Business Strategy

Unleashing Happiness: A Trailblazer's Guide to Success

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh: A Guide to Joyful Success in Business and Life - Book Summary



Chebrolu Rahul


Author Bio:

Rahul is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) program at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. He wants to start his own business after completing his education

The writer has provided a review of Tony Hsieh's "A Guide to Joyful Success in Business and Life," driven by an interest in embarking on the journey of starting a personal business venture.

To accomplish this goal, it is imperative to understand the initial steps to be taken to tackle challenges effectively. Gleaning wisdom from seasoned professionals is believed to significantly ease and enhance the learning process. Consequently, this book emerges as an invaluable resource for acquiring insights into these critical facets of business success.

Entrepreneurs are born, not made

Tony Hsieh is a testimonial to the above statement. At every stage of his life and the decisions he has taken along with facing numerous challenges in his first business venture- Zappos, not giving up at any point in time, rejecting various offers in LinkExchange (his business venture), and investing everything that he had in Zappos, shows his entrepreneurial spirit and passion for business.

He had a natural talent for entrepreneurship, a trait that can neither be imitated nor developed easily through experience. This aspect of Tony Hsieh is vividly captured in this book.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, written by Tony Hsieh, was published in 2010 by Grand Central Publications. The achievements of this 290-page non-fiction book are:

#1 on the New York Times Bestseller list

#1 on the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list

Anthony Hsieh, born in Urbana, Illinois to Richard and Judy Hsieh, had two younger brothers, Andy and David. He completed high school at Branson School and graduated from Harvard University with a degree in computer science. Despite his academic background, his interest lay in starting his own business.

After a brief stint at Oracle Corporation, Tony Hsieh founded LinkExchange Company in 1996, which he later sold to Microsoft for $265 million in November 1998. He then turned into a venture capitalist and became the CEO of Zappos. He served as the CEO for two decades, elevating the company from its inception to a leading position in the industry.

In 2007, he earned a spot on Fortune Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list, celebrating him as one of the most influential young business leaders. Unfortunately, Tony Hsieh passed away on November 27, 2020.

The target audience for this book includes:

1) Aspiring entrepreneurs - This book will motivate aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their passion. Tony Hsieh talks about his experience of starting his own business, the things he learned from his mistakes, and how he tackled the problems.

2) Entrepreneurs - This book serves as a motivation for entrepreneurs to change their way of doing things. This also includes giving importance to culture and customer experience. Tony Hsieh mentions what he did to take his company to a very different level from what he had envisioned.

3) Employees: This book will help and motivate employees regarding how to adapt to the company culture and work hard to achieve success in sales. Most of the employees are very happy and enjoy their work. They have faith in the top executive management. For example: When the company planned to shift its headquarters from one state to another, most of the employees were ready to relocate with their families. They did it because they had trust in the management and the business.

This book aims to illuminate key moments and milestones along the author's journey, tracing the steps he took toward his destination and discovering how to find happiness in business and life.

The author decided to write this book to help people avoid making some of the same mistakes that he had made. He also hopes that this book will serve as an encouragement to establish businesses as well as entrepreneurs who want to defy conventional wisdom and create their path to success.

Journey of the book

The author started pursuing his passion for business at the early age of 9 by selling worms and continued by running garage sales, delivering newspapers, and selling his newsletter, Button Seller. The above highlights Tony’s entrepreneurial journey in his childhood.

Selling buttons became his family business and generated a steady income. In middle school, Hsieh passed on his button-making business to his younger brothers, turning it into a family enterprise. High school brought new opportunities, with Hsieh volunteering as a tour guide and working in various capacities, including as a video game tester and later as a computer programmer.

He worked in nine different ventures throughout his educational journey. Most of them didn’t fetch him much, but the practical knowledge and experience were top-notch. Then comes the turning point of the author’s career—the creation of LinkExchange. Tony received an offer of $1 million within 4 months, and $20 million from Yahoo within 9 months after the company's inspection, which shows the potential of the business.

However, Tony rejected both offers due to passion and strong belief in the business. LinkExchange's success attracted funding from Sequoia Capital, leading to its official launch as a software platform for automated reciprocal linking in 1997. The platform quickly became a major player in online advertising, specializing in banner ads. In 1998, Microsoft acquired LinkExchange for a staggering $265 million, marking a significant exit for Hsieh and his team.

Hsieh co-founded an investment fund, raising $27 million from former employees, and made 27 different investments, including Zappos. Tony was getting bored with the investment business. He started looking for an alternate business opportunity and discovered "Poker." To learn how to play effectively, he bought and studied books on poker and started testing what he learned during the weekends. He observed numerous similarities between poker and business. In fields like evaluating market opportunities, marketing, and branding, financials, strategy, etc.,

Zappos initially focused solely on shoes. Later, due to various changes, it underwent strategic shifts in its business model. As Zappos faced challenges in generating sales, Hsieh invested heavily in the company, selling his loft, and liquidating assets to fund its operations. The decision to start a brick-and-mortar store initially did not yield the expected results, but Hsieh's dedication and financial commitment eventually led to a significant increase in growth.

By 2002, Zappos had achieved $32 million in sales, a remarkable feat for the company. The focus then shifted to long-term growth and laying the foundation for a customer-centric approach. Establishing the Zappos library and securing a $6 million loan from Wells Fargo in 2003 further fueled the company's expansion. By the end of that year, Zappos had reached $70 million in sales.

Recognizing the importance of culture, Hsieh and his team formally defined the Zappos culture through ten core values. The creation of the Zappos Core Values Document involved contributions from employees and delivering exceptional customer service.

Zappos announced its acquisition by Amazon in 2009 for over $1.2 billion. Despite the acquisition, Zappos retained its independence within the Amazon framework, and shareholders received Amazon stock. The collaboration aimed to expedite Zappos' vision of "Delivering Happiness to the World."

Key Findings:

  • Prioritize happiness
  • Build a strong company culture
  • Focus on customer service
  • The power of relationships
  • Embrace continuous learning

Tony Hsieh primarily focused on "Delivering Happiness" as his full-length book; however, his impact extends beyond that singular work. Hsieh actively shared his business and personal philosophies through blog posts and articles, often exploring themes related to happiness, culture, and living a meaningful life. Titles like "Happy at Any Cost" by Kirsten Grind and "Wonder Boy" by Angel Au-Yeung and David Jeans provide alternative perspectives on Hsieh's journey.

“Delivering Happiness" is a book that combines human storytelling, business philosophy, and useful guidance. Its emphasis on happiness, culture, and its approach set it apart from other motivational books. It focuses more on culture and happiness.

Critique & Observations:

The book adopts a chronological structure, providing a clear and coherent timeline of Tony Hsieh's entrepreneurial journey. By explaining with relevant examples, the author makes it more interesting. The author employs engaging and easy-to-understand language throughout the book, ensuring a smooth flow of information.

The choice of font size contributes to a comfortable reading experience. The book effectively engages the audience, keeping them captivated until the end. The combination of compelling storytelling, insightful lessons, and the personal touch in Hsieh's writing style resonates, fostering a connection that extends beyond the final pages.

Some pages of the book are uninteresting. A notable drawback is the absence of information regarding the aftermath of Zappo's acquisition by Amazon. Readers are left without insight into how the company evolved or any challenges it faced post-acquisition. Perhaps he could have written a subsequent book explaining what had happened after the acquisition; this could have been one of the solutions. Another drawback is the author does not explain more about the founder of Zappos' contribution.

Key Takeaways:

Should never outsource Core competence- This lesson is derived from Zappos' experience with elogistics, a partnership that initially seemed promising but ultimately led to significant challenges. The company lost 20% of its stock during the shifting process, prompting Hsieh to reassess the outsourcing strategy.

It's bad to invest in a business that you don’t understand- Hsieh's journey includes a period where he explored the world of poker but eventually encountered setbacks and losses. This experience taught him a crucial lesson: investing in areas that one doesn't understand or lacks control over is inherently risky.

Never give up, fight till the end, and give your heart and soul to it- Throughout the book, Hsieh shares instances of facing challenges and setbacks. The persistence and determination to overcome obstacles are recurring themes. The decision to invest heavily in Zappos, even to the extent of selling personal assets, exemplifies Hsieh's unwavering commitment.

One of Zappo's key values is "Deliver Wow Through Service," which embodies the company's dedication to offering top-notch customer care. Hsieh emphasizes the importance of giving clients memorable and satisfying experiences. This dedication attempts to go above and beyond customer satisfaction to leave a lasting impression. The emphasis on delivering "wow" aligns with Hsieh's belief that exceptional service contributes directly to customer loyalty and the long-term success of the business.

Choose one thing you want to be the best at, and then focus on that- With the help of this tactic, the business was able to create a strong brand presence in the marketplace, maximize customer support for the particular product line, and streamline processes.

Invest $0 in marketing and invest everything in your product- Zappos' success story, as outlined in the book, supports this unconventional approach. The focus on delivering an outstanding product and service naturally attracted attention and positive word-of-mouth, contributing to the company's organic growth.

A key finding shared in the book is if you try to improve just 1% every day and build upon that, then it makes us 37 times better by the end of the year.

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