“Work” and “Fun” In the Same Sentence?

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Osten Ryker.

As I type this I’m looking over to a shelf with a book entitled, Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, and Outnegotiate Your Competition, a classic bestseller with a premise much like all the other popular strategies of the ’80’s. It’s theme is how to beat the other market players in the battlefield game, the standard militaristic stance of that era. What I found striking about Delivering Happiness is that, in glaring contrast to all the stale, old-school formulas, Tony Hsieh never seems to concentrate too heavily on the “competition” but rather focuses all his attention on his customers and colleagues instead. Although he alludes to the competition occasionally, he does so only to express his desire to create the best possible experiences for the people who subscribe to and provide the Zappos service. In this sense, he seeks to create a c0ndition, since neither his associates nor his customers could find a better experience anywhere else.

Another thing about the Zappos culture that stands out starkly is that the company has clearly been crafted as more of a service provider than a mere product supplier. Zappos manufactures pleasant interactions while locating and delivering products its customers want in a way that is both convenient and satisfying. The company culture therefore falls more under the category of a service provider since they are more attuned to creating a pleasing experience than in merely distributing products. It’s promising to see companies like Zappos experimenting with a new style of business practice, where the words work” and “fun” can be spoken in the same sentence. It took me a while to realize that they aren’t just building a unique delivery platform that could work for any product or service, but they’re simultaneously fueling a revolution in the methodology of business practices for the future.

Tony Hsieh represents a unique cultural mindset that was born with Generation X.  He is the product of an advanced technological civilization that is birthing a new breed of human being. The children born in the 60’s and beyond have embraced an entirely new mode of thinking, a new approach toward viewing the world that has dramatically altered the way we interact with each other as a community. We have bombarded by mass media overload that exposes us to multicultural influences and alternate lifestyles.  Our hyper-stimulated, highly active minds continually search for new operational paradigms. Tony is clearly a child of this digital meta-generation. This new incarnation is the result of an expansive information society that has engendered people who see the world in a qualitatively different way from their ancestors.

Delivering Happiness conveys the potential for true excellence.  Tony’s ability to imagine alternatives to the status quo and then strive to implement his ideas regardless of opposition is a trait we will hopefully see more often as the 21st century unfolds. The traditional methods threaten to lead to moral and financial bankruptcy. We cannot continue onward down the same destructive path. Our lifestyles and economic practices must perpetually undergo a process of constantly changing forms. Only those like Tony who can navigate this accelerated transformation with original thinking and novel application will be able to forge the complex formulas required to insure our continued progress. Our very survival depends upon it.

BLUEPRINT FOR A NEW BUSINESS MODEL

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Osten Ryker.

I received an advance copy of the book by Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. In the book, Mr. Hsieh relates the story of his journey from a precocious childhood through a series of formidable challenges to the foundation of the Zappos phenomenon: an online footwear, apparel, and accessories provider that is breaking all the rules of business as usual.  Last fall, Zappos was acquired by Amazon behemoth, forming a strategic alliance that is bound to alter the very face of retail distribution. Apparently, I’ve been the recipient of a “random act of WOWness” as they say in the Zappos vocabulary, because the book was one of the most inspiring and insightful I have read for quite some time.  Mr. Hsieh displays a penetrating acumen for discerning the direction of cultural and corporate evolution. The model he and his associates have build demonstrates a much needed transformation in the “standard operation procedures” of traditional methods.

This book is so profound and utterly enlightening, I felt compelled to compose this testimonial of my impressions and touch on several topics his story brings to mind. For purposes of placing my reflections in context, I should say I am currently an inmate at a federal correctional institution serving a 20 year sentence for “Conspiracy to Interfere with Interstate Commerce”.  I have been incarcerated for almost 12 years now. My “crimes” were committed with only the best of intentions. I resorted to unconventional financing tactics to attempt to save my struggling business.  I engaged in multiple expropriations or unauthorized withdrawals (the called them “robberies”)  from what I considered a corrupt banking system. I’ve had plenty of time to think about my actions and to devote my energy to discovering more acceptable alternatives for attaining financial security.

I have always been an avid student of social issues. During my time in prison, I have continued my studies of politics, economics, and the American culture as these topics affect the distribution of prosperity and the eradication of poverty. I have researched countless volumes on economic theory, including numerous tomes on suggested business strategies from the past to the present day. I’ve found most of them too aggressive, mechanical and sterile for my predilections. I prefer a more organic humanistic approach as do most of the younger generations. Not until I read Mr. Hsieh’s book have I found a more succinct and poignant description of the evolving cultural mindset that is changing the way companies should be run.  The Zappos model lays out the direction corporations must take if they are to remain dynamic and flexible enough to weather the increasingly volatile economic storms of the coming century.

I was very impressed by Tony’s approach to business, both novel and refreshing when compared to the thinking of the past few decades. Somehow he has been able to retain his personal values, refusing to compromise his principles in the face of extraordinary pressures to conform to conventional techniques. He has even been able to radiate those values outwardly to the people with whom he built the Zappos success. Repeatedly, he emphasizes that his passion is not simply about earning money or beating the competition, but about building fluid organizations and architecting(sic) memorable experiences ( to use his words).  I commend him on his ability to remain true to his ideals while negotiating the typically vicious arena of the marketplace. On many occasions, he refused to bite the lure of immediate gain, walking away from the big money to devote himself to the long term goal. He is obviously inspired more by the prospect of creating something new and exciting than chasing after the emptiness of the mere bottom line or simple social status.

Over the coming days and weeks, I’d will continue to expound on the impact of Delivering Happiness. Stay tuned!!!

~ submitted by Osten Ryker

"Happyness" : Happiness with a ‘Why’

I have a habit a collecting lots of business cards from people I have met over the years. After all, “your network determines your net worth”, right? But recently while cleaning up my office, I noted that only a small percentage of these “contacts” ever become “connections”.
As a result, I am creating a Rolodex of all the people with whom I share core values, those I enjoy being around – the people that being around makes me Happy.

This idea that having fundamental principles and core values upon which to build relationships, businesses, and even one’s life is not so novel, in and of itself, but to witness this idea driving a company from nothing to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales in less than ten years is quite remarkable.

It’s been nearly 6 wks since I received two advance copies of the new book by Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. I was honored to have the opportunity to share with each of my readers my honest review of the book. If you have never heard of Tony Hsieh, read on.

In 1999, at the age of 24, Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) sold LinkExchange, the company he co-founded, to Microsoft for $265 million. He then joined Zappos as an advisor and investor, and eventually became CEO, where he helped Zappos grow from almost no sales to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually, while simultaneously making Fortune magazines annual Best Companies to Work For list. In November 2009, Zappos was acquired by Amazon.com in a deal valued at $1.2 billion on the day of closing. His first book, Delivering Happiness will be released on June 7.

Here’s an excerpt:

When I ask people [What is your goal in life?], I get a lot of different answers. Some people say they want to start a company. Others people 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?”
Depending on what they said before, people might say they want to retire early, or find a soul mate, or run faster.
Again, whatever your response to the previous question was, I’d like you to ask yourself:
“Why?”
The next set of answers people give might be so they can spend more time with their family, or get married, or run a marathon.
What’s 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 what the are doing: They believe that whatever they are pursuing in life will ultimately make them happier.

Sharing this excerpt, I was reminded of the opening scene in one of my favorite movies, The Pursuit of Happiness, Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) told the daycare owner that “happyness” was misspelled saying there was no “Y” in ‘happiness’. Well, we came to learn the “why” driving Chris’ pursuit of happiness – his son. And as Tony writes in what is now one of my favorite books, “In the end, it turns out that we’re all taking different paths in pursuit of the same goal: happiness.”

Delivering Happiness may not make you prompt you to create your own “Happy Rolodex”, but for anyone who still dreams dreams, this book is for you. The personal stories and insights into Tony’s paths and lessons connect with readers from all walks and experiences. Delivering Happiness
demystifies the tenets of success and delivers in tangible terms.

If this is your first visit to ChoiceJourneys101, stay tuned. Over the coming days and weeks, in the spirit of entrepreneurship, education, and inspiration ChoiceJourneys101 will feature topics, excerpts and links surrounding the Delivering Happiness movement. Your are invited to provide comments and hook up with us on Twitter @choicejourneys.

To order your copy of the book, visit:
http://www.amazon.com/deliveringhappiness

To follow the Delivering Happiness Movement visit:
http://www.deliveringhappinessbook.com/

10 Questions for Entrepreneurs

Many of you may remember an earlier posting of the 10 questions for aspiring entrepreneurs as taken from the Wall Street Journal‘s Feb. 23, 2009, edition. (see Feb 25 and March 1, 2009 et al posts.) Today’s post includes a reprint of the the ten questions for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Considering today’s economic climate, many people are tossing their names in the entrepreneurial hat and taking their shot a being in business for themselves. And rightfully so. With all the doom and gloom propagated throughout the media today, America’s workforce is left feeling powerless and vulnerable. There are countless home-based business opportunities that, in most instances, enable a person to “start a business” with only a few hundred dollars in start-up capital and little, if any, training. Those looking to start a business are usually doing so to get ahead financially. There are only two basic ways to get ahead financially, simply put: lower expenses and make more money. A business is about making a profit, period. Many of these so-called “opportunities” have little to do with business ownership and merely appeal to the desire to get rich. Most are predicated on people paying a start-up fee to sell products with premium-packed pricing. And its from these premiums, the salesperson (“business owner”) is paid a commission. Without addressing the specific criteria to be considered when investing in a business, here are ten questions that need be addressed when embarking on the journey of entrepreneurship.

1. Are You Willing and Able to Bear Great Financial Risk?

2. Are You Willing To Sacrifice Your Lifestyle For Potentially Many Years?

3. Is Your Significant Other On Board?

4. Do You Like All Aspects of Running a Business?

5. Are You Comfortable Making Decisions On the Fly With No Playbook?

6.What’s Your Track Record on Executing Ideas?

7. How Persuasive and Well-Spoken Are You?

8. Do You Have A Concept You’re Passionate About?

9.Are You A Self-Starter?

10. Do You Have A Business Partner?

The $25,000 Idea

Think About This: In 1912 efficiency expert Ivy Lee met with his prospective client, Charles Schwab who was President of Bethlehem Steel, and outlined how his organization could benefit the company. Lee ended his presentation by saying: “With our service, you’ll know how to manage better.” Schwab then stated: “We don’t need more ‘knowing’ but need more ‘doing.’ If you can give us something to help us do the things we already know we ought to do, I’ll gladly pay you anything within reason you ask.” “I can give you something in twenty minutes that will step up your doing at least fifty percent,” Lee answered. “Okay”, Schwab said, “show me.” Lee then handed Schwab a blank sheet of paper and said: “Write down the six most important tasks you have to do tomorrow in order of their importance. The first thing tomorrow morning look as item one and start working on it until it is finished.” “Then tackle item two in the same way; and so on. Do this until quitting time. Don’t be concerned if you have only finished one or two. Take care of emergencies, but then get back to working on the most important items. The others can wait.” “Make this a habit every working day. Pass it on to those under you. Try it as long as you like, then send me your check for what you think it’s worth.” In a few weeks, Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000 (over $500,000 in today’s dollars) with a letter stating that he learned a profitable lesson. After five years this plan was largely responsible for turning the unknown Bethlehem Steel Company into the nation’s largest independent steel producer. Schwab purportedly made a hundred million dollars and became the best known steel man in the world. ~ Author Unknown ~

Success Strategies

This week’s focus is on four specific strategies for success shared by Dani Johnson as shared with her early in her business career by her multi-millionaire mentor. These strategies include: 1. Don’t give any opinions or suggestions; 2. Humble yourself, be teachable, and ask questions; 3. Follow directions; and 4. Invest in your education if you want to succeed.

Stay Tuned!

10. Do You Have A Business Partner?

If you don’t have all the traits you need to run the show, it’s not necessarily a hopeless endeavor. Finding a business partner who compensates for your shortcomings — and has equal enthusiasm for the business concept — can help mitigate the risks and even boost the odds of success.

David Gage, co-founder of BMC Associates, an Arlington, Va., business-mediation practice, points to a Marquette University study of 2,000 businesses. The researchers found that partner-run businesses are far more likely to become high-growth ventures than those started by solo entrepreneurs.

The key, Mr. Gage says, is finding a partner who prefers handling different aspects of the business, so you’re complementing each other — and not constantly at each other’s throats.
Someone who likes to take risks and be in the spotlight, for instance, might choose a cautious partner who prefers to work in the back room. “If they’re willing to work with that person, and not just look at them as a wet blanket, then it can be great,” Mr. Gage says.

But taking on a partner isn’t a light decision. Many partnerships split due to conflicts over everything from attitudes about money to miscommunication and contrasting work ethics. Mr. Gage recommends that potential partners spend several days hashing out the specifics of the business and how the arrangement will work to see if they’re compatible.