Small Business

Yes he can – why happiness is just good business

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Anyone who went along for the ride to Darwin with US president Barack Obama on Thursday could not have missed the happiness that went with the event. Even Prime Minister Julia Gillard seemed more relaxed and dare I say happier than she’s been publicly for some time.

Happiness may be the key to success in most things and especially in business. If this is right, then maybe it is high time that our politicians started rethinking their policy offerings based on the H-factor.

There are a lot of unhappy Aussies out there and this has been reflected in consumer and business confidence surveys and certainly policies such as the carbon tax. The Reserve Bank’s interest rate settings have not helped happiness levels either.

Last year Delivering Happiness — a Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose was both a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

It was written by Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos.com, an online shoe seller. This company turns over more than a $1 billion a year and after 10 years Hsieh pulled off the ultimate entrepreneur’s dream when Amazon paid $1.2 billion to acquire the company.

Now that’s the kind of thing that can deliver happiness — big time.

Hsieh incorporated happiness throughout his business, employed life coaches, let staff do wacky things like dress as super heroes and basically put happiness at the top of the business’s goals.

The thinking is that happy staff can be more customer-focused and this breeds happy customers.

Hsieh relocated his warehouse from California to Kentucky, which meant his East Coast customers got their shoes in two days rather than a week. That story reminded me of my wife’s face when her trench coat arrived from London in about three days.

Of course happiness in the workplace as a way of driving profits is nothing new but it tends to be businesses such as Southwest Airlines and Richard Branson’s Virgin that have actually publicly invested in happiness as a business strategy.

And it is what is missing in the likes of David Jones and Myer, with customers always complaining about service levels, which explains why the online alternative is growing at their expense at the moment.

In the finance space, the online offerings are making lives harder for financial institutions with the self-managed super funds sector now bigger, in dollar terms, than either the industry or retail super fund sectors.

This is the case of unhappy investors now doing it for themselves and it is also a reaction to financial advisers, who clearly haven’t been successful in the happiness stakes.

That said, some advisers have actively encouraged their clients into the SMSF space because they weren’t happy with the results and the costs of the funds provided by financial institutions.

Businesses and governments that ignore happiness will live to regret it.

Hsieh kicks off his first chapter — In Search of Profits — with a quote from Gandhi, which says, “First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

For businesses or governments struggling in these challenging times, maybe the strategy is to create a product or service customers want, give it to them how they want it and simply add happiness.

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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