A grad of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, he trained for years as a musician, before making the jump into the world of entrepreneurship (not that he stopped being a musician).
Over 10 years, he built industry-leading indie-music distributor/retailer, CDBaby, then sold it for $22 million in 2008…but not before transferring the entire company into a charitable trust that set aside only a modest sum for him to live on after the sale.
Derek’s blog is one of the few I subscribe to by email, I don’t want to miss what he writes. In his new book—Anything You Want—from Seth Godin’s Domino Project, he shares a collection of stories, insights and ideas that emerged from his 10 year journey launching, stumbling, learning, growing, then selling CD Baby.
What I loved about this lightning-fast read (seriously, it took an hour) is not only Derek’s genuine, easy-going voice, his insights and strong contrarian outlook, but his transparency and willingness to scale by staying true to his original vision – to help musicians – in an entrepreneurial climate that increasingly values VC over bootstrapping, systems over people, speed over congruity and exit over evolution.
A few nuggets that really resonated include…
We’ve all heard about the importance of persistence. But I had misunderstood. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.
If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no.”
…even well-meaning companies accidentally get trapped in survival mode. A business is started to solve a problem. But if the problem was truly solved, that business would no longer be needed! So the business accidentally or unconsciously keeps the problem around so that they can keep solving it for a fee.
If you set up your business like you don’t need the money, people are happier to pay you…When someone’s doing something for the money, people can sense it, like a desperate lover. It’s a turnoff….When someone’s doing something for love, being generous in stead of stingy, trusting instead of fearful, it triggers this law: We want to give to those who give.
To have something (a finished recording, a business, or millions of dollars) is the means, not the end. To be something (a good singer, a skilled entrepreneur, or just plain happy) is the real point.
Will every one of Derek’s collection of 40 lessons ring true for every businesses and quest? Maybe yes, maybe no.
But, that’s the point. It’s about the conversation. These are his learnings born of his life and experiences. The questions he raises around some of the major inflection points in any business’ growth and the conversations they prompt have value. HELL YEAH value.
And, when you buy Anything You Want (at least for now), Derek’s giving away more than 200 hand-selected mp3 tunes, too.
Go, check it out. Then share your thoughts…
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