Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Reflection on Delivering Happiness

                In his book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profit, Passion and Purpose, Tony Hsieh looks at one of the biggest thoughts behind starting a company; “Will it make me happy?”  This is a really difficult question, and something that can’t really be answered by a simple “Yes” or “No”.  However, from reading this book, and seeing how Hsieh went from Harvard slacker to multi-billionaire, I can see that even he asks this question to himself.
                This book starts off with a basic biography of Tony Hsieh’s life.  It starts at the beginning, when he’s growing up in the Bay Area, California, and how he started thinking of ways to earn money even as a kid.  It then follows his journey to high school, where he tricks a phone sex line in the computer lab into thinking him and his buddies are over 21.  It even explores his college years, of him finding the best schedule to get good grades without much work, and how he even ran his own kitchen in his Harvard dorm. 
                After his early life is explored, Tony Hsieh discusses the things that were immediately contributory to his success.  After graduating Harvard, Hsieh got a job with Oracle, which he left after five months to start LinkExchange, an ad service that gave companies a presence on the internet.  Several years of hardship and struggle passed, and before he knew it, the company became a huge success.  He starting getting job offers from companies like Yahoo and NBC, but it was eventually sold to Microsoft for $265 million.  Afterwards, Hsieh realized the joy of starting a company from the bottom up, and decided to continue on to his most famous, and his most successful, venture; Zappos.
                When discussing Zappos, Hsieh really went in-depth on what he envisioned his company to be about.  He was pitched the idea about an online shoe sales company, and before he knew it, Zappos was born.  It started with only drop shipments to the few customers they had, but eventually, with the more customers they received, they were able to expand exponentially.  Further on in the book, Hsieh discusses things like poker and raves in relation to business.  Admittedly, they both seem completely different from business, but he finds a way to incorporate the nature of both into Zappos, albeit with a few fire alarms thrown.
Throughout the end of the book, Hsieh discusses the business practices and philosophies that he learned from his experience.  He speaks of how he kept his principle of focusing on customer service, and even focused on phone sales and inquiries when other companies were cutting back their telemarketing departments.  He also talks about how he made Zappos a community, and how he got all personnel involved in the company’s functions.
                Of course, there weren’t always good moments.  Several events, like the dotcom crash of 2002 and the later housing crisis of 2008 really hit Zappos hard.  There were several points where Tony Hsieh nearly lost his company, along with everything else.  However, through intuitive solutions, sound business practices, and a bit of money from his pocket, Hsieh eventually persevered, and lead Zappos to their “marriage” to Amazon on 2009.
                 Starting my own business wasn’t really the first thought I had in my mind when I started here at NYU-Poly.  However, after reading Tony Hsieh’s book, and how he started, I must say I’m inspired.  Maybe with a group of dedicated people by my side and a little bit of luck, I can start my own Zappos!

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