Derek Sivers – Anything You Want – Summary – Part 5 [Starting a Business]

Continuing on to the final part of our journey into Derek Sivers’ phenomenal book Anything You Want, here are brief summaries for each of the last five chapters 36 to 40:

36. Trust, but verify: All parts of your system matter, but those with direct public facing access are critical. If you mess with your customers’ expectations, you will mess with your own reputation. Sivers learned that the hard way – by trusting mission critical staff but failing to verify what they were doing.

He fixed it by improving his internal systems. I’m going to add one further note to that – think in terms of the whole system at all times, not just single aspects of it. A tweak in one area without thinking about the consequences on the whole system can start a systemic chain of events that eventually end in disaster.

37. Delegate, but don’t abdicate: Sivers’ talked earlier about delegating, which is important, but there’s a caveat – one that nearly cost him the company. After he told his staff to do what they thought was right, they delegated a new staff profit sharing scheme – and started sharing all the profits with themselves. After that he realised he still needed to delegate, but this time he kept an eye on it.

38. How I knew I was done with my company: No one ever wants to sell a company they grew from scratch… until they do. One day Sivers wondered (not for the first time) what life would look like if he did sell the business – but this time everything changed. He asked Seth Godin what he thought, and Seth advised sell if you care. What he meant was, if you really care about your customers, and you’re thinking about selling, then do your customers a favour and let someone else serve them better. He was right.

39. Why I gave my company to charity: I’ve always wondered why billionaires are never satisfied with their lot (maybe some are, I don’t know, but it always seems to me to be a race to the top of the pile – or perhaps that’s just what the media wants us to think). Sivers knew he already had enough (and with minimum outgoings and almost zero assets that was an easy decision). So he set up what’s called a unitrust and gave the company to charity (effectively).

That meant, on his death, any money remaining in the trust would be given to good causes, which in Sivers’ case was a charity for musicians.

There are two points here: the first is that once he gave the company to the trust, he would have no control over the money. The second is that the trust pays him an annuity of 5% of the balance. So he was guaranteed an income for life, and provided the trust invested wisely, his income would be substantial, but there would be plenty of money left for charitable purposes on his death.

Whatever you think of this, the point is, you only need enough to get the things that you need. See my series on Needs and Wants for more on this (and especially how it affects our ability to write persuasive copy).

40. You make your perfect world: The more Sivers’ business (CD Baby) grew, the unhappier he became (dealing with 85 employees and millions of customers was never going to be easy, nor was it his original vision to ever grow it at all). He just did what he thought mattered and learned the reality of that along the way. The ultimate point of his book can be summed up in a simple phrase: “you reap what you sow”.

That’s the end of this particular series. Let me know your favourite bits in the comments. Meanwhile look out for a new series starting on Monday (and keep an eye out for Sunday’s Science of Copywriting Weekly Newsletter with links to every part – subscribe if you haven’t yet done so).



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