Delivering Happiness, or the Zappos Philosophy

Tony Hsieh explains the centrality of Zappos "company culture" in New York on May 26, 2010. (3 min., 28 sec.)(Photo: Rong Xiaoqing)

NEW YORK, May 26, 2010 - "Chase the vision—not the money,", Inc. CEO Tony Hsieh advised a packed audience at Asia Society, as he introduced the innovative vision espoused in his new book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

A combination of memoir and motivational tome, Delivering Happiness explains the ways in which Hsieh has infused his model of business leadership with the "science of happiness," and with the help of a detailed PowerPoint presentation, he walked the audience through some of its highlights.

Surveying his career, from the pizza-selling business he started in college, through an online advertising company and co-partnered investment fund and, finally, to Zappos, Hsieh shared his deep belief that company culture—which consists of a clearly-delineated set of values and philosophies for all employees—must be honored above all else.

Hsieh sees this culture as having made all the difference with Zappos. Personally and professionally dissatisfied with what he considered a decline in company culture as some of his previous businesses expanded, Hsieh committed himself, and enlisted all of his Zappos employees, in determining a set of core values for the organization.

"There is a great difference between motivating workers and inspiring them," Hsieh shared, as he revealed Zappos' 10 core values, including the need to "embrace and drive change," to "be adventurous, creative, and open-minded," to "build open and honest relationships with communication," to "be passionate and determined," and to "be humble." Rather than focusing primarily on output and production, Hsieh and his colleagues decided to foreground not only the personal and emotional dimensions of organizational internal development, but also the experiential component of organization-customer interaction.

Comparing Zappos to other online companies, Hsieh described his organization as being "high touch," rather than primarily "high tech," as he explained the ways in which Zappos works to demonstrate the value of customers. These include the provision of 24-hour customer service, via phone; a 365-day return policy; and a monthly newsletter, Zappos Insights, that publishes answers to customer questions. In Hsieh's telling, Zappos values a sustained connection with its customers, rather than depending on incentives like high discounts, in order to produce a profit.

Anticipating the audience Q & A session with his own challenge, Hsieh asked the attendees what their goals in life were, positing that all goals lead to the desire for happiness. Hsieh expressed the profound value he had found in assuming the centrality of happiness to life, and in combining business philosophies with strategies to achieve happiness. Zappos is not simply in the business of delivering shoes, the young entrepreneur reiterated—rather, it aims to deliver happiness to all.

Reported by Shendi Xu