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Pulse Book Club – Vol. 5 – Delivering Happiness

Delivering Happiness by the late Tony Hsieh tells the story of Zappos, the online footwear retailer that was acquired by Amazon in 2009, one of Amazon’s first acquisitions that began their pivot from a media retailer to the behemoth conglomerate it is today.

After selling out of the first company he founded when the culture became unbearable, Hsieh used those funds to found a company that would retain the culture and values that Hseih was convinced would create incredible value for both employees and customers.

Zappos became one of the first online retailers to nudge their way into the crowds brick-and-mortar retail space by offering a massively diverse array of shoes and by focusing massive amounts of time, energy, and money on perfecting the customer experience.

Here are three takeaways from the “Delivering Happiness” that can benefit businesses large and small.

 


Great Culture = Happy Employees = Happy Customers

Tony Hsieh and his team were adamant about creating a healthy environment where every member of every team could simultaneously enjoy their work, without sacrificing the companies obsession with the customer experience. The culture of Zappos was built around trusting everyone in the company to serve the customer first, and do everything else 2nd.

There are plenty of stories about Zappos reps spending hours on the phone giving tips and recommendations to customers who were curious about visiting Las Vegas, where Zappos HQ was located, or helping a customer find a place to order take-out after their hotel restaurant closed in an unfamiliar city.

Zappos employees felt empowered by the culture at Zappos , knowing that they could go above and beyond, using their own best judgement without fearing repercussions for not adhering to policies or norms.

By making every single employee completely aware of the core mission of Zappos, and giving every member of their team the freedom to be themselves within their position, Zappos created a family-like atmosphere within the organization that quickly extended out to their customers.

The sales process becomes so much easier when you have existing customers raving about your service on every street corner. Zappos recognized this reality and did everything in their power to delight their customers.

 

Don’t Outsource Your Differentiating Factors

At one point in the Zappos journey, Hsieh describes how he needed to take a leap of faith to trust a third party distribution network in order to expand their reach and continue to provide 2-day shipping to certain regions of the U.S. Despite a huge, comprehensive business agreement, it became clear very quickly that the 3rd-party organization would not be able to provide Zappos customers with the same service that Zappos promised.

Hsieh realized, as he was terminating the relationship with the distribution company, that it was a mistake to outsource something that was so important to the value that Zappos was providing to customers. Claiming to care deeply about 2-day shipping being on-time while also trusting someone with no vested interest in the long-term viability of the company’s business model didn’t make since to Hsieh, and he wouldn’t make that mistake again.

 

Hire and Fire on Your Values

Zappos has 10 core values.

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

After someone was interviewed to confirm that they had the qualifications and expertise to perform in a job role, the interview then went on to the culture stage, where a committee would ask questions based on these 10 core values to confirm that a potential new hire would align their strengths with the future of the company.

Hsieh describes how he would rather hire a “role player” that aligned seamlessley with the core values of the company rather than an “all-star” who only aligned with half of them. By assuring that any new members of the Zappos team brought their unique strengths to the table, while also valuing and prioritizing similar things to the rest of the team, he was able to continue to develop and improve on the organizational culture that grew them into one of the most successful e-commerce businesses up to that point.

 

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