Regardless of what you think of Curtis Jackson as a person or entertainer you can’t dispute his business acumen:
- Started selling crack at 12, and by his mid-teens was overseeing a drug operation that was raking in $5000 a day
- He rose to fame with two of his first albums going multi platinum, selling more than 21 million combined
- As of 2008 he had a net worth of $150 million
- When Coca-Cola bought Glaceau (or Vitamin Water) for $4.1 billion, because he had a stake in it, he walked with away with $100 million…after taxes.
- He has a diversified business empire and makes money whether he records an album or not
He even credits his drug dealing career with making him a better business man.
Yeah…I think there’s a “few” things we could learn from him.
So here they are a few things startups could learn from 50 Cent:
It All Starts With Ambition
“Appetite is an incentive to work; hunger makes you work all the harder.” (Proverbs 16:26 The Message)
As a little boy he wanted the things it seemed he never could have–money, freedom, and power. But where he grew up he only saw two options:
- Do well in school and probably get a nice job or
- Build a profitable niche dealing drugs.
He chose the latter.
He never liked working for anybody–he saw it as limiting his potential. When he decided to get into music he brought that same drive there. When Columbia records sent him and other rappers to Upstate New York for two weeks to write songs–the others eked out five or six songs he came back with thirty-six!
There’s this stigma that desire is somehow… evil!
Desire pushes you forward, helps you to bounce back from setbacks, and separates you from the crowd. If you desire [fill in the blank] as much as your lungs desire air, you’re sure to have; its only he who hunger and thirsts that shall be filled!
Have a Hustler’s Mind
“I started hustling around 12. And I started hustling because I was having a difficult time in school. They was telling me that if I did school for about six more years, I could get a job and maybe buy a nice car. I ran into people that got those nice cars hustling in six months. So [hustling] didn’t seem like one of the options — it seemed like the only option at the time.”–MTV News
In the 80′s the crack-cocaine epidemic exploded on the streets and everything changed. In the past large gangs controlled the drug business and you’d have to fit in their structure and move up the ladder. But crack had become so easy to manufacture and the demand was so high ANYONE could start their own “business” with little start-up capital.
This was perfect for Jackson (or 50):
- No boss
- Greater income potential than a job
- Make your own hours
- And etc.
Funny enough his first customers were his aunts and uncles!
There are endless opportunities in the world everyday, but only hustlers can see it.
Whether that hustler be
- A Bill Gates of Microsoft
- A Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
- Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page of Google
- A Steve Jobs of Apple
…they see opportunities and ACT on them!
David was a hustler! When he saw the opportunity of Goliath, saw that no one was stepped up, and heard about the fortune and rewards for the guy who killed him he acted on the opportunity:
“Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” (1 Samuel 17:26 New King James Version)
Find a way to stand out
“In an interview last winter, Lady Gaga recalled her anguish at being ignored as she performed at a bar filled with drunken NYU students. No one paid the slightest attention to her until, fed up, she decided to strip down to her lingerie. ‘I started playing in my underwear at the piano and I remember everyone was all of a sudden it was like ‘Whoa!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you’re looking at me now, huh?’” –Forbes, The Business of Lady GaGa
Imagine this: you’re doing everything you can to break into the music business…and then you finally break in!
But now you find out you’re a commodity–there are at least a hundred other rappers on the label just as hungry as you. You broke through but you’re still in the shadows. That was the problem 50 encountered when he was signed to Columbia Records. He was put on hold for eight months, was broke, and was watching other rappers show off their jewelry.
So he decided to take matters into his own hands.
What did he do?
He wrote a song about how to rob other rappers! It was comical and it got an IMMEDIATE response!! The reactions from the other rappers were hostile, the most famous one from Jay-Z:
“Go against Jigga yo’ a** is dense I’m about a dollar, what the f**k is 50 Cents?”
It was the best thing that ever could have happened!! All of a sudden EVERYONE was talking about this “50 Cents” guy. It gave him the publicity he needed; he (50) later thanked the Jay-Z for the diss!
When Jesus started His ministry He found ways to stand out! He had the option of being “ok” or “WOW!!!!” He chose the latter:
Ok: “What’s that? A new prophet? Kingdom of God? Sounds good. Sounds just like the other prophets we’ve had before.”
Wow Factor: “Holy Crap!!! He just cured that guy of leprosy!!!! Did you just see that??!! Wow!!”
Ok: “‘Love your enemies’…yeah that’s good stuff. I can see me doing that.”
Wow: “What??!! What do you mean He “raised someone from the dead”?? The dead? Are you kidding me??!! Wow!!”
Always Have “Testers”
“Google is always testing. At one point, it tested 41 different shades of blue for its toolbar.”–Aaron Goldman, Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google
At one early point in his drug dealing career Jackson noticed his customers (the fiends) were avoiding him. He couldn’t understand why. After a while he decided to speak to an older, more astute hustler named “Dre” about it. To raise his game, Dre told him, he’d have to use the oldest hustling trick in the book–the “tester”: you get a batch of drugs, separate a portion to give to certain fiends for free. They tell you on the spot if its good or bad.
If it’s good, they spread the word; if it’s not you make adjustments. But their feedback is vital.
He did that and saw business and market share increase; but not only that got more info about the tastes and preferences of his customers. (The 50th Law, pgs 178-180)
Since free is the new business model … why not let people try it for free. Let them experience the benefits, the efficiency, the advantages, and etc. Tell them what David told potential prospects:
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 New King James Version)
In other words, “you don’t believe this is good…try it out for yourself.” And if it’s really that good it’ll pay off: with referrals, recommendations, and repeat business.
Evernote follows the “freemium” business model to a tee: they give away service to users and making money when some opt to pay for additional features.
And even though some companies can lose playing “freemium” Evernote has found a way to win. According to Fast Company:
“During users’ first 30 days, 0.5% convert to its paid version ($5 a month or $45 a year), which offers perks such as added storage space and offline access. At the six-month mark, the rate has gone up to 1%. After two years, almost 6% of the initial group have started shelling out — and one-third of them are still storing content on a monthly basis.”
Test everything, find out what works, and find out how to make money from it.
Turn Adversity into Opportunity
“I had a boyfriend who told me I’d never succeed, never be nominated for a Grammy, never have a hit song, and that he hoped I’d fail. I said to him, ‘Someday, when we’re not together, you won’t be able to order a cup of coffee at the f***ing deli without hearing or seeing me.” –Lady Gaga
50 had a lot of adversity to deal with, but the one he is most famous for was when he was shot nine times!
He was signed to Columbia Records, was working on his debut album, and seemed ready for success. But then in May of 2000 it happened…and everything seemed downhill from there:
- Columbia canceled the release of his album and dropped him from the label
- He was blackballed from the industry–they felt he was too much of a risk
- He was broke but couldn’t return to dealing drugs–he had to keep a low profile
- All his new “supporters” were nowhere to be found
- One executive told him, he would have to wait two years before he could think of resurrecting his career
- Because of a bullet lodged in his tongue, he voice now had a hiss
He was broke, blacklisted, and a hunted man.
Didn’t have much options.
He could have given up…but instead embarked on a mix tape campaign–releasing five albums worth of material in months. Since he was unable to get studio time in the US, he went to Canada. He had no money to distribute the materials so he encouraged bootleggers to pirate the tracks and spread it. He couldn’t give concerts or do any public promo–but that added to the mystique.
The campaign created a mini “legend” about him.
In the songs he attacked his killers, the music industry, fake rappers, and etc. The hiss in his voice made his sound even more menacing, more real.
And it soon caught the attention of Eminem who soon signed him to the Aftermath label.
And the rest is history.
The Bible says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10 NKJV) There’s no such thing as great reward without great problems. 50 cent met with great trouble but he was so driven that he refused to give up on his goal.
No matter what befalls you, no matter how long it takes, no matter what the delays–never give up! Our greatest successes are always right after our greatest failures.
What do you think??