Jenn Lim Discusses the Secret to Happiness

5 Minute Read

Is it possible to sustain long-term happiness at work and at home? According to Jenn Lim, creator of the first Zappos Culture Book and CEO and Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness, it’s not only possible, it’s the only way to prosper.

Jenn was a guest on our latest EntreLeadership Podcast. She spoke to host Chris LoCurto about delivering happiness and the effects it has on each person and the world. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation.

Chris: How did you come around to this concept of delivering happiness?

Jenn: It evolved as Zappos matured over the years. As a startup, we wanted to be the biggest online retailer in the world. As Zappos grew up, we next wanted to be the best in customer service. Then, we grew up again and wanted to focus on employee happiness and company culture. A couple years after that stage, we came to the realization that essentially what Zappos was doing was delivering happiness to employees, customers, partners and vendors.


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Delivering happiness became sort of the general mantra for Zappos, which evolved into Tony’s first book—Delivering Happiness (Tony Hseih is Zappos’ CEO). Basically, publishers became interested in the story, and it seemed like a natural title to describe the journey of what it took to grow. Tony went from starting Zappos to now Delivering Happiness (a company to help people, organizations and businesses apply the different frameworks of happiness to their lives). It seemed like the most natural way to describe our ultimate higher purposes.

Chris: I know that happiness is a feeling, and it’s easy to personally define. But how do you define happiness as it relates to work?

Jenn: Happiness is pretty subjective. You ask 10 different people and you might get 10 different answers. But what’s interesting is, there is actually a science to what creates and sustains long-term happiness. And that’s key. A lot of people know what pleasure is or fleeting happiness, like going out with your friends one night or having the perfect date. But unfortunately, it’s not sustainable in the long term.

Happiness really comes down to some pretty basic things. It requires:

  • Passion that is true to you and that you are actually pursuing.
  • Relationships at work and at home—connectedness.
  • A sense of progress in your life—you continue to learn and grow.
  • A higher purpose, like volunteering at a local charity or something that is greater than yourself.

What’s interesting is that it completely parallels what we see on the business side. You have necessary things, like profit, then being passionate about what you’re doing and having employees who are passionate about it as well. On top of that, in terms of having a long-term sustainable brand, it’s about having a higher purpose.

Chris: How does all of this happiness translate into revenue or the bottom line?

Jenn: Research shows that if you treat your employees right, they’ll treat each other and customers right, which increases productivity and engagement and leads to profits.

It’s also about the message you are sending to your customers. Naturally, if you have a customer-service rep who is happy on the end of the line, their customer will be more inclined to stay on the phone with them and buy a little more. Or if you have a lot of competitors doing what you are doing, your customers will come back to you because they feel like you are being authentic and in the end, happy.

Chris: How would you advise a small-business owner to build happiness on their team?

Jenn: One way to create happiness for yourself or for your employees is a sense of perceived progress. For example, one of the pretty important positions at Zappos is being a buyer. Going from an assistant buyer to buyer is usually an 18-month process.

Because of the sense of perceived progress, we chopped the training time into six-month chunks. After the first six months, there is almost a celebration. We tell them, “This is great, this is where you are, and you are this much closer to being a buyer.” It happens again in another six months.

It still takes 18 months to train, and there is no additional cost by splitting it into six-month increments. The employee is much more engaged, optimistic and productive because he or she feels like they are progressing in becoming that buyer.

A sense of control is another big part of happiness. Employees who feel like they have a choice over decisions and the freedom to make them are happier. A great example is Zappos’ customer loyalty team. No one has a script. They are allowed to talk as long as they want. Actually, the record customer-service call was 8.5 hours with a single customer. I have no idea what they were talking about—maybe chatting about life.

They have the freedom to talk about whatever you want to talk about. They are actually encouraged to talk about things that are personal. If they hear a dog bark, they’ll talk about dogs. It gives the rep a sense of control. They have the ability to write a personal card to a friendly customer or send them flowers if they find out one of their relatives died, for example. They have the ability to make choices and are empowered to do it their own way.

Want to hear the rest of Jenn Lim’s conversation with host Chris LoCurto on delivering happiness? Download the latest EntreLeadership podcast. We guarantee it will make you happy!

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