Fun, quick read. Tells the tale of Zappos' difficult journey, from the very shaky and painful early years to the successful acquisition in the later years. After a slightly slow start looking at Tony Hsieh's earlier life, it gets going with good discussions of the importance of relationships, company culture, values, beliefs, and happiness. The book is a good reminder that a company is more than a product. To its customers, employees, investors, and fans, Zappos is much more than just a company that sells shoes.
Some fun quotes:
As our group grew, I realized that forming new friendships and deepening the connections within our burgeoning tribe was bringing both a sense of stability and a sense of excitement about the future for all of us. The connectedness we felt was making all of us happier, and we realized that it was something that we had all missed from our college days. It was something that, like many people, we had unwittingly lost upon graduating from college, and we didn’t realize how much we missed it until we accidentally recreated it for ourselves.
My advice is to stop trying to “network” in the traditional business sense, and instead just try to build up the number and depth of your friendships, where the friendship itself is its own reward. The more diverse your set of friendships are, the more likely you’ll derive both personal and business benefits from your friendships later down the road. You won’t know exactly what those benefits will be, but if your friendships are genuine, those benefits will magically appear 2–3 years later down the road.
We didn’t know it at the time, but all the hard work and investments we made into customer service and company culture would pave the way for us to hit our goal of $1 billion in gross merchandise sales in 2008—two years ahead of our original goal of 2010. Looking back, a big reason we hit our goal early was that we decided to invest our time, money, and resources into three key areas: customer service (which would build our brand and drive word of mouth), culture (which would lead to the formation of our core values), and employee training and development (which would eventually lead to the creation of our Pipeline Team). Even today, our belief is that our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline (which we internally refer to as “BCP”) are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run. Everything else can and will eventually be copied.
Over the years, the number one driver of our growth at Zappos has been repeat customers and word of mouth. Our philosophy has been to take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and invest it into customer service and the customer experience instead, letting our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth.
At Zappos, our belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff—like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers—will happen naturally on its own. We believe that your company’s culture and your company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin. The brand may lag the culture at first, but eventually it will catch up. Your culture is your brand.
I think when people say they dread going into work on Monday morning, it’s because they know they are leaving a piece of themselves at home. Why not see what happens when you challenge your employees to bring all of their talents to their job and reward them not for doing it just like everyone else, but for pushing the envelope, being adventurous, creative, and open-minded, and trying new things?