Anything You Want [LINK] – Derek Sivers
An eccentric founder shares his story of starting a business and the unconventional lessons he learned along the way. Derek Sivers founded CD Baby, grew it to $4 million in monthly sales, and then abruptly sold it. He implemented his own business strategy: no consultants, never took outside money, allowed employees to decide their salary and time off, encouraged customers to vote on new features, and everything else you’d never find in a Business Strategy 101 textbook.
Sivers has come to be known as somewhat of an obscure individual. Trained as a musician, he never set out to be running his own company. “’Revolution’ is a term that people use only when you’re successful. Before that, you’re just a quirky person who does things differently.” He was interested in alternative music and struggled to find musicians who couldn’t benefit from economies of scale and mass marketing. So he started CD Baby, a marketplace and promotional site for independent artists.
When you create your own business, you are creating a small universe where you control all the laws. If you don’t enjoy performing a specific task, hire someone else that does. For Sivers, his focus was on customers, but to treat customers well, employees must be given autonomy, flexibility and rewards.
The best section of this book is about Sivers decision making process. When encountering a decision, you have two options: It’s either a “HELL YEAH!” or “no.” There is no middle. I’ve used this decision tree to answer questions about career aspirations, large purchases, and anything that requires vast amounts of cognition. If you aren’t committed to the “HELL YEAH!” then it’s a “no.”
We all want different things, but Sivers is most interested in our motivations: “How do you grade yourself?” For some people, it’s how much money they make. For others, it’s how much money they give. For some, it’s how many people’s lives they can influence for the better. And for others, it’s how deeply they can influence just a few people’s lives. For Derek, it’s how many useful things he can create.
No matter what goal you set for yourself, there will be people telling you you’re wrong and won’t succeed. Contrary to what most would think, this is a result of a healthy, high-functioning society. If you set goals like you don’t need money, people will be happier for you. When a business is solely aligned to money, people sense the desperation and trickery.
“You can’t just live someone else’s expectation of traditional business. You have to do whatever you love the most, or you’ll lose interest in the whole thing.” Even if it’s unconventional, pay attention to what excites you, do what you enjoy most, and you’ll be on your way to anything you want.