What I like most about this book is the concept of “Ten years of experience in one hour“: ten years of the author’s experience as an accidental entrepreneur transposed in a concise manner in less than 100 pages. I’m actually surprised that this concept didn’t caught on and became more popular because frankly speaking a lot of books contain a lot of filler information just to achieve a higher number of pages. I would rather read something short and full of useful information (I’m referring to nonfiction books here) than a long, diluted version. This concept might also encourage more people to start reading.
Anyway, let’s get back to the book and its author. Who is Derek Sivers? Derek is the founder and former CEO of CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians. He initially started the company in 1997 as a website through which he sold his own CD’s (he was a professional musician at that time). That website turned out to be something more when his friends and the friends of his friends requested to sell their CD’s on his website too.
Let’s see some of the things that I’ve learned from this book.
The author is interested in execution and not ideas and has an interesting system by which he evaluates an idea and its execution:
“AWFUL IDEA = -1
WEAK IDEA = 1
SO-SO IDEA = 5
GOOD IDEA = 10
GREAT IDEA = 15
BRILLIANT IDEA = 20
NO EXECUTION = $1
WEAK EXECUTION = $1000
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 $20.
The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000. That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas. I’m not interested until I see their execution.”
Side note: yes, there are a lot of spaces between paragraphs, without these spaces the book is maybe only 50-60 pages long.
Nothing goes as planned, you usually have to be prepared for anything:
“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.”
Sometimes you can be better off not knowing how things are usually done because then you can do them in your own, out of the box way:
“Now I was stunned. I asked a few friends and found out he was right. People can just quit a job without finding and training their replacements. I had no idea. All these years, I just assumed what I did was normal. There’s a benefit to being naïve about the norms of the world— deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do.”
How to deal with employees that are constantly asking you for advice:
“I asked one person to start a manual, write down the answer to this one situation, and write down the philosophy behind it.
Then everyone went back to work.
Ten minutes later, new question. Same process:
Gather everybody around.
Answer the question and explain the philosophy.
Make sure everyone understands the thought process.
Ask one person to write it in the manual.
Let everybody know they can decide this without me next time”
Trust but verify (your employees).
“Trust, but verify. Remember it when delegating. You have to do both.”
Derek gave his employees a lot of freedom and empowerment. It turned out to be a bad idea. They took over the profit-sharing program and directed all the profits of the company to themselves.
“Lesson learned too late: Delegate, but don’t abdicate.”
There are also various stories in the book worth reading like that time when Steve Jobs put his company in difficulty:
Whoa! Wow. Steve Jobs had just dissed me hard!