Things I liked about the book
This book was divided into 3 parts that I liked for different reasons.
Part 1 was Tony’s story – filled with lots of extremely interesting & funny stories. The descriptions of his crazy entrepreneurial ideas as a kid (worm farms, mail-order buttons, newsletters, selling pizza) are laugh-out-loud hilarious.
After college, he started an early internet ad network called LinkExchange which sold for $250 million. Tony’s personal take was around $40 million, but the real reason they sold the company is that it wasn’t a place he wanted to work any more. With that money, he could have easily retired, but instead plowed the money into investments, including a venture capital fund.
After the dot-com bubble crashed, Tony put all of his money into Zappos and decided to go from being a passive investor to a part of the team.
Part 2 is the beginning of Zappos. What’s most inspirational is the dedication that the founding team put into the company. Growing, but plagued with problems and on the verge of running out of money, they decided to do something radical.
They focused everything in their company on making amazing customer service. That included taking ownership of their own inventory rather than drop-shipping from manufacturers, providing free shipping and returns, having super hands-on phone support, and finally moving the company headquarters to Las Vegas for the express purpose of hiring more customer support employees.
Part 3 is the underlying philosophy of the company. Once they realized that making customers happy was key, they changed the company to include not just customers but employees, too. The Zappos team has spent a lot of time defining and documenting their culture, then hiring people who fit the culture well.
If you’re not a fit as a recent hire, they’ll offer a generous cash payment to leave. Every employee contributes to their annual book about culture, and they all know and try to live by the core values of the company.
Things I didn’t like about the book
I really enjoyed this book. If I had to pick any criticism, I’d say that I lost a bit of interest in the last section, where there’s a description of various kinds of happiness, and different approaches for achieving them.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. This book is entertaining and gives some good specific advice. If you’re not thinking about the impact of your company’s culture, this is a good incentive to consider it carefully.
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