I haven’t even finished this book yet but I had to write about it already. Parts of it are the usual “here’s what makes our company great” type stuff about Zappos. In fact, it reminds me of all the books that used to get written about Southwest Airline’s culture ten or twenty years ago. But what makes it a great read, in my opinion, is the autobiographical stuff leading up to the founding of Zappos.
Hsieh didn’t use a ghost writer and that was a good move. His own voice is down-to-earth, quirky and humorous, and I laughed out loud as I read about him starting his first business at the age of 9, skating through college with “as little effort as possible,” and learning about the science of human happiness from attending rave parties. The first part of the book doesn’t pretend to be a complete autobiography, but it describes all of Tony’s learning experiences that led him to first fund and then become part of Zappos. He makes a few million dollars at the age of 24 and learns that money can’t buy happiness, or even engagement in one’s work. He buys a party loft to throw parties for his friends and learns that a sense of interconnectedness is part of what makes people happy in their work. He focuses on defining organizational culture and learns that culture is the gateway to equating your brand with superior customer service.
The book is full of zaniness, like the sidebar rhapsodizing about Tony’s relationship with Red Bull, or the story about him naming his venture capital firm Venture Frogs just because a friend dared him to do it. Or his buying up all the space in a new multi-use development because it was always his dream to live in a place with a movie theater downstairs (he adds office space, a restaurant and a party loft, gets all his friends to move in, and says, “there, now we never have to leave the building.”)
It’s a life to admire and learn from, and he’s only in his mid-thirties. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the book when I finish it. In the meantime, go get a copy! As the book jacket points out, it makes excellent kindling for your fireplace after you finish reading it.