos how much positivity and creativity pay off. Why are they known for excellent customer service? Because they make it a priority and they treat their employees well. In fact, their philosophy, like Google’s, is based on 10 things too.

Oh yeah, both of these companies make billions—but if you want to argue and go a different way, be my guest. I mean, who wants a billion dollars, right?

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Speaking of Zappos, don’t forget, I will be posting a review of CEO Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, June 7th. I was sent two advance copies, so I will be giving away one to a lucky reader. Stay tuned!