How to be happy and make money too: 8 lessons from millionaire Tony Hsieh and his online retail enterprise Zappos.com
Make no mistake: Tony Hsieh (sounds like ‘Shea’ stadium) is passionate about making money – around a billion dollars selling shoes and apparel through his online retailing enterprise, zappos.com. He’s figured out that the truly modern, post-industrial organization needs to be built around staff and customers, not just profit goals.
In managing Zappos, Tony has blended many traditional and new business practices into a seamless whole of customer service and experience. Witness the Zappos swimwear webpage where a Zappos family core value appears boldly above a site search section, (scroll down, there’s lots of swimwear).
Essentially, he has blended a robust online business system with a powerful culture strategy. And, he has operationalized the culture in visible ways, for example, offering new employees a way to quit.
I talked recently with Tony at one of the always excellent Bob Ramsay breakfasts. (Thanks Bob for the head table invitation.) Tony spoke about how he had used insights from positive psychology and turned them into applications in the organization. Let me tell you, this is not easy to do for most mortals!
I spoke with the highly respected positive psychology expert Martin Seligman last year at International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) about the issue. Even his research-based model of positive psychology doesn’t yet have a lot of applications for organizations.
What intrigued me about Zappos was that Tony had built the organization from core values on up, and operationalized them in a way that most companies couldn’t even dream of. He told me that he wanted to find a legitimate basis for his system, and that the research and insights on positive psychology helped him to create a rationale for his approach: Happiness is more than just a neat idea; it is deeply connected to the way humans function.
Right now, you may be saying; “That’s all very well, but my organization wouldn’t do that!” but also that “I want to somehow apply the Zappos profit model to my business!” So, here are two big questions for you:
• Q: Can you simply retrofit the Zappos-like model to your organization? A: Absolutely not! Why? Because every organization is different.
• Q: Can you learn Zappos’ principles and practices and begin to use them to make your organization even better? A: Absolutely!
Here are eight solutions focused* questions you can ask yourself in helping your organization make progress in thinking like a Zappos customer-driven organization.
1. Suppose, over time, our organization became a seamless whole delivering better customer service and experience and that this made us even more profitable. What would that look like?
2. Where are we already good at making a profit through delivering better customer service and experience?
3. Suppose our core values were operationalized – from our hiring practices to our finance team – the customer benefited and rewarded us with profitable sales. What would that look like?
4. Suppose we were to start this process today. What tiny steps could we take towards visible progress that our customers would notice right away?
5. Suppose we did this at the top of the house, as well as the middle, and downstairs…suppose we didn’t obsess about getting it right, but instead, we trusted our intelligence and speedy decision-making skills to try out many different ideas. What would we learn?
6. Suppose our organization’s leadership saw good things happening and became relentless about making profit by making customers the core of every discussion. What would that look like?
7. Suppose, as a result of the above, the executive and the rest of the organization put their financial reward aside in favour of passion for the customer and profit grew regardless. How would we be doing that?
8. Suppose, as a result of the above, the organizational silos that used to restrain profit melted away and we acted as one consolidated organization on behalf of the customer. How would that make our processes even more efficient?
Recommended: a couple of viewings of this Tony Hsieh video It’s important to witness his deceptively low-key customer and profit-driven style.
* Solutions focus is a companion application process to positive psychology. Everything PS proves in research, SF converts into action for the user.