Tony Hsieh Dead at 46: Stolen Brilliance
I’m not one to lament public figures.
When I do, however, it’s because they had an impact on my life.
I think the last time I lamented a celebrity passing was for Stan Lee.
Stan’s work profoundly changed my life.
Hell, I used to dream of of not only creating comics, but doing so while LIVING in Marvel studios.
So what did Hsieh change in my life?
I love being an entrepreneur, but always found I didn’t fit in with a lot of other entrepreneurs.
This is largely because so many of them put money ahead of customers/clients, and they don’t believe in delivering value.
The fact that many also see employees as little more than cogs didn’t help.
When I read Tony’s book, Delivering Happiness, I knew I had found my spirit animal in the business world.
Tony headed a company so robust it drew the attention of Jeff Bezos, leading the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon (see point #6 in this post to learn more).
It’s kind of ironic that Hsieh and Bezos would come to work side by side.
Having also read The Everything Store, I’m very familiar with Bezos’ style of management and it’s the polar opposite of Tony’s.
Tony would offer new hires $1200 to just quit om the spot.
His view being that if they quit, they weren’t a fit in the first place – he wanted the best.
Jeff, on the other hand, once called one of his engineers a “fucking idiot” in front of said engineer’s entire team. Bezos already has the best and that’s how he treats them.
Even if you have no plans to start a business, I do encourage you to pick up a copy of Delivering Happiness so you can absorb Tony’s faith and dedication.
Two stories really stood out to me and hold:
#1 – By the time Tony had gotten involved in Zappos (it was some other kid’s creation), he was already rich from selling his startup for $250M.
With that kind of money, he didn’t ever have to work again.
When Zappos started hemorrhaging money, and Tony was personally bankrolling the company to keep it afloat.
He even sold his house to help cover the mounting expenses.
As I read about this, all I kept thinking was, “Tony, just quit while you still have enough of your fortune left to not work again!”
He almost lost it all, but managed to pull it out of the fire.
#2 – A company handling the storage and distribution of Zappos product had lost a critical volume of inventory and couldn’t find it anywhere.
Tony and his partner had to find this inventory or they would be in serious shit.
Tony was in California.
The distributor in Kentucky.
They did the math and realized they could get there faster by car than waiting for morning for a flight.
Tony and his partner took turns steering and sleeping to drive across the country to solve a problem someone else had created for them.
For this, I’m pulling Delivering Happiness off the shelf and giving it another read.
Condolences to the Hsieh family.