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One of the CopyPress Core Values is A Commitment to Learning and Training.
Because reading is such a large part of learning, we are starting a CopyPress Library in our office. The library will house copies of the books that we feel will help our staff grow professionally and personally.
In order to encourage our staff to pick up the books, we are also starting a CopyPress Book Club which will feature book reviews with references to why these books reflect the attitude, knowledge, and values that we want (and need) our staff to have.
Along with blog posts, we are going to feature Q and As with the authors (when they will respond to us) and inter-office book club meetings (which may end up being open online meetings).
The first book in our series is symbolic because it most shapes the way we do business at CopyPress — Delivering Happiness by Zappos.com, Inc. CEO, Tony Hsieh.
This review comes at a really good time. Last week Dave Synder, CopyPress CEO, gave an office-wide presentation about where we have been, where we are going, and what needs to change in order to make it happen.
The line that struck me most from his presentation was, “We may never have another opportunity like CopyPress in our lifetime.”
This couldn’t be more true for the 50ish CopyPress employees, many of who are under the age of 30. We have all be given a chance to do something really special with CopyPress, and now it is up to us to keep the charge moving and make it happen.
That is why Delivering Happiness is so important to CopyPress. It is a book about seeing the bigger picture and finding the courage and strength to do whatever it takes to get the picture on a canvas.
Here are the main points from Delivering Happiness that matter most to CopyPressers (or any other budding entrepreneurs or employees at a start-up.)
The book chronicles two of Tony Hsieh’s business ventures.
If you do the math, on average Hsieh created a value with the two companies that averages out to close to $100 million per year.
Most people hear that number — $100 million per year — and assume that the ride to riches for Hsieh was a series of stepping stones on top of stacks of cash.
That couldn’t be more untrue. At one point, during Hsieh’s time at Zappos, five of his employees moved into his condo because they took pay cuts and couldn’t afford their rent. Later, Hsieh sold that condo in order to keep Zappos afloat. Hsieh and his employees literally invested everything they had into the company in order for it to succeed.
So stepping stones of cash? No. I would imagine the way that Zappos crossed the rapids were more akin to one of those human chain link ropes where one person holds on to the next in order to help each other make it across the current.
Delivering Happiness follows Hsieh’s journey though three stages:
This is not a list; it is an evolution that Hsieh went through while finding a way to bring happiness into his work.
1. Find Success in Profits: Like most entrepreneurs, Hsieh first identified success with cold, hard cash. During this phase, profits seems to be the most important indicator of success.
Hsieh built his first company LinkExchange into a money-making empire. When it sold to Microsoft, Hsieh would have received $40 million from the sale provided that he worked with LinkExchange for another year.
Hsieh signed on, but rather than stay on for the entire year, he forfeited $8 million in order to depart early after having a personal and professional realization that money wasn’t enough to make him happy.
I thought about how I enjoyed creating, building, and doing stuff that I was passionate about.
And yet here I was, wasting my time, wasting my life, so that I could make more money even though I had all of the money I ever needed for the rest of my life.
I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion.
2. Find Success in Passion: After walking away from the money, Hsieh needed to find what was next so he started an investment company. It didn’t take long for that allure to wear off too.
Over time, I also kept asking myself why I was investing in anything at all. What was my goal? To make more money? That didn’t make sense, since I had already given up a lot of money when I walked away from Microsoft.
I realized that the day-trading and investing I was doing wasn’t really fulfilling, I didn’t’ feel like I was building anything.
He knew he had to find something to do that was more inline with his passion. After realizing that “building stuff and being creative and innovative” made him most happy, Hsieh decided to select one of his investments, join the team as CEO, and start building again. That is when he joined Zappos — a tiny start-up with a big picture.
For ten years, Hsieh and his fellow employees fought the good fight to build a company based around passion. The passion is what helped them through the hard times (lay offs, negative bank accounts, company moves, and restructuring).
But unlike LinkExchange, this time Hsieh didn’t focus on what Zappos was — an online shoe store — he focused on why Zappos was — to deliver happiness through awesome customer service.
3. Find Success in Purpose: Even after finding success in profits and passion, it wasn’t enough for Hsieh. He decided to take it one step further and dig deeper into what makes people most happy.
“What is your goal in life?”
When I ask different people this question, I get a lot of different answers. Some people say they want to start a company. Other say they want to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. Others say they want to get healthy.
Whatever your response is, I’d like you to think about your answer to the follow up question: “Why?”
What’s more interesting is that if you keep asking yourself “Why?” enough times, you’ll find yourself arriving at the same answer that most people do when they repeatedly ask themselves why they are doing: They believe that whatever they are pursuing in life will ultimately make them happier.
After realizing that most people are seeking happiness, Hsieh decided to shift his focus once again. Now he focuses on his purpose: to help others find happiness. He does this with Zappos by delivering exceptional customer service and products that bring joy to his customers.
But he also does this by spreading his message through speaking engagements, books, and company culture.
Zappos’ take on culture has no doubt shaped the way we approach culture at CopyPress. Like Zappos, we have a solid foundation of core values that identify our unique beliefs and passions. And like Zappos, we have a culture book that expresses these values to new employees and staff.
And also like Zappos, CopyPress has experienced how easy it is to lose culture when not focused on cultivating that relationship.
When Hsieh’s first company started to grow rapidly, the company started to hire rapidly.
During our first year, we hired our friends and people who wanted to be a part of building something fun and exciting.
Then as we grew beyond twenty-five people, we make the mistake of hiring people who were joining the company for other reasons. The good news was that the people we hired were smart and motivated. The bad news was that many of them were motivated by the prospect of either making a lot of money or building their careers and resumes.
This same situation hit CopyPress a few months ago when we hired about 20 people in two months, nearly doubling our staff. I couldn’t have felt more like Hsieh.
It was a strange feeling to be walking around the office and seeing people I didn’t recognize. It seemed like every week, there was someone new. It wasn’t just that I didn’t know people’s names or what their jobs were… I didn’t even recognize their faces.
Yea, it’s a bummer when you can no longer rattle off the names of everyone you work with. But it’s more than that. There are two problems that can happen when rapid growth induces rapid hiring.
Businesses looking for employees are like men and woman looking for a good mate. In order to have a relationship that works, both sides need to be invested in the same values. That is the best way to cultivate a culture of closeness between employees and the business that will ultimately drive the best results and lead to the most success — for both the business and the employee.
This post is only a small part of what make Delivering Happiness such an important book. I obviously can’t cram all of its greatness into a blog post. You absolutely need to read it for yourself.
But if you decide not to read it, take away one big message: in order to create something new and special, you must envision, create, and believe. There is really no other way.
So if you are doing something that you can’t believe in, envisioning and creating won’t be enough. You control the cards way more than you think.
I put this book on the CopyPress reading list because our early experiences at CopyPress frequently match the early experiences of LinkExchange and Zappos. By exposing our staff to this book, hopefully our future experiences at CopyPress will reflect the later experiences of both of those great companies.
It’s up to us.