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Meeting with Zappos CEO delivers true happiness

Entrepreneurship , Event Recaps Marketing | Sep 22, 2010 |

The happiness bus works its magic on our students.

This is one Gabelli student’s account of a trip to meet with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com and the author of Delivering Happiness, a book about that business.


On a bright Friday morning, September 10, I stepped out of the Ram Van with 23 of my International Marketing classmates. Professor Chattalas had given us a special opportunity, exclusive to Fordham marketing students and New York American Marketing Association members: an audience with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, who was touring the country to promote and discuss his book Delivering Happiness.

Mr. Hsieh began by describing his background. After graduating from Harvard, he co-founded a company called LinkExchange, which he sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million. He then joined Zappos, ultimately rising to the level of CEO. Under Mr. Hsieh’s leadership, Zappos sales grew to more than $1 billion annually. In 2009, the company was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion.

Underlying Zappos’s success, Mr. Hseih explained, is the philosophy that Zappos is a service company that happens to sell products as well. Customer satisfaction is key to its business model: the company spends little on paid advertising and instead relies on customer loyalty — 75 percent of its shoppers are returnees — and word of mouth.

Mr. Hsieh explained that “customers do not remember their individual experiences, but how the brand makes them feel.” At Zappos, customers always come first. Zappos has 10 customer-happiness-focused core values that employees must embrace. Regardless of their job performance, workers — from Mr. Hsieh himself to the newest entry-level trainee — can be fired if they do not embody these principles.

In Mr. Hsieh’s view, a job should be a passion. What is important is to pursue one’s vision or overarching goal; that leads to a happier life, and if all goes well, the money will simply follow.

At the conclusion of Mr. Hsieh’s presentation, audience members had a chance to purchase his book and have him sign it. He signed it “Live in the WOW,” referencing the first Zappos core value: “Delivering WOW through service!” The Fordham students then took a picture with Professors Chattalas, Kabadayi, and Kachersky in front of Mr. Hsieh’s 45-foot Happiness Bus, which is his transportation for this book tour.

The event was a perfect fit with the mission of the Center for Positive Marketing, which Fordham professors launched this year to expand their effect on the marketing industry and academic community. This was an incredible experience for me, and I am indebted to Fordham for making this possible.

—Matthew Spelman, Class of 2011

CBA Students & The Zappos Happiness Bus

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