Books are my passion and so there are many that have influenced me in my life. I thought hard about what book to mention as formative in my childhood, but frankly I kept finding myself distracted with thoughts of books that have impressed me quite recently. In fact, the three books I am about to mention captured me to such an extent that I actually had to sit down and write a personal note to all my employees, imploring them to go and read them. I simply couldn’t resist sharing my excitement.
To explain, we – by which I mean the organization I am the CEO of – are trying to transform ourselves; into a corporation with a human face, so to speak. Talking about customer centricity is nothing new, but what I have in mind is even larger than that. I dream of a happy and healthy insurance company that thrives on long-term, trust-based relationships, a company that is a delight to deal with as well as to work for. It is one thing to spin a special people-centric culture in a start-up business, yet quite another to try to do so in a corporate global company. But when it comes to dreams, the sky is the limit. (At least that’s what books taught me when I was little.) Hence, the following three books fuel my enthusiasm and determination to follow this dream.
The first title is called Fish! by Stephan C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. It is a must-read for anyone who seeks inspiration on how to create a spirited, playful, connected work environment. The book uses a real example of such a place, the world famous and exceptionally successful Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. What makes this market so special is its fun atmosphere and outstanding customer service. It is loved by all - the employees, the customers, as well as the passers-by. It gave me such a boost of courage and excitement that I bought copies of this book for my entire team and gave it to them for Christmas. I am certain this book can actually influence people.
The second book is of a similar kind; Delivering Happiness by the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh. It is about the journey of an online shoe retailer called Zappos from the edge of bankruptcy to the sky heights of customer admiration, employee happiness and unprecedented commercial success. As Hsieh illustrates, the sweet spot of the whole endeavor is – again - the company’s culture and a sound and honest set of values.
The third book is Money or Life? by a Czech author Tomáš Hajzler. It elaborates on how important it is to do what one loves doing. As the opening sentence of the book suggests, working for the sake of earning a living is like saving sex for the time of retirement. After all, life is meant to be lived, not postponed for ‘later’. And Mr. Hajzler knows what he’s talking about – his own journey to professional fulfilment started with a complete burnout at the height of his corporate career.
What makes my heart tick is making this world a happier place to be. These three books certainly inspire people to at least try.