According to a recent Business Insider article, back in 2005 a freshman filled out a profile for an on-campus recruiting program and was asked to list her business role model. Who did she list?
Harvard's Office of Career Services asked her to name someone else:
It's not appropriate. I don't think people will respond well to this.
Now, the freshman, Chanequa Campbell, had a particularly unique reason to look up to Hova, she grew up in the same neighborhood as him - Brookyln's notorious Marcy Projects. If he could make it big, so could she. She stood her ground and the OCS let her keep him as her business role-model, albeit under his real name (Shawn Carter).
This article struck a chord with me for two reasons:
Now, before anyone gets any ideas, don't worry, I don't fancy myself some kind of rapper. And I definitely didn't grow up in the projects. But, that's completely beside the point.
I'm certain that if you polled the WSO community at large, the list of names would be dominated by titans of finance:, Einhorn, Cohen, Jones, and so on. And to be clear, there's nothing wrong with any of those names. If you aspire to run a game changing hedge fund of your own one day, you should admire these guys.
Not me, though. Let's examine the lessons we can all learn from Jay Z while I make the case for the reasons why he's my business role model:
Focus on Your Strengths and Take Intelligent Risks:
Today, Jay Z has a net worth of around $500 million, and while much of his wealth comes from an array of entrepreneurial business ventures, he has always focused on his strengths.
In his early days, hip hop and running drugs were the only two things he had. You don't generally grow up in Bed-Stuy with dreams of one day moving from Goldman to. And while he made some serious cash in the drug game, it was apparent that he had a special talent when it came to rap music.
With no record labels biting and no third party seed capital to speak of, Jay Z self-financed Roc-A-Fella Records with co-founders Dame Dash and Kareem Burke. They produced and distributed copies of Jay's first, and arguably best, record, "Reasonable Doubt" themselves, and from there, the rest is history.
Develop Your Brand and Make Your Own Path:
Something I've always admired Jay Z for was his knack for setting trends. Never one to follow others, he's always blazed his own path.
For at least a decade, he was the trendsetter in hip hop. When he started wearing throw back jerseys, everybody followed. When he famously switched from throwbacks to "a crisp pair of jeans and a button-up," throwbacks died overnight. He even killed auto-tune a few years back.
On a higher level, he's always attached his name to products he's believed in. You won't see him thoughtlessly sponsoring bullshit, which brings us to our next lesson.
Diversify Your Assets:
Having made a few bucks selling records, he did the smart thing and entered into new business ventures to diversify his cash flow generating assets.
He founded Rocawear in 1999. At one point, the Rocawear clothing company was grossing $700 million a year in revenue. In 2007, Jay-Z sold the rights to the Rocawear brand to Iconix Brand Group for $204 million while retaining a stake in the company and its management.
He co-founded the 40/40 Club, a chain of sports bars and lounges located in New York and Atlantic City.
Topping it all off, he has a minority ownership stake in the Brooklyn Nets. Hell, I'm not even sure if they Brooklyn move would've gone through without him on board. But, maybe I'm being naive. That said, his christening of the brand newCenter with a headline concert certainly didn't hurt.
That's only scratching the surface of the way he's diversified himself, but you get the point.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that everyone should feel compelled to build an empire of businesses. But, I do believe that anyone who wants to be successful and build wealth can learn a lot from Jay Z. In short:
- Focus on Your Strengths: Do something that strongly suits your strong points and interests. You'll put more effort and enthusiasm into something that you're good at, and you'll probably grow to like it quite a bit, too.
- Make Your Own Path: Don't worry about following the path others lay out for you. That's a sure-fire way to be miserable and burn out. And there's definitely no money in that.
- Take Intelligent Risks and Diversify Your Assets: Recognize that the best way to build wealth is to take measured risks. And unless you're the next Ken , David Einhorn, or Paul Tudor Jones, it'll be tough to make it big without some creative risk taking. Find ways to put your money to work. Be it in a portfolio of dividend stocks or a venture you're tinkering with in your off-hours, or both. Find something in your wheelhouse and put some work into it. It might pay off big. And if you're smart and measured about it, it'll at least pay off something.
So, where does WSO stand? Who are your business idols? Am I alone in picking Jay Z? Anyone else have one that's a bit off the beaten path? Let me know in the comments.
And before I finish, here's one of my favorite Jay Z tracks of all time. Enjoy: