Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh - Book review

When I first applied to work at Automattic, as a Happiness Engineer, I wanted to find out all I could about what was involved in being a Happiness Engineer, the culture of the company and also about working remotely.

During my research I came across a blog post from a Happiness Engineer and their experience during the trial process and recommendations they had received to become an awesome Happiness Engineer. Among other tips, was the recommendation to read the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos.

I went ahead and bought the book from Amazon, which I then read during my trial as a Happiness Engineer. I do love business books, but this one especially, as it shares a different angle on the importance of customer service and how this can be combined into the company culture.

I have now been working at Automattic as a Happiness Engineer for over 2 years and was shocked to hear the passing of Tony Hsieh back in November 2020. He was a man that achieved so much in life and went before his time.

I thought now would be a great time to take Delivering Happiness off my office shelf to read it again and share my favorite takes from the book.

An Entrepreneurs Mind

Hsieh shared great insight into his entrepreneurial ways early on in life, from worm farms, creating a button making mail-order business and his pizza business that he started from Harvard.

Straight out of college, Hsieh went on to get a well paid job as a software engineer at Oracle, but after only 5 months he resigned, as he found it boring and wanted to focus on his web design business he had set up with his roommate, Sanjay.

With a lack of passion for web design he and Sanjey, moved on to create LinkExchange, a small project created over a weekend to fight boredom. 5 months later they were made an offer for $1 million to sell LinkExchange, which they turned down. Working hard growing the company meant that another 5 month later, they received a different offer for $20 million which they also turned down.

It was during the LinkExchange venture where a company culture started, keeping all employees informed and having fun was easy when the company was small, but as it grew, this became more of a challenge and less fun. Finally, LinkExchange was acquired by Microsoft for $265 million.

Hsieh’s next venture moved to selling shoes online, this was the start of the company Zappos, the idea was to build an Amazon for shoes and to raise money from a venture-capital firm. 

I never lost sight of the value of a tribe where people truly felt connected and cared about the well-being of one another. 

Tony Hsieh

Hsieh goes on to share about the path to create Zappos and lessons learned along the way, including layoffs, pay cuts, logistics, relocating to Las Vegas and building a reliable Customer Loyalty Team. 

A key element to Zappos success was the understanding of the importance of good customer service, this ensured repeat customers and good word of mouth to help advertise Zappos as a brand. Most of the customer service efforts and customer experience side actually happened after the sale, with surprise upgrades, fast delivery and customer support that customers could easily contact. 

To create a good company culture that stayed strong amongst the employees, a Zappos Culture Book was created, formed by employees who each contributed a few paragraphs of what the Zappos culture meant to them. This was then revised annually and distributed to prospective employees, vendors and even customers. 

Along with the Zappos Culture Book, a list of ten Core Values of the business were created which were used as a basis to hire and fire on:

  1. Deliver Wow Through Service 
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More with Less 
  9. Be Passionate and Determined 
  10. Be Humble 

It’s more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long difficult words but rather short easy words like ‘What about lunch?’ 

Winnie the Pooh

Zappos continued to constantly improve their customer experience while simultaneously strengthening their own culture. This hard work turned into Zappos being acquired by Amazon in 2009.

Tony Hsieh and other employees went on to speak at different events, this led to the story of Zappos being shared, as well as, the Zappos core values, which allowed other companies to learn how to do things differently, and the importance of a company culture. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your goal in life? 
  • Why? 

I’m the end, it turns out that we’re all taking different paths in pursuit of the same goal: Happiness

Three types of happiness:

  • Pleasure: Rockstar – Chasing the next high
  • Passion: Flow and Engagement – Time flies
  • Higher Purpose: Being part of something bigger than yourself 



Rating: 3 out of 5.

This book really shows the importance and key ways to deliver happiness within your business, to your customers and to the world. I really enjoyed re-reading this book and summarizing the areas which I can apply in my day job as a Happiness Engineer. 

I would definitely recommend this book if you are looking to build a company that focuses on core values and has a company culture with awesome customer service.

It was tragic that Tony Hsieh was taken before his time. However, its great he was able to share his experience and benefits of a good company culture and the importance to live up to your core values in business and was able to share this with others so othe companies can benefit.

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