To put it simply, this was one of the most inspirational books I've ever read. I don't quite know how I would categorize the book; however, I don't really believe the author (Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos) knew how he would categorize it either. To me it's really a story. A story about Tony's life and the lessons he has learned by living it. Additionally it is the story of a tribe and how Tony and his friends helped build it. I guess you could call it a quasi autobiography, although a good portion of this book is not about Tony at all.
Tony discusses many things in this book, including: a small history of how he got to where he is, the pursuit of happiness, how money isn't everything, building a tribe, the importance of culture and the core values of Zappos. For the purposes of this review I would like to discuss these last three points in a little more detail:
1. Build a tribe - In the book, Tony talks about different times in his life where he felt very connected to a certain ‘tribe’ of people. He mentioned how in awe he was at the power of a tribe. There have been a few books written on tribal leadership (one in particular by David Logan, you can also see a related TED talk here); however, I found many parallels between Tony’s story and Seth Godin’s concept of a tribe. The book illustrates the benefits and power of building a strong tribe (both internally with employees and externally with customers and partners). I think it should be part of every leader’s duty to build, grow, nurture and understand everything about their tribe. This concept can apply just as easily to brand managers as it can to CEOs.
2. "Your Culture Is Your Brand" - This is the title of one of Tony’s blog posts which he also re-wrote in the book. It is a truly insightful post and reveals the underlying principle behind what makes Zappos such a great brand … its culture. In the post (and the book) Tony outlines a fundamental problem facing companies today: you can never know exactly when a consumer is going to develop a perception about your brand. In order to combat this, Tony’s solution was to help create a culture that permeated the entire organization, such that every employee was a living, breathing representation of the brand. I think the question any manager/marketer needs to ask themselves here is: how much of an effect is the current organizational culture having on the company’s brand? What makes Zappos so successful is the synergy between brand and culture (in fact, Tony would say they are one in the same). Do you feel the same way about your brand?
3. Value no. 10: Be Humble - In my opinion, humility is one of the most admirable characteristics of a good leader. Although Tony talks about many successes in this book, he does so in a very humble way and that shows in his writing style. The combination of humility and brutal honesty certainly gave this book a lot more resonance and authenticity, and I think it can do the same for any leader.
Final Thoughts: This is one of those books that anyone can glean something from. It is a real life story of the pursuit of happiness and it is also a how-to guide for companies to deliver happiness. To say this book is a must-read would be an understatement. Here is one of my favourite quotes from the book, which I think encapsulates the entire book’s essence: “Envision, create and believe in your own universe, and the universe will form around you.” (Page 85).