I have to admit being a little biased when talking about this book. I’m a major fan of this writing by Tony Hsieh — which is backed by the fact this was my third time reading this book. However, I still want to take a moment to talk about this book which I think is a must-read for everyone in any form of business. Whatever your role and job are within a company, this book can teach you and inspire you. If you’re a business owner, you actually HAVE to read this one. Trust me!
Insightful, inspiring, and personal
The first half of the book is dedicated to Tony growing up and selling his first business. What speaks to me most is the way this book is written. Tony talks about growing up, meeting people, going to university, and starting his first company, making me feel I was there too. It speaks to the imagination. At the same time, the author gives insightful details about building, scaling, and selling a multi-million dollar company with people on the payroll and investors involved.
Later on, we get a true insight into the growth and culture of Zappos. We learn how people are encouraged to be their true selves and aim for long-term growth and happiness. Tony goes on to explain how Zappos has built an organization that is fully transparent and aims to support customers, vendors, suppliers, and its own teams rather than focussing on bottom-line income streams. Relationships are the most important currency there is and Zappos fully understands this.
What really speaks to me — being a founder myself — is the way Tony and his time created a culture where people feel they can be themselves. Not like every organization tells people to be themselves, but Zappos actually created an environment that stimulates people to be who they are at home. It fits the narrative of when the book was written (back in 2010), but maybe even more so today. Tony and his team had a lot less technology getting in the way between them and the customers, so now, more than ever, his message should be taken to heart for long-term growth and employee happiness.
There are a couple of learnings I personally took from reading this book (3 times..I know!)
#1: Customer service is not a department, it’s your entire organization. It’s not just the professionals in the CS department who represent the company, it’s everyone. You need to look at Customer Service as part of the core functionality of the brand, not as a department where the complaints are being handled. Each individual within your organization represents the brand in their own way.
#2: If you truly believe in something, go all in! If it wasn’t for Tony Hsieh taking a lot of risks putting all of his money into Zappos, the company would have never made it. Tony believed in the concept, the people, and the brand so much that he was willing to sell personal assets to help Zappos — a startup back then — service month over month. It shows that, if you truly believe in something, it’s okay to take risks and go for it.
#3: Empathy is the strongest trait any one person or organization can have and expand upon. It’s the sole skill that strengthens relationships, bonds customers, and builds up your team and the people around you. If you create long-lasting relationships built on empathy, your organization is bound to last a whole lot longer and grow bigger than you can imagine.