Key takeaways from “Delivering Happiness”


In review today is “Delivering happiness” by Tony Hsieh. This book tells the story, through the eyes of the early investor and later its CEO. Zappos got from zero to $1 BN in annual merchandise sales in just 10 years.


One thing after reading this book is clear – Tony Hsieh ought to be a cool guy to hang out with. Not only he is smart, but his business ideas are progressive, honest and cool. Curious how he strikes me as a complete opposite of Jeff Bezos of Amazon although both are ultimately passionate about the same thing – the very best customer experience. (read my review of “The Everything Store”)

Following Tony from the earliest (childhood) days to the eventual sale of Zappos to Amazon, the book is full of inspirational stories told from the personal experience. It can hardly get any better than that.

Key takeaway #1

Opportunity is right here, right now. It is easy to say “Amazon was started in 1995 or Facebook was started in 2004, those were different times”. But the thing is that there is a big chance that a future giant company will be started this very year, in 2014. Don’t look back to 2014 ten years from now, seize the moment now. There will never be another 2014.

Key takeaway #2

Long term prosperity of a company comes from the quality of its people and you need to actively invest in that. Zappos introduced a “pipeline” which takes care of its employees from 4 years before they even got a job at Zappos (ie. College student programmes) to 7 years after they got a job (all the way to a VP for example). This is such a cool concept and innovative way of thinking in a corporate structure.

Key takeway #3

Don’t focus on creating buzz, focus on creating engagement and trust. Tony says this best with “My mom has zero buzz, but when she says something, I listen”.

Brands used to be “bought” (ie. big heads got together in the room, decided what the brand should be, and then spend a lot of money buying advertising telling people what their brand was). Nowadays with such rapid exchange of communication, your customers and your employees are those creating your brand, whether you like it or not. Tony believes that the company culture actually defines your brand – the brand may lag the culture at first, but eventually it will catch up.

Key takeaway #4

Zappos has 10 core values but one is more useful than others when they are judging a potential new hire – humbleness. It turns out that person’s humbleness is the best indicator of a great fit to such an open company culture.

Key takeaway #5

Make customer service a priority for the whole company, not just a department. A customer service attitude needs to come from the top. Have the entire company celebrate great service. Encourage telling stories of WOW customer experience. But realize that it is OK to fire customers who are insatiable or abuse your employees.

Key takeaway #6

Customer lifetime value is not a fixed number in your calculations; it is a moving target that can increase with increased customer engagement and trust.

Key takeaway #7

Design your interview questions around your core values, to ensure you get candidates who fit. This one is easy to miss.

Key takeaway #8

If you have more than 3 priorities then you don’t have any.

Key takeaway #9

Happiness comes from perceived control, perceived progress, good human interaction and meaning. The longest lasting is “higher purpose” happiness coming from being part of something bigger than yourself.  Pursue that first, then layer on top “passion”, things you really like doing, and then layer on top of that “pleasures” type of happiness.


I will give this book 98 out of 100. I actually re-read it after my first reading as I didn’t want to miss anything, it is that good.

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