Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Care about your customers more than about yourself

At a conference in Los Angeles, someone in the audience asked me, “What if every musician just set up their own store on their own website? Since that’d be the death of CD Baby, how do you plan to stop that?”

I said, “Honestly, I don’t care about CD Baby. I only care about the musicians. If some day, musicians don’t need CD Baby anymore, that’s great! I’ll just shut it down and get back to making music.”

He was shocked. He had never heard a business owner say he didn’t care about the survival of his company.

To me, it was just common sense. Of course you should care about your customers more than you care about yourself! Isn’t that rule #1 of providing a good service? It’s all about them, not you.

But 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.

(I don’t want to pick on anyone’s favorite pharmaceutical company or online productivity subscription tools, so let’s just say that any business that’s in business to sell you a cure is motivated not to focus on prevention.)

It’s kind of like the grand fables where the hero needs to be prepared to die to save the day. Your company should be willing to die for your customers.

That’s the Tao of business: Care about your customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well.

Anything You Want - book cover