So, funny story, I’m in the library in the “new” section and I grab a light blue book that looks like a quick read on marketing or brand-building or something. I fly through it and think, I’ve totally heard of Zappos before. Then, my husband gets home and is like, “I’ve been dying to read that book!” And I go, “um, yeah, definitely, it’s really good you’ll love it.” But, really, I found it by accident. But I did read it and it is good. So, all’s well that ends well.
This book review of The Power of Wow is just a simple synopsis and a few quotes to inspire you to pick it up yourself. The byline is, “How to Electrify Your Work and Your Life by Putting Service First.” It’s authored by the employees of Zappos (as told to author Mark Dagostino).
Like me, you’ve probably heard of Zappos before and have a vague recollection of a highly modern company that has nap rooms or something. True and true. But the ethos of this company is—both in their own words and based on some evidence—groundbreaking.
The thing Zappos may be best known for is their core values. The first is “Deliver WOW Through Service” and one of them is “Create Fun and A Little Weirdness.” The book is essentially the story of this company in recent years. It began in 1999 and was acquired by Amazon in 2009. Remaining intact even under Amazon, they pioneer initiatives in culture and creativity.
Located in Las Vegas, the book details the company’s growth, centering on its transition into downtown Las Vegas. Each voice is really articulate and insightful. They explain how their core values have caused them to make high-risk decisions in terms that impacted the company financially and socially.
And, it is a highly social company. The foundational notion of both their inward and outward dealings is, “we are a service company that happens to sell shoes.” So, the idea of customer service is applied both to their employees and their paying customers. People are paid well, treated well and given freedom. There are some pretty wild ideas at work, from a business perspective.
“What is the minimal number of constraints we need to put in place to give each circle of employees the maximum amount of freedom and the maximum amount of accountability?”The Power of Wow, Tony Hsieh
Zappos transitioned from a traditional leadership structure into these self-organized subgroups. The model is called Holocracy and the transition into that marked a loss of numerous employees (through something called the Teal Offer).
The structural idea is that a business can function like a city, with these autonomous units that work much like a restaurant, construction company or other business within the city. Each unit is self-directed and responsible for its own goals and (eventually) budget. Obviously this is very experimental but it’s interesting nonetheless.
“The resilient organization we ought to strive to emulate is a city. Cities can thrive and last for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Even while empires and countries around them crumble, great cities survive. They evolve. Constantly. And for the most part, they’re self-organized.”The Power of Wow, Tony Hsieh
Apart from the leadership and business ideas, the heart of the book really is the idea that people matter. The service company that happens to:___. Service looks like the CEO stepping into man the phones and people getting extended, paid parental leave. Service to Zappos looks like loyalty-building and gift-giving and community events. They craft it well. There are some interesting ideas and it’s definitely worth the read.
Here are some quotes from The Power of Wow by Zappos/Mark Dagostino:
“Many people think that Zappos is a website that sells shoes. But that’s just what we are on the surface. What we really are, what we’ve always been, is a service company that just happens to sell shoes.The Power of Wow, Christa Foley
“We trust that people are going to do the right thing. We start out assuming positive intent, which means we don’t have to put many rules and policies in place at all.”The Power of Wow, Hollie Delaney
“Make the best decision for the customer—because the best decision for the customer is always the best decision for the company.”The Power of Wow, Megan Petrini
“The organic nature of employees mentoring each other, promoting from within, the cross-cultivation of ideas across departments—that’s where so much of the excitement at Zappos was coming from.”The Power of Wow, Derrin Hawkins
“When you embrace change, and drive it, you realize it’s an opportunity. You learn from it. You grow from it.”The Power of Wow, Jeanne Markel
Zappos Culture and Book Reviews
The Zappos culture does seem to manifest in their real day-to-day organization. It’s interesting. I read through a lot of books like this. I’ll regularly post reviews that give you enough of a taste to decide if you want to read it yourself. Follow the blog to get notified when something new goes up.