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#111/111: Anything You Want

Some will already know Derek Sivers from his blog sivers.org. Sivers started CDBaby, a CD distributor for independent musicians, in 1998. He sold it 2007 when the company had $100m in revenue. He tells his story of CDBaby in detail in this book and it’s quite interesting.

Sivers was a musician before starting CDBaby and he created a small online shop for his CDs and other musicians asked him if he can offer their CDs, too. After a while more and more musicians asked for distribution and CDBaby grew. He said that after a while he talked to his first employee and said that they maybe need a second employee and he don’t want to grow the company.

It’s quite funny how he found a perfect opportunity but didn’t realize then that it was one. One main objective or like Guy Kawasaki would say the mantra of Sivers was to help musicians. Everything should help musicians to distribute their CDs.

If you are the owner of a company you can do with it anything you want. You don’t have to follow some strict rules or even some “common sense”. Sivers avoided lots of formalities and did just the stuff he wanted. For example, often people think that CEOs are handling the business deals - Sivers never wanted to do that - he looked for persons who were motivated and good at doing deals and let them do the work. But he enjoyed coding and thinking about improving his business and this was what he did.

He also talks a lot about delegation and overdelegation. At one point he delegated nearly everything to his employees, even the profit-sharing plan. After a while somebody said to him that his employees take all the profit, which wasn’t really into his intention. The result argument lead him to leave the USA and work alone from the UK.

Anything You Want is a really interesting story because he talks so much about things that gone wrong but it never appeared that he was unhappy in retro-perspective. I think the main points are that you should somehow help other people in providing products or services to them and that you can do anything you want with your business. All in all a real nice book, quite short but insightful. Do what makes you happy!

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#14/111: The Wizard of Menlo Park

What is it about?

Thomas A. Edison - the inventor of the modern world! Really? Randall Stross investigates Edison’s story and tries to find the real Edison. He doesn’t talk so much about the technical achievements, he rather focuses on Edison’s self-marketing. Showing how Edison exaggerated, told lies and played with the media.

Key points?

Famous doesn’t mean profitable: Edison got famous while working on the first version of the phonograph. But it took him four years for the first commercial version and another 20 years for the improved one.

It’s not about you: Edison’s life and business was about Edison. He wanted that the phonograph was used as a dictating machine. But the customers wanted to use his machine for music because its dictating abilities were pretty poor. It didn’t interest Edison, he was too pigheaded to commit himself to his customers.

Don’t try to control everything:  Moreover it did not stop there. Henry Ford called Thomas Edison "the world’s worst business man" but it didn’t bother Edison. Also, there were so many opportunities which were missed. Furthermore, he had big problems operating his companies efficiently. While building his first power grid he needed about $30,000 per square mile to install the power lines, while his competitions only needed about $500.

Look into new fields: Edison worked in lots of businesses. From providing electricity to mining. He immersed in different fields which helped to stabilize his aura as the inventor of the modern world.

Conclusion

The stories are highly interesting because you see how he failed (See: Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur) and you’ll learn about his most remarkable move: He built a strong relationship with important journalists how praised him continuously. He knew how to market himself.

In conclusion, Edison didn’t invent the light, but he did invent personal branding for business people.