Have you ever considered how hip is like running a small business? It’s all about the hat, and the story, and some processes! But most of all it’s about being authentic.

Running a small business consists of wearing many hats, each with its own particular set of responsibilities. When it comes to getting your brand out in the world, it takes a realistic, relatable story. The hat that covers the head of marketing, the brand manager (nearly always the business owner in the early stages) must be able to share that story in a convincing and compelling way; just like hip hop stars capture their audiences.

How Hip Hop is Like Running a Small BusinessNot fluent in Hop Hop? It is a music genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted. It progressed into a hip hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MC’ing/rapping, DJ’ing/scratching, break dancing, and graffiti writing. Other elements include sampling (or synthesis), and beatboxing.

The driving reason that Hip Hop gained mainstream acceptance is because “really good” Hip Hop music has a story, and that story had to be real. It had to be authentic. While I admit the early versions of Hip Hop (rap music) contained a fair amount of violent and crude expressions of rebellion and disrespect, the genre has grown into a social phenomenon. Much of Hip Hop expresses ghetto life or the anxiety of underprivileged ethnic society. The down-trodden individual rising above the shackles of the urban scene is a relatively common theme. The artist expresses deep emotions, why they desire what they do, and how they intend to get it. That, literally, is how they become a brand.

Excerpts from Walt F.J. Goodridge – Author

An author and hip hop record label owner, Walt shares quite a few things in his book and website, Change the Game, where his intent is to guide new hip hop artists to drive their own dream. Here is a few nuggets from his work, something that every business owner should be able to relate to:

“The #1 reason a lot of talented rappers and producers will never get signed is simply because they’re waiting for someone to do it for them.”

“Whenever something needed to get done, we did it with a sense of purpose and urgency. I don’t think we ever said this out loud, but we knew time was running out.”

“Some authors (hip hop artists) don’t really share your experience. As much as other authors may want to help you, there is a difference between managing rap artists and creating a hip hop label compared to doing the same for a rock label. Yes, some of the business basics are the same, but the day to day operations required for success in Hip Hop are different from Rock. Plain and simple. That’s just the reality of life in America and the world.”

Small business owners could learn a lot from this perspective. You and your business’ products and services make you unique. You need to capitalize on what makes you special and different. Merely copying someone else, or relying on someone else to “get things done” simply will not work. Get going and get growing, not sitting back hoping things will get better, they won’t. Action is what makes things happen. It’s business physics. Action begets reaction.

And the secret to rising above the expectation of your prospective clients and becoming the dominant “playa” in your markets is recognizing shortcomings and adapting processes to alleviate them. And alleviating all of them, every time.

Hip Hop is Like Running a Small BusinessHow to get started

All businesses begin with a story of some kind, but often it is overlooked once the daily chores of building and managing the business become a daily routine. In order for prospects to relate, they must find common ground with the business; something that compels them to align themselves with the product, service and company. That requires a relatable story in terms of what the business stands for, how they became who they are, and what they wish to become. That story, once solidified must be shared repeatedly to grow an audience.

How to Construct Your Story

In an effort to develop your brand, and your story, several things must be present:

  • An introspective set of examples of how the business was formulated
  • Identifying what makes the business unique, so to separate yourself from your competitors
  • Real-life experiences that can be shared in a compelling fashion
  • The true reasons why the business does what it does
  • A clear explanation of how your business products or services can make someone’s life better

Small business owners also need to look at focus group research that expresses the fears consumers and decision makers admit to having when doing business with a new service provider:

  1. Will they be on time?
  2. Will they stay within the budget?
  3. Will they finish what they start?
  4. Will the work or product be of good quality?

These are very “real” anxieties and reflect on people’s unfortunate past experiences. For your business to thrive, and to insure a steady stream of referrals, you need to be authentic; you need to be real, you must be sincere in your expression of your story.

In order to accommodate and cement the loyalty of existing customers, gain new customers, and acquire raving fans (and all those referrals!), you must have the right processes in place that address these 4 anxieties. I am referring to processes that make you proactive and not reactive.

For nearly every small business that means:

  • Getting someone on the receiving end of the telephone who has command of the work calendar
  • Adopting a better approach to calendar management, using mobile technology
  • Dumping handwritten proposals that make you look small, weak and irrelevant
  • Having access to, and knowledge of, the latest products
  • Having product supply chains that are as quick and reliable as Amazon Prime®
  • Creating a culture in your organization that recognizes the 5 factors above, and strives daily to not succumb to them

All of these elements that drive customer engagement and loyalty mean nothing without maintaining your existing customer base, and attracting new customers. That won’t happen without a clearly defined message, your story, and executing it flawlessly. It must become your guiding philosophy, your mantra.

Let’s face one cold, hard truth- the belief that what you do, and how you do it, is truly unique… well not so much. One Google search will reveal your immediate competitive landscape. Lacking a compelling story and the processes to execute at a high level will push you down the business economic ladder.

Your actions, not dreams alone, will propel you to greatness. Understanding how your story can grab the attention, having the fortitude to withstand the ups and downs of business, and the perseverance to keep going when it seems nearly hopeless can make all the difference. Puff Daddy, Dr. Dre and others are living proof that this mentality and approach to their music business is universal.