Monday, August 23, 2010

Deliver Some Happiness -- and some Shoes!

It might be easy to think that just because you sell shoes, you're nothing more than a shoe store. But that kind of limited thinking has never been a part of Tony Hsieh's world. He's a dreamer -- and a dangerous one because he has a significant dream he wants to share with other business leaders to not just make it a better place, but a happier one.

Tony is the CEO of Zappos -- the once online shoe store. Now, as a part of the umbrella, they're a full on retailer. But though they've been purchased by another dreamer (Jeff Bezos), Tony and his dedicated team are pushing boundaries others dare to even acknowledge.

Tony is one of today's most successful, young business leaders. In 1996 he co-founded LinkExchange which sold to Mcirosoft for $265 million, and in October of 2009 he sold Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 billion. But aside from these -- which I doubt Tony would put at the top of his list of accomplishments -- Tony has a belief that workplace morale has been sacrificed to the pressure cooker at most companies. He's going against the grain of today's cutthroat tactics by employing a more humane and simple approach. In one word, it's happiness. By creating a radically different culture committed to making employees and customers happy, Tony thinks that the world could become a better place.

At the core of Tony's happiness philosophy are elements such as perceived progress, control, connectedness, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. When combined, these create an environment where employees, and ultimately the customers, have a greater sense of pleasure, engagement, and meaningful contribution.

What I like about this approach is that it is not just lip service. Tony puts his money where his mouth is and actually works hard to get his new employees to quit, and to keep his long term employees engaged and progressing up the ladder. About midway through their new employee orientation, each participant is offered a cash reward to quit. Tony shared they're not getting as many takers as they used to, and are thinking about raising the amount -- again. The point is not to pay off short-timers, but to ensure that the people staying are there for the right reasons. "We need to hire more slowly, and fire more quickly," said Tony. Unfortunately, it's too often the other way around."

But the key take away here is not to financially incent your new employees to quit. Nor is it to focus only on the hiring, firing, and career track of your staff. Rather, it is about discovering the deep truth all of us share -- that we desperately want to be known, and to know. Combine this with a sense of purpose and an engaging environment and we thrive. Take away any of these and we start to wither and our worst comes out of us.

Tony is not the first person to have a happiness philosophy -- and let's hope he's not the last. And what is remarkable is that it isn't that hard to have one, either. As marketers we have the best opportunity to embark upon this type of journey with our companies and customers -- the trick is finding the right way to do it.

The book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose might just be one of the most important books you read this year. Take a listen to my interview with Tony and decide for yourself. But, whatever you do, don't walk away from this idea that the business world can operate with a different set of rules -- ones that value all people, all ideas, and purpose over profits.

-- David Kinard, PCM


Jonathan Mcmurry said...

Owning a small business or company is such an achievement in life. And making it successful will make you so much happier. Being successful in a business requires a lot of hard work and team effort. I'm currently working in a company where everyone's really working so hard just to make our company successful. Like the human resources team, the maintenance team, the marketing team, the communications, and even the
technical support. Brantford is where our office is located at and I'm very glad that our company's growing bigger as time passes by.

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