Alex Preston / bookshelf

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

Make a dream come true

  • When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia. When you make it a dream come true for yourself, it’ll be a dream come true for someone else, too.

A business model with only two numbers

  • And that’s it! 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.

This ain’t no revolution

  • revolution is a term that people use only when you’re successful. Before that, you’re just a quirky person who does things differently.
  • 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.

If it’s not a hit, switch

  • Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.
  • 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.

No “yes.” Either “Hell yeah!” or “no.”

  • When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say, “Hell yeah!”
  • Just like that, my plan completely changed
  • Steve Blank: “No business plan survives first contact with customers.”

The advantage of no funding

  • By not having any money to waste, you never waste money. Since I couldn’t afford a programmer, I went to the bookstore and got a $25 book on PHP and MySQL programming.

Necessity is a great teacher.

  • 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.
  • 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.

Start now. No funding needed.

  • Want to start a new airline? Next time you’re at the airport when a flight is canceled, tell everyone at the gate that you’ll lease a small plane to fly to their destination if they will split the costs. (This is how Richard Branson started Virgin Atlantic Airways.) Starting small puts 100 percent of your energy into actually solving real problems for real people.
  • Ideas are just a multiplier of execution

  • To make a business, you need to multiply the two components. The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $200,000,000.

Formalities play on fear. Bravely refuse.

  • Never forget that there are thousands of businesses, like Jim’s Fish Bait Shop in a shack on a beach somewhere, that are doing just fine without corporate formalities.

Proudly exclude people

  • Have the confidence to know that when your target 1 percent hears you excluding the other 99 percent, the people in that 1 percent will come to you because you’ve shown how much you value them.

Why no advertising?

  • When you’ve asked your customers what would improve your service, has anyone said, “Please fill your website with more advertising”?

This is just one of many options

  • After reading the whole thing, I felt like saying things my old voice teacher would have said: “OK, make a plan that requires only $1,000. Go!” “Now make a plan for ten times as many customers. Go!” “Now do it without a website. Go!” “Now make all your initial assumptions wrong, and have it work anyway. Go!” “Now show how you would franchise it. Go!” You can’t pretend there’s only one way to do it. Your first idea is just one of many options. No business goes as planned, so make ten radically different plans.

Act like you don’t need the money

  • It’s another Tao of business: Set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it’ll likely come your way.

Don’t punish everyone for one person’s mistake

  • Several years ago, one guy tried to light his shoes on fire on a plane. Now, and for all future time, millions of people a day have to queue up to take their shoes off at the airport—because of that one dumb moment.

The most successful e-mail I ever wrote

  • 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.

Little things make all the difference

  • We answered our phone within two rings, always—7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Phones were everywhere, so even if the customer service rep was busy, someone in the warehouse could pick up. All anyone had to do was say, “CD Baby!” Customers loved this! Someone actually picking up the phone at a company is so rare that musicians would often tell me later at conferences that it was the main reason they decided to go with CD Baby—they could always talk to a real person immediately.
  • Naive quitting
  • There’s a benefit to being naive about the norms of the world—deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do.

Prepare to double

  • But 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.

Delegate or die: The self-employment trap

  • Because my team was running the business, I was free to actually improve the business!
  • There’s a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner. Being self-employed feels like freedom until you realize that if you take time off, your business crumbles. To be a true business owner, make it so that you could leave for a year, and when you came back, your business would be doing better than when you left.

Make it anything you want

  • Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be. Anything you hate to do, someone else loves. So find that person and let her do it.
  • people also assume that you want to be big-big-big—as big as can be. But do you, really? Huge growth means lots of meetings, investors, bankers, media, and answering to others. It’s quite far from the real core of the business.
  • No. Make sure you know what makes you happy, and don’t forget it.

Trust, but verify

  • Trust, but verify. Remember it when delegating. You have to do both.
  • Delegate, but don’t abdicate
  • To abdicate means to surrender or relinquish power or responsibility; this word is usually used when a king abdicates the throne or crown. Lesson learned too late: Delegate, but don’t abdicate.
  • You make your perfect world
  • 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.