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This article was published on October 31, 2008

Learn from CD Baby and make $20 million without stress

Learn from CD Baby and make $20 million without stress
Steven Carrol
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Steven Carrol

Steven is a web applications developer, living in south of France, originally from London. His current project is In the nin Steven is a web applications developer, living in south of France, originally from London. His current project is In the nineties, he was a designer / director of a highly successful design, manufacturing and distribution company (Intimidation).

I first came across Derek Sivers (founder and director of CD Baby) about one year ago. He had done an interview a few years prior on Venture Voice which I thought it was one of the most interesting among that collection (another that stands out in my mind was with Jason Fried) but they are all excellent.

Derek Sivers is now back in the news and was again interviewed on Venture Voice to talk about the recent sale of CD Baby for more than 20 Million USD. By the time of sale CD Baby had grown to 85 staff and a turnover of about 100 Million USD. Derek chimes in on the discussion that ensued on HN “Although of 85 people, 50 of which were in the warehouse $8/hr pick-pack-ship, 28 were customer service answering emails, and only 6 jobs were “other”, such as bizdev, tech, or management.”

“No Stress!”

I asked Derek a few questions for this article which I hoped might reveal some clues to his success. One of those being, “How did you deal with the stress of running and building such a company”, his answer was very surprising: “No stress, either. I always make sure situations are to my liking, and make me happy. If they’re not, I change them. That way, work is just play, not work”.

In a day and age when stress seems to be rampant, not only does Derek build a company from scratch without VC capital nor any large investments, but he does it without breaking sweat! Nearly every entrepreneur I have come across has grappled with the problem of stress, even the mighty Mark Cuban who doesn’t seem to have found his businesses nearly as painful, talks about his worst moments in the TC50 Calacanis interview.

On the opposite of side of the fence, we have the maverick Michael Robertson who has had a long string of successes followed by stress. He formally started and lost it to legal assaults in the first bubble and now is again in the midst of yet another legal wrangle with EMI who have been at him and his latest business MP3Tunes like a dog with a bone, currently demanding everything from his home to the toilet paper he uses in the mornings!

So what is Derek’s secret to NO STRESS. Derek says he reads a lot then “wisdom sinks in and just becomes unconscious decisions”. He has written an ebook packed with advice for fellow musicians on how to be successful, which should no doubt be mandatory reading for entrepreneurs, as it contains many useful insights which are not limited to musicians.

So what is the master of ‘no stress’ going to do next? To lower the stress of artists that’s what! He’s next venture is aptly called MuckWork and he is pitching to do the dirty work for musicians so they can concentrate on their art. As Paul Graham says: “Where there’s muck, there’s brass!”

Is the secret to no stress, not to tackle anything that is groundbreaking, rather to muck about doing the donkey work that others cannot stand, in doing so cleaning up?