Lessons from Tony Hsieh

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I was saddened to learn of the premature passing of Tony Hsieh this last weekend.  To make it worse it was in an accidental house fire.  For those of you who don’t know who he is, Tony was an internet entrepreneur and the CEO of Zappo’s, an online shoe and clothing company.  It wasn’t Tony’s success that interested me but his philosophy on running his business’ and the cultures he promotes.

You often hear or read quotes from successful entrepreneurs like “You don’t need to be a genius or a visionary, or even a college graduate for that matter, to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream”  or  “Be a yardstick of quality, some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected“.  These types of thing are all well and good, but to me these quotes spout self self self.  The difference with Tony Hsieh was the selflessness of his morals and philosophy.  He was asked what were the happiest periods in his life and his response was:

“I realised that none of them involved money. I realised that building stuff and being creative and inventive made me happy. Connecting with a friend and talking through the entire night until the sun rose made me happy. Trick-or-treating in middle school with a group of my closest friends made me happy. Pickles made me happy.”

I find this outlook refreshing, normally you only hear the quotes from successful types which are all about money making and obtaining ‘THINGS’.  Yes granted we do it for the money, because lets face it we need it…….  But, speaking personally, It’s not the sole reason I get out of bed in the morning (all be it begrudgingly).  I like to know that the day ahead involves creating something unique and special, some good conversation with the guys and girls at work, both constructive and shooting the breeze, accomplishing the best work I can produce.  These types of thing get me out of bed.

I’ve chased the profits and the money and to be honest it didn’t make me happy, I guess I’m still young but it was a valuable lesson to learn.  I got more disheartened and low when we made a loss on a job.  Rather than chalking it down to experience like I do now I just went into a sulk.  Also when a job isn’t doing as well money wise you can find yourself considering compromising quality, something that in my opinion should never be done.  Now I’ve learned do the best job no matter what and make sure it doesn’t happen again by using the lessons you’ve learned, and hopefully the customer will come back to you after you have delivered a fantastic job.  If/when they do, is it even a loss?  I don’t think it is.

“Have Fun.  The game is a lot more enjoyable when you’re trying to do more than just make money”

When I first started working at the naive age of 16 the workshop foreman said to me “We work hard, we have to, but we like to have fun too.  We’re at work for 50 years of our life, might as well make the most of it!”  And boy did we have fun!  Looking back, some of it was dangerous and stupid but we had a laugh!  I like to encourage an enjoyable and fun atmosphere here at JFW Ltd.  I am proud that the whole team get on and in some cases mix outside of work.  I encourage a team culture, none of this “it’s not my job” nonsense.  My rule is, if its under the roof of 4, 5 and 6 Veasey Close (see what I did there……?  Smug face) it is your job!  It’s everyone’s job.  if you’re up against it with time and the pressure and load is mounting, you’d like the help from a team member wouldn’t you?  Of course you would!  So go help him/her out!!  We are in this together and I’m so glad the team here at JFW Ltd completely believe in this philosophy.  Which leads me on to this quote of Tony’s:

$2k aside…..

“We’re willing to give up short term profits or revenue growth to make sure we have the best culture.  In fact, after orientation we offer people $2000 not to work at Zappo’s.  The ones who stay are right for our culture.”

The right culture and the right team makes all the difference.  I have found that a smaller team who get along will produce more than a larger group of individuals who don’t get on.

“Personally I cringe at the word ‘leader’.  It’s more about getting people to do what they’re passionate about and putting them in the right context or setting.  They’re the ones doing the hard work.”

I also cringe at this, I hate it when someone asks, “who’s the boss?” Or “Who’s in charge here?”  this leads to me bashfully raising my hand or pointing at Josh or Lee in an attempt to hide my embarrassment by resorting to my long tried and tested defence mechanism of humour.  I think there are two reasons for this, one being not liking to be the centre of attention (unless I’ve had a beer) and the other being my belief that no-one is more important than the other.  Everyone has their job to do and their speciality, as I mentioned before we are a team and all in it together and I for one could not do it without my team.  I try my best to look after them where I can, treat them how I would like to be treated and never ever ask them to do something that I wouldn’t or haven’t done my self!

This all may surprise some people who are driven by profits and money.  I understand this, because it is great to have things!  But the job satisfaction, the quality product and the fun we have here at JFW Ltd is everything to me!


Something a bit different this week, but it has been a ridiculously busy one.  The Christmas rush is well upon us and we are flat out meeting the Christmas deadlines!  I’m sure you’ll be reading about it in weeks to come!

Feel free to get in touch by email: adam@jfw-cabinet.com

Take it easy.
Tags: JFW Ltd HQ, JFW Process