Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

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Summary

Your business is a creative endeavour and you should make it whatever you want. Don’t listen to people who tell you to follow protocols, wear suits, or grow bigger.

Keep your operations simple and focus on one thing only: your customers. Make every decision according to what’s best for them, not your ego or your investors. In addition, to build a customer base of raving fans, give your business a human touch. You can grow your business more with small details than with "expansion plans".

Book Notes

→ Six years and $10 million later, those same two numbers were the sole source of income for the company: a $35 setup fee per album and a $4 cut per CD sold. A business plan should never take more than a few hours of work—hopefully no more than a few minutes. The best plans start simple. A quick glance and common sense should tell you if the numbers will work. The rest are details.

→ Five years after I started CD Baby, when it was a big success, the media said I had revolutionized the music business. But revolution is a term that people use only when you’re successful. Before that, you’re just a quirky person who does things differently. People think a revolution needs to involve loud provocations, fists in the air, and bloodshed. But if you think true love looks like Romeo and Juliet, you’ll overlook a great relationship that grows slowly. If you think your life’s purpose needs to hit you like a lightning bolt, you’ll overlook the little day-to-day things that fascinate you. If you think revolution needs to feel like war, you’ll overlook the importance of simply serving people better. When you’re onto something great, it won’t feel like revolution. It’ll feel like uncommon sense.

→ We all have lots of ideas, creations, and projects. When you present one to the world and it’s not a hit, don’t keep pushing it as is. Instead, get back to improving and inventing. Present each new idea or improvement to the world. If multiple people are saying, “Wow! Yes! I need this! I’d be happy to pay you to do this!” then you should probably do it. But if the response is anything less, don’t pursue it.

Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision—even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone—according to what’s best for your customers. If you’re ever unsure what to prioritize, just ask your customers the open-ended question, “How can I best help you now?” Then focus on satisfying those requests. None of your customers will ask you to turn your attention to expanding. They want you to keep your attention focused on them. It’s counterintuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.

→ Ideas are worth nothing unless they are executed.

→ Banks love to lend money to those who don’t need it. Record labels love to sign musicians who don’t need their help. People fall in love with people who won’t give them the time of day. It’s a strange law of human behavior. It’s pretty universal. If you set up your business like you don’t need the money, people are happier to pay you. When someone’s doing something for the money, people can sense it, like they sense a desperate lover. It’s a turnoff. When someone’s doing something for love, being generous instead of stingy, trusting instead of fearful, it triggers this law: We want to give to those who give. It’s another Tao of business: Set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it’ll likely come your way.

→ That one silly e-mail, sent out with every order, has been so loved that if you search Google for “private CD Baby jet,” you’ll get almost twenty thousand results. Each one is somebody who got the email and loved it enough to post it on his website and tell all his friends. That one goofy email created thousands of new customers. When you’re thinking of how to make your business bigger, it’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts and come up with world-changing massive-action plans. But please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill people enough to make them tell all their friends about you.

→ No matter what business you’re in, it’s good to prepare for what would happen if business doubled. Have ten clients now? How would it look if you had twenty at once? Serving eighty customers for lunch each day? What would happen if 160 showed up? Notice that “more of the same” is never the answer. You’d have to do things in a new way to handle twice as much business. Processes would have to be streamlined. Never be the typical tragic small business that gets frazzled and freaked out when business is doing well. It sends a repulsive “I can’t handle this!” message to everyone. Instead, if your internal processes are always designed to handle twice your existing load, it sends an attractive “come on in, we’ve got plenty of room” message.

Business is as creative as the fine arts. You can be as unconventional, unique, and quirky as you want. A business is a reflection of the creator. Some people want to be billionaires with thousands of employees. Some people want to work alone. Some want as much profit as possible. Some want as little profit as possible. Some want to be in Silicon Valley with Fortune 500 customers. Some want to be anonymous. No matter which goal you choose, there will be lots of people telling you you’re wrong. Just pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury. Even if what you’re doing is slowing the growth of your business—if it makes you happy, that’s OK. It’s your choice to remain small. You’ll notice that as my company got bigger, my stories about it were less happy. That was my lesson learned. I’m happier with five employees than with eighty-five, and happiest working alone. Whatever you make, it’s your creation, so make it your personal dream come true.

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