Our weird little law office often has a soundtrack of hip-hop keeping things moving when I’m in charge of the dial (shout out to the over 35 crowd like me who have actually used a dial to tune in music).
Today I found a Spotify playlist called, “Strength of Street Knowledge” that was the perfect background music to update a contract for a client, and mid-listen realized that The Notorious B.I.G. was listing a number of topics I try to get clients to think about – just in a MUCH catchier way. So I quickly finished those contract edits and decided to dig deep into the ways in which B.I.G.’s Ten Crack Commandments (or, as he describes it: “A step-by-step booklet for you to get your game on track, not your wig pushed back”) are a veritable roadmap of advice for ANY business, regardless of the type of work you do.
- Never let no one know how much dough you hold cause you know the cheddar breed jealousy Although there is nothing wrong with being proud of your business success and there is much to be gained from transparency with your internal team, it’s always a good idea to keep just how much you’re actually making between you, your team and your advisors. Outsiders can often mistake what you’re grossing (making before expenses) in a year from what you’re netting (actually keeping as profit) and as B.I.G. makes clear, jealousy makes people do the strangest things.
- Never let ’em know your next move, don’t you know Bad Boys move in silence Again, a nod to discretion. Every business has proprietary knowledge (known in legal terms as trade secrets) that give them their advantage over competitors. Legally speaking, once trade secrets are no longer secret, there’s no legal way to protect them.
- Never trust nobody Granted, Biggie goes on to say that even your moms will set you up if the price is right, and that may be a little harsh – or in your personal situation not applicable – but there’s still something to be learned here, there’s just a bit more I’d add to the sentence. Never trust nobody…without a good contract. I don’t care how well you know the person (including your moms!) or how long you’ve been doing business together, get something in writing before you trust anyone.
- Never get high on your own supply I know you think this one only applies if you are selling a good that allows you to get high, but think again! It’s actually really good advice about not using your business like your own personal piggy bank. Not only will that put you out of business quickly, it will also expose you to potential claims that your personal assets should be at risk if the company gets sued (known legally as piercing the veil).
- Never sell no crack where you rest at Again, at first glance this seems to only apply to B.I.G.’s specific industry, no? However, the overarching theme is a good one for all of us. Keep your business away from your personal life, and as much as possible, away from your home. Everyone needs a little separation and breathing room.
- That goddamn credit? Dead it This is such an important bit of info, especially if you’re in a service business! We often see our clients offering terms of “Net 30” or more to all of their clients, but this isn’t a requirement. If you offer long payment terms, you’re basically acting as a no interest credit card for your clients. If you’ve completed the work, there is nothing wrong with asking for the payment upon receipt, or within 5 or 10 days. Once a client has established themselves as a reliable payer you can think about offering longer terms but as a general rule? Dead it.
- This rule is so underrated, keep your family and business completely separated If you learn nothing else from Biggie, please learn this – mixing business and family are, on the whole, not a good idea. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and of course some of the risk related to mixing these two can be avoided with a good contract (see #3!), but if there is ANY way to avoid it, don’t go into business with your family. Just don’t. No, I don’t want to hear about the people you know who made it work. Listen to Biggie – completely separated.
- Never keep no weight on you I know he’s talking about matters generally handled by criminal lawyers, but this is a good point – if there is something that can cause trouble for you related to your business (even if it’s more complicated than completely illegal) keep it as far away from you as possible and maybe delegate it to someone used to handling it.
- If you ain’t gettin’ bagged stay the f*%k from police Again, this is really relevant in a literal sense to the industry this song was written for, but the idea of “stay in your lane and worry about yourself” is a good one for any business owner. There may be a time when you learn something about a competitor that could make business difficult for them if the wrong person found out about it. It’s often best to resist the urge to act on that info, knowing that karma generally does catch up with folks. And if you won’t listen to Biggie, or me, maybe this little one can convince you.
- A strong word called ‘consignment’…if you ain’t got the clientele, say “hell no!” You might think B.I.G.’s final gem doesn’t apply to you if you don’t sell actual goods that you could take (or offer) on consignment. But the idea behind it – don’t take something now and think you’ll pay for it later – is a pretty solid piece of business advice.
So what’s the wrap-up from all this wisdom? Again, I think B.I.G. says it best (and maybe we should make this our new tagline on every piece of advice we send to clients): “Follow these rules, you’ll have mad bread to break up.”
Are you a business owner who also enjoys hip-hop? If so, you should know about Giant Steps, an annual conference that brings together creative professionals and professional creatives. DLO has been a part of the Giant Steps family for years, and I felt no blog about hip hop and business advice would be complete with a tip of the hat to Susan Campion and M.anifest, Giant Steps’ creators.