Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Delivering Happiness

It wasn't too long ago when I was struggling to find something to read. Now books are popping out of the woodwork and I have stacks that I'm trying to read. What tends to happen is that I read multiple books simultaneously. I'll have a book in the car for when I have to take the boowahs to rehearsals or practices, I'll have one in the bathroom for serious reading, keep one in the kitchen to read as I cook, another one downstairs for when the computers are not being used by me, one upstairs to read before bed or if I'm up early. You get the idea. When I'm not swimming in books, a single or couple of books might be read in multiple locales. Now, though.....

Thus, all the book reviews right now. I didn't even know about this book. A library patron returned it and I saw Tony Hseih's name as the author which automatically triggered as "Zappos CEO" in my brain. I like reading alternative business books and so I had to grab this as Zappos approach is definitely unusual.

Delivering Happiness is part biography, part business book, part inspirational. It is a very quick read and written in a very conversational tone. Hseih talks about his youth, how he always was an entrepreneur, and how his Asian parents and those of other kids in the neighborhood always pushed their children. Then there is Harvard, Oracle, and Hseih's first major business, LinkExchange. From there we go through the trials and tribulations of Zappos. Interspersed throughout are Hseih's thoughts on success and happiness.

Hseih refers to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, something I believe firmly in, and something which is expressed exquisitely in Chip Conley's business book, Peak. On the opposite end of my agreement with Hseih-spectrum, you have the anti-37Signals approach of running a business. Hseih is a firm believer in "it takes money to make money". I'm sure much of this stems from his success at the end of the dot-com boom where venture capitalists were throwing money at anything having to do with the internet. It was pretty clear that had Hseih not successfully cashed out LinkExchange for millions, Zappos would never have gotten off the ground. Hseih originally funded Zappos with his own venture capital firm, dumped the rest of the firms money into Zappos when it needed it, dumped all his assets and money into it, and still required outside funding. This flies in the face of the 37Signals create a business model that is profitable approach.

Hseih has had a good deal of luck in his life, as well as a lot of hard work. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book if you're looking for inspiration in running a business. As a fun success story or as a primer on customer service, it's a pretty good read.

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