I "won" a copy of this book from Optimal Optimist on whose blog I had commented. The book was not sent directly to me by the publisher or the people from Zappos, but their intent in sending out these advance reader copies was obviously to get some reviews from bloggers. Since I'm always looking for something to talk about, I was game for considering the reading and reviewing of this book.
The book was released yesterday June 7, 2010 and according to Amazon has a ranking of #1. Zappos is affiliated with Amazon, but I don't think that has anything to do with the ranking as the book has gotten a surge of recent publicity and the ranking may have something to do with advance sales and how they are reflected on the release date. But that is neither here nor there since this is merely a review of my reading of this book. That being said, here are my honest feelings about Delivering Happiness.
Prior to receiving the book Delivering Happiness I had never heard of Tony Hsieh (pronounced "Shay") or Zappos.com. Call me business uninformed, but perhaps all the better to read this book with an unbiased approach. When I saw that the book was about a successful businessman's story in internet merchandising with an emphasis on providing good customer service, my interest was piqued. As a former manager in a company that was involved in internet marketing and as one who has always tried to provide customer satisfaction, I wanted to see what Tony Hsieh had to say about the subject.
From the start, the author won me over with his informal style. No dry or pompous technical or scholastic writing here, the style is informal and conversational, which makes it an easy enjoyable read. The book is totally engaging almost as though the author is in the room telling you the story in person. I am typically a slow reader, but this book is so clear and concise that it was a fast read for me. Thank you Tony!
The book is divided into three sections. The first part tells Tony's story from childhood, through college, and into his business experiences that lead up to his association with Zappos. Not overly detailed, but enough to provide an entertaining and frequently humorous look at his rise in the business world. This is not a how to book that delves into specifics, but it provides enough insight to give us an idea of how things worked for Tony. His story candidly looks at strengths and weaknesses, and failures and successes that shaped Tony's business philosophies. The first section of the book is a fun and fascinating human interest story.
Section two is a more detailed look at what Zappos is, how they got there, and where they hope to go. This is where the business meat and potatoes is as the author goes into detail about how Zappos was shaped in the formative stages and how the corporate culture was developed. Here the book goes into detail about what the corporate culture and company policies entail through Tony's outlining of these and also through various accounts from employees, customers, and others observing from outside the company. This section provides a thoughtful look at the corporate philosophy of Zappos.
The final section turns to the future of Zappos and offers an application of the Zappos story to the reader's own life. In this section the "marriage" between Amazon and Zappos is discussed and the future of the company pondered. The book leaves the reader with some thoughtful ideas and exercises that the reader can use for personal growth. We are left with Tony's grander philosophy of how to find happiness and personal fulfillment.
My biggest recommendation on this book is that I finished it with ease. The book stimulated my thinking and gave me ideas. This book will become a guidebook for Zappos employees and those associated with or interested in Zappos. However, I can actually see this book used as a textbook in a college business class. There are many questions asked in the book that would make good discussion topics. And there are so many fundamentals about how businesses are built, how they work, how they succeed, and why they fail that it would make an excellent primer for business students. What better way to learn about business than to learn from one who has had practical experience?
The negative side of the book is that it is overly simplified for someone who really wants some details about Tony's business experiences and about Zappos.com. Also, perhaps the book is so current about a relatively new company that perhaps it may be rendered obsolete if Zappos does not remain a successful business. This is a pessimistic view, but could be a relevant consideration ten years from now which would render this book as equivalent to an elaborate magazine article. Also at times the corporate philosophy comes across as almost a faddish new age religion. These are merely speculative exercises in negativity and I am merely tossing them out there.
My overall reaction to this book? It is a excellent book well worth the time of anyone who has a business, is interested in business, or who just enjoys a good story of traditional American success. It's a quick, entertaining read that would be ideal to carry when travelling or while relaxing on vacation. This would be an ideal gift for recent graduate or for dads on Father's Day. Delivering Happiness is a book that I would recommend.