4 Questions Inspired by Tony Hsieh’s "Delivering Happiness"

This month's Indie Business Book Club selection (video announcement) is Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (affiliate link) by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. It's a great book and I'm lucky to have an advance copy. (The book is due to be released on June 7!) Before investing in Zappos, and later becoming its CEO (and then later leading its sale to Amazon in a deal valued at over $1.2 billion on the day of closing), Tony founded LinkExchange in 1996, which was old to Microsoft two years later for $265 million.

I'm about halfway through the book now, and not only am I enjoying the business insights, but I'm cracking up at the little tidbits of information Tony shares about his life. For example, his parents used to make him practice an instrument for several hours each week. Tony didn't like that so much, so he recorded himself playing an instrument and played the recordings so everyone in the house would think he was practicing. (He was actually reading Boys' Life Magazine instead.) Sneaky, but also brilliant. It's the brilliant side that put him where he is today, and that's the side we are exploring in Book Club conversations at the FaceBook Page. Here are a few highlights, with links to each question so you can join the conversations.

  1. Would you jump at the big bucks? In August 2006, Tony was offered $1M for the company he had started a few months before. He turned it down. A few years later, he was offered $20M. He turned that down too. Later, he was offered $265M. He took that.

    Can you imagine? For Indies, our businesses are like our babies, so our response to such a large amount of money takes into account an emotional attachment, and not just dollars and cents. Perhaps Tony felt had the same attachments, but he dealt with them in a way that allowed his “baby” to thrive in the hands of a wealthy buyer, while freeing him up to make more babies.

    What would you consider if you were offered a large sum of money for your business? Would you jump at the cash early, or hold out for big bucks later on, as Tony did? See how others answered this question, and share your thoughts at the FaceBook Book Club conversation here.

  2. Don't just tell your story; shape it. On page 65, Tony says: “Help shape the stories that people are telling about you.” I think this is not only critical, but also doable in this age of digital media in which we life.

    Shaping your story is different than controlling it, which is impossible anyway. The shaping of the story of your brand is a collaborative effort that takes place as you respond to the needs of your customers and give them chances to share stories of how you enhance their lives. This makes your brand come alive and ensures that it maintains its relevance over the long haul.

    How do you shape the story of your brand? See how others answered this question, and share your thoughts at the FaceBook Book Club conversation here.

  3. Don't be afraid to switch tables. Also on page 65 (this is a very good page!), Tony compares business to poker: “It's okay to switch tables if you discover it's too hard to win at your table.” I know nothing about poker, but I do understand this point.

    My first business was making and selling soap and cosmetics in a retail store in an historic district in my hometown. I loved making the products, but it didn't take me long to discover that other people made better products than me, and that I did not like being in one place for so many hours each week. By creating IBN, I switched tables! I created a way to use my best talents and passions while remaining involved in the industry I love so much.

    This is an important point for Indies, especially those who find themselves doing what they love, but not making a profit at it. Remember, you can always switch tables.

    As Kenny Rogers sang, “You got to know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em.” (Remember that song?)

    Have you ever switched tables? See how others answered this question, and share your thoughts at the FaceBook Book Club conversation here.

  4. Don't allow yourself to be in a box. On page 66, Tony says, “Look for opportunities beyond just the game you sat down to play.” For business leaders, new opportunities are always within reach. As your first business takes flight and becomes profitable, opportunities to collaborate with other successful business leaders will come your way.

    Not only can you switch tables, but you can also work with people at your current table to make new and exciting things happen.

    How do you build upon the platform of your existing business to create new opportunities for yourself and others? See how others answered this question, and share your thoughts at the FaceBook Book Club conversation here.

The conversations about Tony's book will continue until the end of May. I will announce June's Indie Business Book Club selection in a week or so. Meanwhile, I can't wait to hear what you buys think about Tony's observations! You can share your ideas below, or at the FaceBook Page links above. Also, if you maintain an active blog, you can apply to get an advance copy of Tony's book here.

Question: Have you applied to receive a review copy of Tony's book? Are you reading it now? What do you think?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.