Notorious B.I.G’s 10 Crack Commandments for the 21st Century Entrepreneur
What lessons in entrepreneurship can the 21st century entrepreneur learn from Notorious B.I.G’s hip hop classic 10 crack commandments?
Entrepreneurship can be a death wish. The psychological burden of the hustle is oft misstated. And the tools, tips and tricks, to help the entrepreneur along this lonely journey? Almost always cliche. Don’t fret. We’ve got your back. Once again, MMI-MMC goes beyond the rhetoric in search of business tips from the unlikeliest places.
So far, as small business owners, we’ve gleaned business tips from the trade of John Cena & Co. Together, we’ve sought inspiration for entrepreneurship from the dying art of scrapbook making. As a gang, we’ve teased out principles of behavioral economics in search of tips that successful entrepreneurs lean on to bear the pain of building their businesses.
In this post, we keep it gangsta by absorbing wisdom from Christopher Wallace’s dalliance with drug dealing. This edition of business advice from the unlikeliest places calls on what must be the most influential autobiographical album by a lad barely out of his teens.
An early twenties King of The Streets with the audacity to assume the twin conflicting roles of poster boy of pursuing the dangerous ambitions of life in the projects in the 1990’s; and pariah deconstructing the myth of the shine of it all.
A Brooklyn icon with the genius to do all that whilst hiding, barely, behind the stage name Notorious B.I.G. An artistic cloak that’s an ode to his love-hate ways and testament to his struggles of dealing with the consequences of fame as a gangsta rapper.1
Name of the Game
For Notorious B.I.G, entrepreneurship is about making money. You can be apologetic or straight up real about it. To the 21st century entrepreneur, a caution.
Rule Number Uno, never let no one know
How much dough you hold cause you know
The cheddar breed jealousy
All the new age stuff bandied and camouflaged in sexy business terms like triple bottom line and social entrepreneurship, when dressed down are all about this dogma on entrepreneurship from the streets.
This first rule from the 10 Crack Commandments reminds us that success breeds contempt. For a drug dealer, this might mean resisting the urge to live large. To mind comes the downfall of street legend Frank Lucas as portrayed by Denzel Washington in the blockbuster American Gangster.
This simple reminder might also have served as an impetus for the those dealin’ to launder the loot of the illicit trade. Any other way and you’ll have the taxman, rivals and dirty cops knocking on your door.
Tax heavens? Clever accounting? Putting aside the ethics of such exploits to the side for a moment, the complexity of such maneuvers don’t come cheap. Moreover, they aren’t always accessible especially for the startup founder whose only assets are their vision and the zeal to actualize it.
On the converse, for the 21st century entrepreneur, this gem of business advice could mean more investments in good from business profits. Investments such as : meaningful contributions to employee retirement schemes, employer sponsored health insurance and designing workplace schemes that encourage employees to take up mortgage.
Not only are such investments by your business likely to beget a save on tax dollars, they should also go a long way in attracting and keeping talent. As every entrepreneur knows by heart, talent enables you to make more money.2
The 21st Century Entrepreneur Must Know When To Cut The Chatter
This rule reminds the 21st century entrepreneur of the gifts hidden in strategy texts from today and beyond.
Number 2, never let ’em know your next move
Don’t you know Bad Boys move in silence
By now, any budding entrepreneur should have done his homework. Being a good student of entrepreneurship is about learning from the gurus of strategy. One notable example is Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. A text that Notorious B.I.G echos in 10 crack commandments.
In the game of dealing, the caution in rule number 2 is inspired by the cutthroat nature of the business. This is a happenstance that remains true for all entrepreneurial endeavors. This verse might have been also been aimed at warning those feeding off the streets of the importance of cutting out the chatter.
Chatter here is what Hollywood perennially portrays as the seed that leads to it all falling down for the gangsta entrepreneur. The cops lay bugs listen in, one careless utterance by the street entrepreneur or his accomplices and jail time beacons. This truism couldn’t be better versed for the 21st century entrepreneur.
Avoiding Own Goals : Timely Advice for the 21st Century Entrepreneur
The ever shifting landscape of regulation is a risk that every entrepreneur must be weary of. Especially in the 21st century where every entrepreneurial punt is potentially global. You only need to look at the run-ins with the law of Uber, Google and Facebook to get a grip of the magnanimity of the risk.
Moreover, the likelihood that startups emerging today are likely to deploy the latest technology to gain business advantage, makes the scene a minefield. Particularly when the greys of ethical practice that color the relationship between science, society and technology this 21st century are considered. It is a real mess.
The 21st century entrepreneur will therefore often need to keep it on the down low – more so at the point of idea conception – lest their plans prematurely abort. Cracking a market is a gargantuan task by itself. A startup could do with not having to deal with a market already negatively sensitized about their brand.3
10 Crack Commandments on Handling Partnerships & Who To Trust
One word: Movies. Classics to be precise. Proven gems in the art of movie making that change your worldview once you partake of them
Number 3, never trust no-bo-dy
This IMDb list of Movies Every Entrepreneur Needs to Watch should get one going. Though not on that list, the context of this article implores on us to point you towards the 1983 cult classic Scarface. Notorious B.I.G in 10 Crack Commandments frequently odes lines from this classic. Notorious B.I.G’s rule number 3 is lifted from the rules of gangsterism by one of the movie’s main protagonists, Tony Montana.4
Notorious B.I.G Advice on Business Money & Personal Finances
In rule number 4, Notorious B.I.G keeps with the Scarface theme paraphrasing the most referenced rule from the movie that made Robert De Niro.
Number 4, Never get high on your own supply
This line is from a scene where Elvira Hancock educates Tony Montana: “Lesson number two: Don’t get high on your own supply.”
Hip hop legend Ice Cube in his rapping days as part of the Westside group N.W.A raps in the hit Dope man
o be a dope man, boy, you must qualify
Don’t get high off your own supply.
Rap King of the 2000’s Eminem in Get You Mad also references this rule. The 21st century entrepreneur makes moves at a time with sophisticated finance tools like venture capitalism, angel investors, crowd funding, Fintech and even mobile money. Yet, paradoxically, though living in such times of plenty, entrepreneurs perennially contend with the challenge of financing their dreams.
Fans of popular TV show Shark Tank know that a common point of departure between entrepreneurs and the sharks is when it becomes apparent that the funding sought/ profits stated by the entrepreneur are largely utilized in personal emoluments.
The Quagmire of Financing Dreams Facing 21st Century Entrepreneurs
Many identify having an actionable business plan or the old maxim: “behind every great fortune lies a great crime” as answers to THE QUESTION of how entrepreneurs can finance their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Notorious B.I.G’s 10 crack commandments rule number 4 ought serve as a guide to breaking down this question as the 21st entrepreneur seeks ways of answering it. Before the entrepreneur of today seeks funding for items of their business plan, it is imperative that they must first cater for their living needs first.
Personal finance tips propose several strategies to financial freedom. Examples include: The 50/20/30 budget rule, 28/36 rule, 6 months emergency fund rule, income, 10% retirement, house rules and a host of other personal finance tips touching on such mundanities like opening your bills on receipt. For the 21st century entrepreneur, these tips are worth the paper they are written on.
Stuck on How To Fund Your Startup? Word of Advice to the 21st Century Entrepreneur: You are on Your Own, Literally,
First, these personal finance rules assume existence of a monthly/ regular income. Entrepreneurship, especially in economies with high employment rates, is often a matter of necessity breeding invention. Jobs are hard to come by. Therefore, the individual with an entrepreneurial streak seeks to improve their situation and that of others by starting a business.
Secondly, they are better suited for entrepreneurs who are at the point where their business can pay them and take care of its obligations, including funding part of its growth. In the intervening period before the startup takes off, the entrepreneur has to cater for their living needs.
Steve Jobs famously had to live on the charity of friends and a Hare Krishna temple as he conceptualized Apple. Many other entrepreneurs have had to sink into debt just to finance their dreams.
Why This Piece of Street Smart Beats What You’d Get From Business School & MBA Classes
For all the teachings in business schools on navigating the funding cycle of startups, there still is no exact science to it. Personal stories of how successful entrepreneurs navigated this sink or swim phase scarcely are of help. This is because very few successful entrepreneurs ever talk openly and honestly of the struggles of entrepreneurship especially in the formative stages.
The complexity of business environments on the hyper-local to global scale, ensures unpredictable uncertainty that defines the environment when one first embarks on the journey to entrepreneurship. It is for this reason that Notorious B.I.G’s rule number 4 is of utmost importance to the 21st century entrepreneur.
It is paramount that they plan for themselves for the long haul. While at it, keep business money and personal money completely separated. Or at least have your finances well documented. Given the strict demands of this rule, you have to ask: How long does it take for a business to break even?
Three years? Eight years? Thirty years? ? How many years of time, effort, blood and sweat? 10 Crack Commandments Rule number 5 offers some clues.5
Not Too Gangsta for Family: Notorious B.I.G on Work-Life Balance
Pop celebrity author Malcom Gladwell quantified the enormous demands on time and effort for one to be great at something. Ten thousand hours is the number. Even with modern tools such as the power of social media and artificial intelligence, the demands on the 21st century entrepreneur are no less softer.
Number 5, never sell no crack where you rest at
I don’t care if they want a ounce, tell ’em bounce!
The nature of Notorious B.I.G’s enterprise wouldn’t allow him to talk of unshakeable realities like work-life balance. Such soft talk would have killed the juice of his brand: street cred. His authenticity would have suffered. This is someone who used to sell crack out of his mama’s house front pouch (a famous disregard for his own rules as he was once arrested for it). Doing his thing before the corporate engineered days that have begot the likes of Jay Z, his brand would have irreversibly suffered.
Brand Authenticity Through Professionalism: Notorious B.I.G Offers That Entrepreneurs Ought Maintain Work-Life Balance as a Strategy to Wealth & Health
Loss of brand equity is something Notorious B.I.G was afraid of. This must read New York Times article by Toure that came out just as the early effects of trappings of fame and fortune dawned on him informs us so. It is one thing selling crack in the area on Fulton Street between St. James Place and Washington Avenue. Quite another, dealing in Park Slope section of Brooklyn where he’d bought his mum a house.
I could never see myself moving in the suburbs,” he said. “It ain’t going to be right, and the lyrics are going to be soundin’ nasty. I know it. There won’t be nothing to rap about except the birds.
Given these conditions, we should be safe to take the fifth rule off Biggie’s 10 Crack Commandments as a subliminal punt at stressing the importance of an optimum work-life balance for entrepreneurs. The 21st century entrepreneur should know that Malcolm Gladwell’s ten ‘proverbial’ ten thousand rule is no walk in the park.
The temptation to neglect your social support system in entrepreneurial life is great. Moreover, emergence of gig economy and enabling technology begot by the fourth industrial revolution are perilous to a healthy work-life balance.6
Know Your Worth
The pressure of the first sale. The anguish of pushing the sale when you meet a prospective client seeking your services. Damn that pressure, I know too well for my own good.
Number 6, that goddamn credit? Dead it
You think a crackhead paying you back,
It is at such moments when you have lost leverage – investors on your neck, bank loan due, rent in arrears – when the entrepreneur might be pushed to giving bad credit. Notorious B.I.G’s 10 Crack Commandments rule number 6 is one 21st century entrepreneurs ought frame. Bad credit is worse than no sales. With bad credit, aside from it being equivalent to a no sale situation, you additionally loose inventory/ operating capital.7
Business & Family
Couples in business together, father and mothers and sons and daughters. Prospects of an entire generation staked on the success of business. Talk of pressure. The fallout of family run businesses? Not even your favorite novella can dramatize that.
7, this rule is so underrated
Keep your family and business completely separated
Of course the risk in illegitimate business like that of Notorious B.I.G is far greater. As the case of Saddam and his sons, Gaddafi and his sons, any mafia enterprise that you can think of that’s gown down, entire clans do end up in filth when shit hits the fan.
For the 21st century entrepreneurs, often the only talent they can afford in the startup phase is family and friends. If the startup navigates the narrow path to success, the challenge is even more daunting (as there is more to be lost). Succession and steering of business beyond the first generation is a the pariah among the host of family business challenges.
It might not be feasible for the 21st century entrepreneur to avoid family altogether. Hope lies in solid corporate governance structures for family businesses. Apprenticeship and mentorship offer a key pillar to lean on. And so does technology.8
The Importance of Business Inventory Management
Inventory is everything. Managing small business inventory where advantages of economies of scale, credit history and financing are everyday quagmires is no walk in the pack.
Number 8, never keep no weight on you!
Them cats that squeeze your guns can hold jums too
Biggie was on about the felony: found in possession with the intent to sell or distribute. For the 21st century entrepreneur, rule number 8 is a call to be versed with 21st century strategies for managing inventory like drop shipping.9
Ken Follet’s gripping read Pillars of the Earth, is a must read for 21st century entrepreneurs. The subplot of Aliena’s struggles with entrepreneurship ought be interesting fodder for their entrepreneurial exploits.
Early on in her business journey, a chance meeting with a successful business lady shapes inspires Aliena’s mindset on business. In his re-known snap-suspense fashion, Ken Follet kills what might have been an inspiring story on business mentorship when the lady entrepreneur is expelled from the market for her husbands unethical business practices of tampering with scales.
Number 9, If you ain’t gettin’ bagged stay the fcuk from police
If niggas think you snitchin’ they ain’t trying to listen
In a famous interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, rapper Cam’ron explained the code of secrecy that rules the streets. This wisdom from Cameron is what inspires rule number 9. Understandably, the ethics of streets differs from above-board business. Nonetheless, the 21st century entrepreneur is reminded of the importance of being conversant with both the above surface and hush-hush rules that govern their business. Trust me, you don’t want to be in a fight with your peers.10
Tips on Distribution & Handling Business Relationships
Forgive us for saying earlier in rule number 8 that inventory is king to business success. Scratch that. Distribution is king.
Number 10, a strong word called consignment
Strictly for live men, not for freshmen
If you ain’t got the clientele, say “hell no!”
‘Cause they gon’ want they money rain sleet hail snow
Donn’t hold more than you can sell, especially on credit. Anything (theft, damage, loss by fire or natural disaster) is on you. Business insurance is one way to mitigate against such losses. Better contracts with transporters and warehousing facilities is another. Even if the business has that covered this way or any other, the 21st century entrepreneur must realize that cash is king and holding up operating profit in dead stock helps nobody but the guy who dumped the stock on you.