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

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"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?

Question 9: Are You A Self-Starter?

Entrepreneurs face lots of discouragement. Potential buyers don’t return calls, business sours or you face repeated rejection. It takes willpower and an almost unwavering optimism to overcome these constant obstacles.

John Gartner, an assistant clinical-psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of the book “The Hypomaniac Edge,” theorizes that many well-known entrepreneurs have a temperament called hypomania. They’re highly creative, energetic, impatient and very persistent — traits that help them persevere even when others lose faith.

“One of the things about having this kind of confidence is they’re kind of risk-blind because they don’t think they could fail,” Prof. Gartner says. And, he adds, “if they fail, they’re not down for that long, and after a while they’re energized by a whole new idea.”

You don’t have to be as driven as, say, Steve Jobs to succeed. But somebody who gets deterred easily, or too upset when things go wrong, won’t last.

Question 8: Do You Have A Concept You’re Passionate About?

Every morning you want to jump out of bed eager to get to work. If you’re not that exuberant about how you’ll be spending your time — or the business concept itself — running a business is going to be a rough ride.

Ms. Ettenson of the Association of Small Business Development Centers has coached many prospective entrepreneurs about their chosen business. She always asks why they’re doing it. If they suggest it’s mostly for the prospect of making a lot of money or because they’re tired of working for someone else, she steers them toward something more in line with their interests or avoiding self-employment altogether.

“If you hate doing paperwork, the last thing you want to do is become a bookkeeper,” Ms. Ettenson says. “If you’d rather be outside taking people into the wilderness, then that’s the type of business you should be in.”

But it’s also usually wise to find a business in an industry you are very familiar with; it will be much harder to succeed if you know little about the field. Mr. Fishback at Kauffman says he has steered a doctor and other professionals away from starting restaurants because they often don’t grasp how difficult and risky restaurant ownership is. And they’d be competing against restaurateurs with years of experience.

Question 7: How Pursuasive and Well-Spoken Are You?

Nearly every step of the way, entrepreneurship relies on selling. You’ll have to sell your idea to lenders or investors. You must sell your mission and vision to your employees. And you’ll ultimately have to sell your product or service to your customers. You’ll need strong communication and interpersonal skills so you can get people to believe in your vision as much as you do.

If you don’t think you’re very convincing or have difficulty communicating your ideas, you might want to reconsider starting your own company — or think about getting some help.

In 2007, Brad Price left a $135,000-a-year job as an associate at a Baltimore law firm to purchase a PuroClean Emergency Restoration Services franchise, which cleans up property damage such as mold and flooded basements. A former Naval officer, Mr. Price felt he was very self-motivated and a good leader. But he was less comfortable cold-calling and striking deals — something he’d never had to do in previous jobs.

“There’s a big difference in waiting for the phone to ring and getting an assignment and having to make the phone ring,” says the 33-year-old Mr. Price.
Mr. Price says he now has his wife handle the marketing and networking. “My wife is very good at that, ‘Hey, next time a call comes in, how about you give it to us?’ ” he says.

Question 6: What’s Your Track Record on Executing Ideas?

One of the biggest differences between successful entrepreneurs and everyone else is their ability to implement their ideas, says Prof. Bygrave of Babson College. You might have a wonderful concept, but that doesn’t mean you possess that special mix of drive, persuasiveness, leadership skills and keen intuition to actually turn the idea into a lucrative business.

So, examine your past objectively to see whether you have assumed leadership roles or initiated solo projects — anything that might suggest you’re good at executing ideas. “Were you senior class president? Did you play varsity sports?” Prof. Bygrave suggests asking.

You might even find clues back in your childhood, he adds: “A lot of successful entrepreneurs were starting businesses when they were still kids.”