Jenn Lim

I’ve always been interested in exploring the ways that business and psychology intersect. It’s fertile ground and is especially fascinating when it comes to the creation of corporate culture. When I interviewed Jenn Lim, Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness, a company she and Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos.com) co-founded, that helps businesses to create cultures that inspire engagement and passion, we talked about happiness, entrepreneurship, and how to a “Happiness” culture leads to profit. Here are some pieces of wisdom she’s gleaned through her long entrepreneurial journey:

1. Be bold. Zappos.com became more than just another shoe store by focusing on delivering expert customer service and introducing things like 365-day returns and free shipping – practices that were unheard of at the time. Zappos.com has always been open to taking risks. A brand that is always changing, says Jenn, is like a story that is always unfolding.

2. Take care of your workforce. When Zappos.com moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas, 70% of their company moved with them. The move was sparked by the realization that housing prices in San Francisco were too high for people working in customer service roles. Given their emphasis on customer service, it made more sense to operate in a place where their employees live comfortably. After the move, company culture became a core focus. Zappos.com’s deliberate attempts to build up their company culture has helped them to mature and gain employee loyalty.

3. Ask for buy-in. Businesses that are serious about their culture pay as much attention to it as they do to their product. When Delivering Happiness updates their core values or guiding processes, they ask their employees if they are willing to re-commit to the new version of the company. Jenn says that is the only way to know for sure if employees are onboard with the new culture.

4. Look inward. Businesses tend to focus on trying to qualify, quantify, and come up with strategies to deal with the external factors that affect them. However, the value of measures like SWOT analyses and focus groups start to drop during periods of rapid change and innovation. Jenn says that external factors will continue to change far more quickly than we can account for and that it is more important now for companies to focus inward, not outward.

5. Build happiness into your business model. Don’t think of employee happiness as just the icing on top of the cake but as a crucial ingredient in the cake itself. Having happy employees will not only help you with retention and recruitment. It will also benefit your company by providing better customer service, which tends to increase your revenue.

Is happiness a vital part of your business model? Is your company culture something that you’ve codified, or are you still feeling it out?