Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur

Posted May 1, 2016 in Career Management, Leadership, What We're Reading

Written by: Derek Sivers
Review by: Julie Melaschenko

The Premise: A short, easy to read autobiography/manifesto, this pocket book outlines 40 lessons learned by Derek Sivers in his humble rise and unusual retreat from musician to accidental online marketing sensation and back again. As an independent musician with no way to sell his own music, and the internet in it’s infancy, Sivers taught himself how to code and devised a way to sell his music online, while also inadvertently solving a problem faced by many other musicians in the same position. His solution, CD Baby, was a ground-breaking online music store for independent musicians, which, through word of mouth and a couple of key referrals, grew exponentially to culminate in a collaboration with iTunes. As a musician, Sivers had no background in his new field, but as this book outlines, he stuck to his core values. When it was all said and done, he sold the company, donated the bulk to charity and moved on to his next endeavor. From ‘Start now. No funding needed.’ to ‘Care about your customers more than yourself’, and ‘my $3.3 Million mistake’, Sivers shares everything he had to learn the hard way.

The Bottom-line: This is a very interesting, very quick read that I finished in about an hour. While it may label itself for entrepreneurs, it has some really good content pieces that are relevant for any kind of business, dealing with clients, suppliers and staff, and life in general. Sivers really makes a point for being customer centric in one’s business because he truly believes that the success of CD Baby was due to the fact that it solved a real problem. It wasn’t another widget to buy, it was a valuable service that independent musicians really needed. And by always keeping their requirements at the top of the priority list, his business thrived. He also paid the same attention to his employees and their development, remembering that the little things can make the biggest difference. What I found most interesting were the little ways CD Baby interacted with their customers – the musicians and the music lovers. Emails were cleverly written, special requests accepted in return for a pizza (really!) and the best – a box at the bottom of their order form asked for ‘any special request’ and when a client asked for ‘cinnamon gum’ – the staff went out of their way to surprise and fulfill this request! Small things that cost little but made a huge impact towards customer loyalty.

Roundtable Rating: recommended for leaders who enjoy the success stories of others as an opportunity to learn and take away new perspectives on business and life.

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