Some days ago, I ended to read the book Delivering Happiness, from Tony Hsieh, about the Zappos company. I was amazed for the good advice an entrepreneur or business owner can find there. So, I decided to write a post about it.

Maybe the first thing to know is who is Tony Hsieh. Well, is better to get to know him from Wikipedia or from his own profile in Linkedin.

In a few words, Tony Hsieh is the founder of Link Exchange, a company that after sold to Microsft for US$ 265 millions.

Next to that, join Zappos, first as investor and advisor and later as CEO. A few years later Zappos was sold to Amazon for over US$ 1 billion.

So, you get the picture. It is clear Tony Hsieh knows something about start a company and make it grow. Well, he speaks just about that in his book, and I extract those words for all the entrepreneurs who are trying to do the same.

General lessons from Zappos

Business and work are just part of our lives. Improve them is a good thing, but improve your life is the best you can do.

There are a couple of things Tony Hsieh teach in his book about life:

  • Happiness is not about the money, but about enjoying life
  • Stop chasing the money, start chasing the passion

Lessons for business

Whether they are new or have been established for years, many businesses could produce and grow more if they change their views in some ways.

Generally, mistakes allow business owners to realize some things. But, what if we would be able to learn from the others’ experience?

During their existence as a business, the Zappos people have made mistakes. These mistakes can serve to learn to anyone who wants to avoid them

Some lessons for business, from Zappos:

  • You don’t need to have face to face interaction with your clientes to run a business
  • Sometimes pays to take risks and think outside of the box
  • Sometimes the truth alone isn’t enough, and the presentation of the truth is just as important as the truth
  • Don’t invest to much in something haven’t work out yet
  • Unleash the power of crowdsourcing

Lesson for Startups

Both Link Exchange and Zappos were startups that survived the difficult starting period and consolidated as companies. Any advice from a two in a row successful entrepreneur can be helpful. So, here is it:

  • Don’t be so focused in make money at the beginning. Let the word spray
  • Develop a company culture as soon as the company begins
  • Never outsource your main competence

I am going to dig a little bit in this 3 points.

Don’t be so focused in make money at the beginning. Let the word spray

In both cases (when starting Link Exchange as well when starting Zappos) Tony Hsieh had some savings that would allow to focus in developing the idea and not have to be working to pay rent or buy food.

Is a good idea, when you are starting a new business, have some funds to set you free from day yo day worries.

Develop a company culture as soon as the company begins

This is something a lot of entrepreneurs don’t even know what it is. It took some years to Tony Hsieh to understand how important is to develop a company culture. And do it.

Never is too soon to have yours. In fact, could start at he same time the business idea came up.

Never outsource your main competence

In Zappos case, one of their main competence is the delivery of the shoes bought by the website. They contracted to some company to do it. That it was a total failure that costed them a lot of work, time, money and some clients.

Is a sure thing you are very aware what your business main competence is. So, assure you, and only you take care of that, with total precision. That will differenciate from the others.

Most entrepreneurs are very focused in find fundings to their startup. Also Tony Hsieh looked for investors for his startups, but later realize is not all good about that.

So, when startups are looking for investors, they could ask the following:

  • Are they really necessary?
  • How actives they are going to be or you want they be?
  • Besides money, what else are they going to bring to the table?
  • In how many time are they expecting to exit?
  • Besides profit, what else are they expecting to get from the company?
  • Do they agree with the company’s vision and mission?
  • Will they accept less profits if the vision is accomplished ahead of time?
  • How flexible they are in their views?
  • Who controls investors and the board?
  • Are they align to company’s core values?

Business are Like Pocker

In some part of the book, Tony Hsieh explains that he began to like poker. So, he read books about poker and started visiting places to play it.

Soon, he began to see the parallel between poker and business. In fact, he made a list of similarities, aspects in which techniques to play poker could be put into practice in business in general.

I include them in this post, making clear that these points are original from Tony Hsieh, because I have no idea how to play poker.

However, the ideas, tips and warnings that he shares make a lot of sense when it comes to making business decisions.

Evaluating Market Opportunities

  • Table selection is the most important decision you can make
  • It’s okay to switch tables if you discover it’s too hard to win at your table
  • If there are too many competitors (some irrational or inexperienced), even if you’re the best it’s a lot harder to win

Marketing and Branding

  • Act weak when strong, act strong when weak. Know when to bluff
  • Your “brand” is important
  • Help shape the stories that people are telling about you

Financials

  • Always be prepared for the worst possible scenario
  • The guy who wins the most hands is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run
  • The guy who never loses a hand is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run
  • Go for positive expected value, not what’s least risky
  • Make sure your bankroll is large enough for the game you’re playing and the risks you’re taking
  • Play only with what you can afford to lose
  • Remember that it’s a long-term game. You will win or lose individual hands or sessions, but it’s what happens in the long term that matters

Strategy

  • Don’t play games that you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them
  • Figure out the game when the stakes aren’t high
  • Don’t cheat. Cheaters never win in the long run
  • Stick to your principles
  • You need to adjust your style of play throughout the night as the dynamics of the game change. Be flexible
  • Be patient and think long-term
  • The players with the most stamina and focus usually win
  • Differentiate yourself. Do the opposite of what the rest of the table is doing
  • Hope is not a good plan
  • Don’t let yourself go “on tilt.” It’s much more cost-effective to take a break, walk around, or leave the game for the night

Continual Learning

  • Educate yourself. Read books and learn from others who have done it before
  • Learn by doing. Theory is nice, but nothing replaces actual experience
  • Learn by surrounding yourself with talented players
  • Just because you win a hand doesn’t mean you’re good and you don’t have more learning to do. You might have just gotten lucky
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice

Culture

  • You’ve gotta love the game. To become really good, you need to live it and sleep it
  • Don’t be cocky. Don’t be flashy. There’s always someone better than you
  • Be nice and make friends. It’s a small community
  • Share what you’ve learned with others
  • Look for opportunities beyond just the game you sat down to play. You never know who you’re going to meet, including new friends for life or new business contacts
  • Have fun. The game is a lot more enjoyable when you’re trying to do more than just make money

About the culture of the company

  • Try to match your company core values with values should be use in normal life. This way your team will never forget it
  • Develop the company culture is a short-term expense, but a long-term investment
  • If your culture stays true to its values and/or mission statement, the words and images speak for themselves, because they’re real

About customer service

  • The great customer service starts with what customers first see when they visit the website
  • The contact form and phone number should be at start in each page of the website and is ideally the call center be 24/7
  • The telephone is one of the best branding devices. You got undivided attention from people and they will talk for a long time about the interaction
  • The call center can help to increase the lifetime value of a customer

So, what do you think about all this? What your experience or your guts say about it? Share it in the comments section. I will be glad to hear it.

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