Anything You Want: Entrepreneurial Advice
Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You craft an amazing idea, map it out on the napkin of your favorite restaurant and now you must take it from concept to reality – but how? Taking an idea from concept to reality seems easy while you’re in the conceptual stage, but as the idea starts to snowball on top of itself you begin to realize how far you truly are from the finish line. So what do you do? I personally, do not have the perfect answer, as every entrepreneurs individual situation has an equally important, individual solution. I can, however, share with you the lessons that I found to be helpful in a recent novel I read, Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.
Backstory: The book introduces the lessons and strategy of Derek Sivers, the creator of CD Baby – a platform that granted independent artists the ability to release their music for purchase through an e-commerce marketplace, an idea that had never been executed before. “When Derek Sivers started CD Baby, he wasn’t planning on building a major business. He was a successful independent musician who just wanted to sell CDs online. When no one would help him do it, he set out on his own and built an online store from scratch. He started in 1998 by helping his friends sell their CDs. In 2000, he hired his first employee. Eight years later, he sold CD Baby for $22 million.”
After reading his novel, it became apparent that he was never trying to grow his company to the monster that it became. In fact, he just wanted to help out his friends and drive his own musical career, nothing more. “Derek didn’t need a business plan, and neither do you. You don’t need to think big; in fact, it’s better if you don’t. Start with what you have, care about your customers more than yourself, and run your business like you don’t need the money.”
As stated above, the novel was tailored to Sivers own personal experience, and because of that, I cannot simply agree with every point he makes. However, I do believe that he had many great points brought to light within his writing. Here is an overview of the ones I found to be the most applicable as an entrepreneur:
Make a Dream Come True.
When you create a company or come up with an innovative idea, you have to wonder, what are you actually trying to do? As Derek explains,”When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia.” Derek uses the word ‘utopia’ to explain what exactly the goal of a business is, to make a dream come true – in other words, to create a universe that runs congruent with your own aspirations and beliefs. In Derek’s case, he aspired to sell his independent music to anyone interested and believed that he could create such a market-place. It may have started off extremely organically, with friends and fellow musicians, but because Derek honed his sights in on a specific utopian idea, he was able to create a business that made his dreams come true. At the time, this was all he was asking for.
Start Now. No Funding Needed.
As much as I want to paraphrase this section, I couldn’t have said it better myself. As Derek puts it, “Watch out when anyone (including you) says he or she wants to do something big, but can’t until he or she raises the money. It usually means the person is more in love with the idea of being big-big-big than actually doing something useful. For an idea to be big-big-big, it has to be useful. And being useful, doesn’t require funding. If you want to be useful, you can always start now, with only 1 percent of what you have in your grand vision. It’ll be a humble prototype version of your grand vision, but you’ll be in the game. You’ll be ahead of the rest, because you actually started, while others are waiting for the finish-line to magically appear at the starting line.” This passage had a lot of personal resonance with my own past failures. I had come up with an idea, and thought the only way to capitalize on it was to secure funding early on. WRONG. 100% WRONG. Get the idea of the ground first, start small, and add to your grand vision as the ability becomes available to you. Don’t rush your idea, you’ll end up forgetting its original purpose.
Ideas Are a Multiplier of Execution
Ideas aren’t worth the paper they are written down on without execution. In Derek’s novel, he explains that ideas are just multipliers, whereas execution is worth millions. I will explain with his chart from the book.
Awful Idea = -1
Weak Idea = 1
So-so Idea = 5
Good Idea = 10
Great Idea = 15
Brilliant Idea = 20
No Execution = $1
Weak Execution = $1,000
So-so Execution = $10,000
Good Execution = $100,000
Great Execution = $1,000,000
Brilliant Execution = $10,000,000
“To make a business, you need to multiply the two components. The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth a mere $20. The most brilliant idea with respective execution, can be worth $200,000,000. That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas. Im not interested until I see their execution.”
In essence, Derek’s novel contains simple guidelines that he found helpful, that when followed correctly, could lead to the brilliant execution of an equally brilliant idea. The novel was short in length but dense in content. I would suggest any entrepreneur to give it a read. I don’t believe you will agree with every point he makes, as some of these lessons, were merely situational. However, as Tim Ferriss – author of the 4-hour Work Week explains, “If you want a true manifesto, a guidebook with clear signposts, and a fun ride you’ll return to again and again, you have it here in this book.” I hope you take the time to grab a copy for yourself, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks again for tuning into my blog and like always, I’ll catch you back here next week at 3pm MST on Tuesday.
Editors Note: Any quotations within the text are direct quotes from Derek Sivers novel, “Anything You Want”.