Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers was a solid book that took less than two hours to read and features the subtitle 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur.

Sivers in the book tells his story of starting the online music store CD Baby in 1998 and the things I took away seemed to fall into two primary areas, customer focus and how to run your business (with these ideas also applicable to someone simply doing work).

In terms of customer focus, Sivers early on notes how he started the business to sell his own music, then agreed to sell through the site music from others who also didn't have distribution deals with major companies, and that became his focus. With this, his two customer bases were musicians selling through his site and people who would purchase CDs on it. Several of the concepts that stood out the most to me from Sivers around customer focus were the following...

1. Be transparent - Sivers covers how purchasers and musicians whose music he selling deserved to know what was going on with the business that existed because of them.

2. Make your decisions be about your customers - with this notion of how choices should be guided, Sivers makes mention of both having the business remain operational and when it should expand. In terms of a business overall, Sivers notes that if your business there to solve a customer problem and that problem goes away, your business should either stop or change. About expansion, Sivers writes that your customer doesn't care if you expand so your decision of whether to do so should be driven by how it could serve customers, either existing or new. Part of this serving of customers and expansion is you should be prepared to get larger, if you do want to grow a customer base, you have to have the business be prepared to handle those new customers, and not have service degrade as a result of the increased volume.

3. Pay close attention to how you deal with people - Sivers covers how you should recognize that those you deal with are people like you, and treat them as such. This matters whether in a room with someone, on the phone, or communicating in any form, including electronically. Also on this subject of working with people is the idea of little things that can thrill customers or just make them happy. Sivers recounts the story of an email he wrote to go out to each customer at time of CD shipment... with it a humorous message about employees carrying the CD on a pillow and then shipping via private jet, something to bring a smile to customers' faces. Additionally, Sivers noted adding to the website store a countdown clock to when the last FedEx shipment of the day is and simply having employees quickly picking up the phone when someone calls.

Sivers in the book also very much wrote about how you run your business, with below the things that stood out to me...

Don't be a slave to a plan - Sivers write of how in many cases, you should just start doing something, you don't need a war chest of money or a full end-to-end plan, if you have an idea, start it, then you can see where it goes. Additionally, he notes the importance of being willing to change course and quotes entrepreneur Steve Blake as saying "no business plan survives first contact with customers."

Know what things are important to you - Sivers covered in the book the idea of being, not having, and to have a firm view of what makes you happy. He states that for him, it was creating useful things that benefited others, and that those things require his creative input to come about.

Think about how you decide what you do - this general topic is covered a few different ways in the book. One is that you should do the things you want to do. Sivers notes how your response to whether you want to do something should be either "hell yeah," or "no," as we're all busy and if your response to whether you want to do something simply a tepid "yes," it's better to say "no." Additionally, Sivers writes of how you especially if you're in a position of being able to do so, you should do the things you're good at and want to do, and have others do the rest if they're good at them and want to do them. He notes how CEOs don't necessarily have to be the high-powered-meeting people, if they want to spend their time on something else and can do so, they should. The last thing to mention from the book on this topic of decisions and involvement is around delegation as Sivers recounts the story of having situations come up that would require a decision of how to respond, coming up with the answer, then having a staff meeting to explain the situation and response that should occur, asking  someone to write it up in a manual, and letting people know they can follow that guide.

It was a really interesting book from Sivers and at the end of it he notes how if people like, they should feel free to reach out to him via his website to ask questions, share any stories, or just say hello.