“Delivering Happiness” has been on my reading list for about three years. Still, I only decided to read it a few months ago. Knowing how Tony Hsieh passed away, reading this book was a mix of emotions. It is a true tragedy that such a brilliant, successful person with so much to contribute, died in such a tragic way. It puts into perspective that none of us is exempt from mental health, drugs, and alcohol issues, and the importance of being humble with everything happening around us.
This book has become one of my favorite books among entrepreneurial stories. Although the initial reason for reading it was to learn more about the organizational culture of Zappos, when I was summarizing my takeaways, what I got the most from the book were lessons geared toward entrepreneurship. Here, I share some of them with you:
1. You’re never too young to start a business.
At just 25 years old, Hsieh sold LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million. Often, we see these stories and think they are isolated cases of people with a lot of luck. However, reading his story, we realize that Tony was an entrepreneur since age 9. He attempted numerous businesses; some succeeded, and others didn’t, but from that moment, he learned to explore different ways of doing business and not to be afraid to realize when a business wasn’t working.
As a mother, this stuck with me. Sometimes our children want to sell lemonade or have a Backyard Sale, among other things, and we think that they saw it on TV and we don’t give enough importance to it. Let’s support our children in their ideas, no matter how small they seem. Let’s remember that the first business Tony Hsieh tried was selling earthworms.
2. The sacrifices of an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, wife, consultant, and friend of entrepreneurs, I know the daily sacrifices made when you believe in a business or idea. Often, we take a bet on a business when everyone tells us that working for a company as an employee would provide more stability. The book reflects these scenarios: from working without any payment to establish a brand to forgoing income for months and often years to ensure sufficient cash flow to be able to pay employees and suppliers, and dreaming about your business even when everyone would assume you’re enjoying a wonderful vacation, among a thousand other things.
3. Never outsource your core competency.
One lesson learned during the growth process of Zappos was “never outsource [your] core competency.” At one point, they decided to outsource warehousing, which for an e-commerce company, is a crucial area. The decision was catastrophic and caused numerous problems with consumers. This decision could have ended Zappos if they hadn’t pivoted in time.
To manage a company, we subcontract services (i.e., accounting, legal, and marketing). Sometimes, these suppliers and “vendors” become very close to the company. However, if we are talking about the “added value” area, it is preferable to have an internal department. For example, if your company focuses on service, the call center should be an internal department.
4. Knowing when it’s time to change tables.
In a part of the book, Tony compares poker to entrepreneurship. Something that stayed with me is that, in poker, as in business, we must always know when to change tables. Just because you found yourself at a table doesn’t mean you have to end up at that table; in business, this happens the same. We must recognize when it’s time to move and pivot.
Application to Project Management: With the latest edition of the PMBOK, it is demonstrated that the Institute increasingly recognizes the importance of people in project outcomes. Tony shows us how important communication and transparency are, especially in difficult times. One of his core values is “Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication.” Throughout all the newsletters and other communications to employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders, they genuinely demonstrate that they live up to this value.
Projects are no exception; when communication and transparency are part of the team’s culture, and people clearly understand the goal, things turn out better.
“First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,” Gandhi
“I failed my way to success,” Thomas Edison
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf,” Jon Kabat- Zinn
“Good to Great,” by Jim Collins
“Tribal Leadership,” by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fisher-Wright