Book Summary

Anything you want By DEREK SIVERS 

This book is about Derek’s journey from 1998 to 2008; starting a little online music store for independent musicians and accidentally growing it into a 20 million dollar business. Using the lessons learned from Derek’s journey, here’s how you can start a business, grow a business and know exactly when to get out of your business in under five minutes.

First: solve a problem of your own. Derek was a musician and without having a huge record deal behind him, it was hard for him to sell his CDs. There was no PayPal at this time so if Derek wanted to sell a CD, he had to design a website and set up an online credit card merchant and create a Buy Now button on his website for people to purchase his CD.

Creating a Buy Now button was a big deal in 1997. After months of learning how to code he created the website and the Buy Now button. He then showed this to his friends, many would see a site and ask, “Hey can you sell my CD?”- He would think about it for a minute and say, “sure no problem.”

He just did it as a favor but soon Derek started getting calls from strangers saying, “My friend Dave said you could sell my CD.”

Derek says the calls and the emails kept coming, “I said yes to it all. Selling my friends CDs was starting to take up a lot of my time. I realized I’d accidentally started a business.”

At that point, Derek realized that what he had been doing for years and years had been a little misguided. He had persisted trying to make things work that weren’t working. He urges us to not make the same mistake and to keep improving and inventing our ideas until we have a hit because when you have a hit, your product or service will promote itself.

Derek says, “Instead of trying to create demand, you’re managing the huge demand. So try many things and put each of them out there into the world and see what sticks. If it’s not a hit, switch to something else.”

But once you’ve discovered your hit and people are demanding your product, how can you ensure that you build a successful business?

Derek advises us that you adopt the customer point of view and aim to build them a utopian experience. He wrote down his ‘utopian dream come true experience’ for an independent musician that uses his company: CD Baby.

“In a perfect world my distributor would pay me every week, would show me the full name and address of everyone who bought my CD because those are my fans not the distributors and they wouldn’t kick me out for not selling enough. Even if I sell only one CD every five years, it’ll be there for someone to buy

Every day he focused on this utopian experience but he also threw in a few small unexpected moments of generosity. This is doing something small that the competitors aren’t doing but the customers really appreciate.

At CD Baby, that meant answering the phone after two rings no matter what between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Sometimes that would mean staff on the shop floor picking up a phone and having a 30-minute conversation with a musician, being empathetic to everything they’re going through now this wasn’t the most productive thing to do but this was a big deal to the customers. They didn’t expect to talk to a person so quickly when they call the company. So answering the phone added a little bit of wow to the customer experience and that in turn created raving fans.

Derek says “It’s counterintuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers to just thrill them and they’ll tell everyone.” When your customers become your raving fans your company will start to experience some serious growth.

At this point you need to delegate or die. Derek was at a point in his company where he had 8 employees and they were asking him questions every five minutes. This was a complete drain on his time and a bottleneck for the company. Finally he decided to delegate and when he did he came up with a following system.

When he was asked a question, he would gather everyone around and answer the question explaining his philosophy of why he would do what he would do. He asked around to make sure everyone in the room understood his thought process. Then he asked one of those people to write it down into a manual. He would then end the discussion but letting everyone know that they could make this decision the next time it came up without his permission as long as they followed his philosophy.

Derek says he went through this process for about two months but afterwards no more came in. The company ran better than it ever did before and his company grew from 8 to 80 employees, from a 1 million dollar business to a 20 million dollar business.

In 2008, Derek decided to sell the business. Derek looked long and hard at his goals for the years ahead and discovered that none of his exciting goals involved CD Baby, his company. He found that being responsible for 80 people provided him with more headache than happiness.

The final lesson of Derek’s story is that you shouldn’t be afraid to sell your company if selling your company will make you happier and will be better for the company overall to bring in a leader who really wants to lead the company.

When you own a company you make up the rules if you want to sell, sell. If you want to stay small, stay small. Your customers won’t care if you’re expanding the only care that you’re taking care of them and being smaller or letting someone else take over maybe the best way to provide that care. Ultimately Derek says “Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself. When you make a company you make a Utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.

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