Tips for Getting to an “Integrated Life” Where Work, Fun Coincide

I was raised to be skeptical. Daughter of an advertising father and a public relations mother, I recognize a marketing message a mile away. So it was challenging to imagine that Tony Hseih’s book, “Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose” would be any more than a slick promotional spin on building a company he could sell for more than $1 billion.

Don’t get me wrong — as a marketing professional, I can respect and admire the strategy. As a principal in a professional services firm grounded in a people-first culture, I recognize the real value — not just the marketing value — that culture brings to a company. But I always think what’s behind the curtain is more interesting than what the wizard shows me. I embarked on Delivering Happiness with mixed expectations.

My verdict: Delivering Happiness delivers insights I can apply to my business, and demonstrates some pretty smart marketing.

Hsieh was always focused on making money — he tried selling worms as a kid, but moved on to less messy endeavors. At Harvard he created study guides through crowdsourcing, and sold burgers and pizza. After graduation, he looked for a job that “paid well and didn’t seem like too much work.” But as he matured he recognized that easy could be really, really boring.

That’s when he began seeking what I call an integrated life — life where fun and work coincide. Inspired by the togetherness he found at raves, he created his own tribe and invited people he enjoyed to join him in business. As Zappos developed, this idea of working and playing together became the core of their culture. Working to live or living to work? Hsieh’s model brings them both together.

Clearly, it worked — the company grew to $1 billion-plus in sales before selling to Amazon. As a marketer it makes complete sense — it’s a case study in how powerfully a culture can be used to create a brand. By transforming a long distance anonymous transaction into an intimate relationship-based experience, Zappos raised the bar on internet shopping in a people-first, profitable way. Not content with the tricks in the marketer’s toolkit, he invented new ones, offering tours, sharing culture books and telling stories in every medium.

You might imagine that accounting is as far from Zappos in its business model as it is in the alphabet. But that’s really not the case.

My firm’s founders learned early that creating a place where they wanted to come to work, surrounding themselves with people they liked and treating them right translated into a brand that delivered caring, quality service to clients, and profits to the bottom line. That’s even more true today.

The firm has grown to more than 400 people, and we’ll all attend or view our semi-annual seminar this week. Our CEO will share employee comments from the Accounting Today survey that names us one of the Best Accounting Firms To Work For, for the fifth year in a row — comments that reaffirm our values with words like “people first,” “respect,” and “caring.”

Not so different from Zappos after all.

Janet Kyle Altman leads the marketing team at Kaufman Rossin, one of the top CPA firms in the country, and is Chair of The Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade.  She practices yoga and leadership daily in Miami.  You can reach Janet at

Janet Altman is a Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.