Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Business Hustle: Lessons In Business From Jay-Z

I’ve just been reading ‘Decoded’ by Jay-Z. Decoded is on the face of it, a book that deconstructs his lyrics, but like the rap itself, there’s more to it that first meets the eye. The book is also part autobiographical and I left with some lessons that are valuable for anyone looking to make their business idea happen. So here are four business lessons from Jay-Z:

1) Being A Good Hustler Is Better Than An MBA. Whether he was dealing drugs in his teenage years or running Roc-a-fella Records and his business interests, Jay-Z embraces the spirit of the hustler. Those skills that he learnt on the street corner dealing - okay they may not be politically correct - but they still remain the essence of any enterprise: you buy something for one price, sell it on for a higher price and make a profit. For him, the hustler trying to find his fortune is the ultimate human story, “it’s the ultimate metaphor for basic human struggles: to survive and resist, to win and make sense of it all”. That mindset, that spirit, and that emotional investment is essential if you’re going to be a success.  Speaking about the launch of Roc-a-fella, he says, "we didn't know business yet, but we knew how to hustle".

2) There’s No Magic Without Hard Work. Like many before him, Jay-Z reminds us that success needs hard-graft. "Without the work, the magic won't come”, he says, and commenting on Michael Jordan, "that's the kind of consistency that you only get by adding dead serious discipline to whatever talent you have". Of course there are no overnight success stories in business; sure, you might get lucky, but you still need to invest ‘sweat equity’.

3) Have A Goal, Write It Down And Hit It. When he set up his businesses, Jay-Z set goals, "We made short and long term projections, we kept it realistic, but the key thing is that we wrote it down, which is as important as visualisation in realizing success". Once you commit that goal to paper, it helps focus your mind on meeting it. If it stays loose you can’t hit it.

4) Be Resourceful. Jay-Z talks about getting resourceful to deal with droughts: "a drought in the game is when the supply or demand starts to drop - and that's when resourceful hustlers have to get creative". Back to the dealing on the street corner, he talks about the metaphor of turning a 'mound' of work into a mountain of money. We all face droughts, when customers dry up or a deal falls flat. That sense of being resourceful is at the heart of the one-person business (I wrote about it in my first book Leap! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business And Set Yourself Free: "All I have is my bare hands, a load of contacts and a bunch of ideas. And with that, I've got to make a whole load of money. It's that simple and it's that scary".

What else did Decoded remind me? That like a lot of art, rap can be read on more than one level; it’s truly multi-layered. So don't dismiss it -  'the art of rap is deceptive' - if you look under the bonnet you may be surprised).

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