Leadership / Management

Happiness in a box?

Tony Hsieh Have you ever bought shoes from the online retailer Zappos? When I bought a few pairs for presents earlier this year, I was pleasantly surprised when I got a "free upgrade" to overnight shipping.

This is just one of the ways Zappos likes to deliver exceptional customer service. This "WOW" customer service is the "secret sauce" behind their now legendary success story.

The folks at Zappos made financial news when they sold their business to Amazon for $1.2 billion in November 2009, proving that you can make profits AND take care of your people and customers. Tony Hsieh (pronounced "Shay") has built an organization around happiness as an organizing principle, focusing on happy team members, happy customers and happy innvestors.

What if you could apply those same principles to your workplace?

You can!

Start by reading the Zappos story from the CEO's perspective in Tony's book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Tony sums it up simply as "People -- Passion -- Profits," and the way Zappos achieved it is through a focus on BCP -- brand, culture and pipeline.

What I found interesting about the book is how Tony figured out how he could use the company to align with the strengths and passion of his employees to take Zappos to the next level. I loved their focus on learning and development (starting on page 197), which they call the "pipeline." They are also known for offering a $2,000 bonus for people to quit after being hired (to find out if they really want to work there).

Tony also talks about how he researched and incorporated many concepts from the growing discipline of applied positive psychology. This is the foundation of the Zappos culture. It focuses on building the talent pipeline (see our post on creating a development plan) with an understanding of individual strengths and interests mapped to the needs of Zappos and wrapped in lots of training in topics like customer service, leadership, strategy, management and culture. This combination of focusing on the individuals, team, organization, customers and community is the winning formula behind their success. 

There's lots of serendipity here. We built many of the same concepts into our personal leadership training "M2M: Mind to Matter," where we use strengths-based leadership tools and several other research-based methods to help leaders get a 360-degree view of their personal world and then connect that to the team and organizational needs. The result: engaged people who are well-rounded and very happy. You get their heads and hearts and earn that extra discretionary effort we all need in today's challenging times.

After the AICPA Leadership Academy class completed our training, they talked about starting a movement to work these concepts into the CPA profession.

What do you think? Should we start a movement?

Let's give it a try! We have arranged for a special CPA Zappos tour the day before the Accounting Today Growth and Profitability Summit on Nov. 16, 2010. The bus leaves Wynn Las Vegas at 2 p.m. and will return at 5 p.m. Send me an e-mail if you want to join us (tom@macpa.org). This special 1.5-hour tour will introduce you to the Zappos culture from the inside and give you time for Q&A with Zappos team members. What a great way to start before the conference begins!

Anyone looking for a competitive edge that actually takes care of your people should read this book.

Check out Tony's video about the book and the Zappos story here.

The website for the book is also full of resources and stories.