Ever heard of Derek Sivers? I had not until I read his book “Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for A New Kind of Entrepreneur”. In the late 90’s Derek was a struggling musician, mostly struggling with the problem of finding an online distributor for his CD’s. It was the rise of the .com era (before Itunes) and no one was distributing music online (especially for small artists). When he could not get the help he was looking for, or could find it in existence, he decided he would solve the problem himself and his company “CD Baby” was born. Before his company was even a company, he started to grow as he gained popularity helping his other music artist friends distribute online, practically for free and out of the kindness of his own being. He had no specific plan but to treat customers well, do what felt right, and saw the big picture without getting caught up in minute details. He spent $1k in developing his business and sold it ten years later for $22 million! Then he gave most of it away (this was not in the book, but a really cool fact!).
What I loved about Derek’s story is he ran his business as a passion project. He was never focused on the money or the growth, but on what he stood for as a person, and what he believed the company should stand for. He had exceptional customer service, and went the extra mile to make up for bad service when and if it occurred.
Like any business, entrepreneur, or human for that matter, Derek made mistakes and had times of struggle. In times of difficulty, he found ways to be resourceful and overcome them. Like most things, this was the cycle of his business, but he realized it was only natural to have issues arise and overcome in order to build success. He accepted them, he did not hide them and he built on them. If there was a problem he did not dwell and instead focused on improving what was not working.
As you can tell money is not a huge motivator for Derek. He believed a business should not be about making money, it should be about creating a purpose for yourself and helping others. He did see the advantages of money but believed he did not need a dog and pony show of investors and advisors he would have to pay or gave business to in order to create success. It is possible to create success organically.
He believed in the people around him. He found the best people to do the work he needed, but also those he could trust. These people ended up running his business before he sold it. He uplifted them, gave them what they asked for, and could tell when he was taken advantage of and would not stand for it. He also understood he was never going to please everyone and those he could not please he did not take personally and moved on.
And his best piece of advice, is the real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy. Don’t sit around waiting to find out what that is, search for it, engage in it and believe in yourself and your capabilities.