Tony Hsieh is the founder and CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos. In this book he describes his career from university through adulthood and his first full-time job to the founding and internal work of the company.
After college and the first full-time job where he felt unchallenged, he and a friend teamed up to develop Link Exchange. Microsoft became aware of this company before they bought it for 265 million dollars.
In the book, he talks a lot about company culture and how important human relationships are, as well as support and customer service. At times, however, it seems like a corporate publishing read, many examples about the company, and employees often talk about experiences. After “Zappos” was bought by Amazon, he continued to run the company independently.
He talks a lot about the “ups and downs” and the problems he was confronted with during his work at Zappos. In addition, he often speaks about personal things.
I liked the book, there were lots of laughs. Now I’ll tell you my “takeaways” about the book and hope that you can also get something out of it.
Poker and Business
For a long time he enjoyed playing poker a lot and was able to compare it to his business – it is important to know the game and how it works, but the actual game starts BEFORE the game. The table choice.
Each table has different stakes, players and dynamics. Depending on which players come and go, whether they are tired, excited or angry. The most important decision is: Where do I sit? A book taught him that an experienced player at a table with average players who are tired and have lots of chips can win ten times more money than at a table with experienced and focused players who don’t have that many chips.
One of the key questions to ask yourself is the market you want to operate in. It doesn’t matter how perfect the product or service of a company is if the market is too small anyway. He nicely illustrates this with the idea that you are the best manufacturer of gloves with seven fingers: You are the best manufacturer, the best supplier and have the best customer service, yet the company is doomed to failure because there is no demand.
Connectedness and community
Throughout his time in which he possessed a lot and hardly any money, the main indicators of his personal satisfaction and happiness were the number of deep relationships with friends and a community. People who were there for each other and cared for each other when circumstances required.
I found it very nice to read that someone who was already in such a position comes back with such an experience.
Pursue growth and learning
The Zappos company motivates its employees to develop their full potential. Personal and in a professional way. This requires teamwork, but the employer and especially the employee should have the desire to develop, to learn and to grow as well. In my opinion this is a very good approach and a unique selling point compared to other employers. It attracts the right people and gives a value you cannot measure by money: personal growth.
It is important that employees grow and improve personally. Even if you should then split up, the monetary reward wasn’t the only thing you received. You leave more mature than you arrived.
Steady growth: Also as a company
Sometimes problems emerge that have never appeared before. These problems have to be solved quickly. This is a sign that you are growing fast. Growth always brings challenges.
He perceives growth as milestones. Problems you didn’t know before won’t be solved perfectly. That is OK. You learn, adjust and improve until you become really good. This is how he expresses the natural process of growth. It’s hard. “It’s hard. If it wasn’t hard, we wouldn’t have any business. Exactly because we are facing up to these difficult tasks, we are not caught up by the competitors.
Personally, I think very fast growth is dangerous as it is not very responsible towards the employees. I’m more of a friend of sustainability.
Questioning the motivation behind your actions
He refers to studies on happiness and satisfaction. Most of us are very poor at judging on what makes us happy and what doesn’t. On the other hand, it means that most of the things we desire don’t bring us the expected happiness or joy we hoped for. The main thing is that you should often ask yourself the question “Why?” You will then quickly come to the deeper motivation behind your actions and will be able to approach your business in a completely different way.
I hope you are interested in the book, especially if you run a company or are interested in Start-Up stories. I think it is a very good book, even if it becomes a bit “corporate-heavy ” towards the middle. It has many lessons to teach and plenty of good laughs.
Disclaimer: This article was written in my on old blog on the date shown above. I didn’t adjust or updated any of these except for the thumbnail.