Zappos Shoes CEO Tony Hsieh Wants to Be Your Soul Provider

At SXSW, the chief of one of America's favorite online shoe stores lets Fast Company in on his newest idea, a lifestyle and business brand with partner Jenn Lim named after his bestselling business book, "Delivering Happiness."

Zappos.com CEO <a href=Tony Hsieh" />

Delivering Happiness is no longer merely the bestselling business book by Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh. It's a lifestyle.

Hsieh is launching a new a company to exploit the growing market of individuals who have the audacity to enjoy work. It's an early stage startup that will advise businesses on value-based management, design a line of motivational apparel, and expand the loyal community that formed around the book. In the future, Hsieh, and his business partner, Jenn Lim, hope to publish educational literature for soul-searching college students and provide life-changing experience packages. To help those already on the road to personal fulfillment, Delivering Happiness wants to offer wild packaged experiences, from helicopter flying lessons to foreign adventures.

All of the company’s products are manifestations of its core principles: inspire, connect, educate, and experience, Hsieh says. As an example of an "inspire" concept in motion, Internet hosting service, Rackspace, plans on hiring Delivering Happiness to design its own version of Zappos's corporate culture book, a scrapbook of employee pictures and testimonials of what their business “means” to them (video below).

Zappos unique management principles came to prominence partly based on the idea that the workplace should fulfill employee's aspirations and personal values. Zappos' successful execution of this lofty vision accounts for its extraordinarily low turnover rate. Companies, such as Rackspace, looking to capitalize on the morale-boosting experience of Zappos would likely see Delivering Happiness as a more friendly and cost-effective human resource strategy.

Hsieh is adamant that as he expands his consulting services, the driving principle is helping businesses find their unique motivational values, which may or may not be ones shared with Zappos. A value is legitimate so long as it becomes some hire-able (or, fire-able) outcome that is not based on profit alone. For instance, at Zappos, job candidates who are rude to the shuttle driver who takes them to their interview at corporate HQ would likely be disqualified from employment (as it violates Zappos' "humility" value). For Hsieh and Lim, good corporate culture means fidelity to enforcement, regardless of whether it impacts the bottom line.

Additionally, Delivering Happiness has already begun designing a line of branded apparel with inspirational messages that they hope will spark conversations about the core principles, and also serve as a marker for identifying book fans in the wild. Inspiration apparel is already a sizable market, with multi-million-dollar Life is Good being the most notable landmark in the thriving new industry. Hsieh and Lim are betting that the success of the book will help them overcome their late arrival to the motivational industry.

Finally, Hsieh and Lim have more ideas on the conceptual back-burner, including inspirational school literature and experiential services. Delivering Happiness is already required reading at a University of Iowa class and Lim would like to see literature that helps spoon-fed students break free from the coercive pre-med expectations of "Tiger" parents and pursue their passions (as Lim did when she was in college).

Over the past decade, we have increasingly seen employees, especially younger ones, that want jobs to support their personal aspirations, respect their creative whims, and complete their social circle. Delivering Happiness is betting that this new market demand is poorly matched by the ability of most corporations to supply the solution.

Follow @FastCompany on Twitter; see live coverage of SXSW.

[Image: Flickr user Randy Stewart]

Read More: Most Innovative Companies: Top Ten in Fashion

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5 Comments

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    Thank you, Tony! Work doesn't have to suck! It can be joyful and rewarding!

    By the way,I love the new pair of shoes I bought!

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Time Management Coach for Authentic Leaders
    www.DarkMatterConsulting.com

  • christine allen

    As a clinical psychologist and executive coach, it is very exciting that there are companies like Zappos that can align core values, employee satisfaction, and profitability. I will definitely read the book Delivering Happiness. Just reading this post makes ME happy!

  • Mark E Valley

    Gag me with a spoon! Yuck. All this crap about "happy cultures" is just a mindless exercise in non-critical acceptance that the corporation really cares about you as a person. It most certainly does not! Employees are just cogs in a massive profit wheel. Wake up and smell the bottom line.

  • Stuart Bogue

    It seems you may have missed the point. While the norm in corporate culture may be exactly as you describe, Zappos apparently offers a counter-culture to the normal model. The book and the examination and discussion of this philosophy of management/structure are for those who may wish to create/transform/participate . It also provides verification of the viability of such a culture/outlook through the obvious financial success of Zappos....I am not on commission from Zappos or the manufacturer of the /,by the way....

  • Irene Turner

    interesting idea. I would have probably stayed in the corporate culture longer had I worked in an environment like this. It's those intangibles that make life worth while, is it not? And I like the use of Jaeson Ma's song as the background for the video say's a lot. Very interesting