5 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Kanye West / by Joseph Palumbo

Did you know that if you speak Kanye West's name three times in a dark bathroom his ego will interrupt you before you can get to the third time. True fact. 

Kanye West has been getting a lot of attention these days, and not always for the right reasons. He's pompous. He's megalomaniacal. He's obnoxious. And that makes him the focal point for a lot of criticism and derision. But that doesn't mean we can't learn from him, especially if you're an entrepreneur. Yes, when you look past all of the flash and hyperbole there are some things that we can learn from Yeezus when it comes to braving the harsh entrepreneurial currents of the modern business world. 

Self Promotion

I am Warhol. I am the No. 1 most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. - Kanye West

Kanye West is a master at this. Kanye West is always talking about Kanye West. And for two good reasons. First, if you don't talk about you, nobody will talk about you. And second, if you want a chance to control the conversation about you, then you should start it. Self-promotion is something that so many people are not comfortable with because we're taught from an early age that humility is a virtue and self aggrandizement is a mortal faux pas. However, building a brand is an invaluable asset when your job is to garner a critical mass of social, digital and financial interest around you and your latest endeavor. Don't be afraid to talk candidly about your accomplishments, your experiences and the skill set you've built throughout your career. 

And if calling attention to yourself is not your cup of tea, Kanye understands. "We all self-conscious," Kanye laments, "I'm jus the first to admit it." Thanks, Kanye. 

Consume Your Own Product

These beats are dope - Kanye West (on Kaye West's Beats)

There's a story, I'm not sure if it's true, but I'd like to think that it is, that Aziz Ansari tells on stage about the first time he went to Kanye West's house. The story describes Kanye alone in his living room listening to the then newly released album, 808s and Heartbreak. "These beats are dope", Kanye reports to Aziz, or to no one in particular, as he bobs his head in time with the soundtrack. Kanye was listening to his own music, which is about as uncouth, Aziz states, as Aziz listening and laughing to his own jokes. 

Too often, entrepreneurs rely on data they receive from external sources to affirm or negate their business plan. While you should consistently measure customer satisfaction, your satisfaction as a customer should be the canary in the coal mine. Building your business should be enjoyable and give you a sense of satisfaction. You should be also be first in line to consume your product or service, or eat your own dog food, as the saying goes. On top of that, you should be as critical as possible, honing the perspective of your customers to analyze any and all points of friction in the sales funnel as well as glitches with service delivery and customer experience. 

Multiple Lines of Business

I was never really good at anything except for the ability to learn - Kanye West

You know Kanye the rapper, which is the other side of Kanye the producer. You probably also know that Kanye has his own clothing line and custom sneakers, making him Kanye the fashion designer. But did you Kanye is also a former resturanteur (if you can count Fat Burger as a restaurant) and he dabbles in architecture? "I make music, but I shouldn't be limited to one place of creativity," states Yeezus in an interview with dezeen.com. He goes on to say that "I hang around architects mostly. People that want to make things as dope as possible."

Yes, building a startup into a viable business does take the majority of your sanity and waking hours, but it's important to capitalize on additional business opportunities and investments. Not only is this good for diversifying, and potentially multiplying, your revenue streams, it's also a good way to prevent burn out from singular focus on small subset of problems and challenges. 

"When you make something, you make something else," proclaims Jason Fried, founder of 37Signals. The lumber industry makes sawdust and wood chips - which it sales for a respectable profit. Fried does a good job of explaining how he was able to monetize the byproduct of his work in his book Rework and his blog signalvnoise.com. A principle which allows you to find and nurture new revenue streams without having to remove too much focus from your primary business by looking for opportunities to sell the byproduct of your efforts. 

Call Your Shots

I have decided...in 2020...to run for president - Kanye West

Kanye just put it out there - Kanye 2020. Kanye is going to run for President of the United States in the next election. Without starting a discussion on why a West administration might not be in the best interest for our country, publicizing your goals and ambition is a highly effective way to motivate and maintain focus on achieving them. 

In his book The Four Hour Body, Tim Ferriss recounts how Ramet Sethi used a public bet to help him add 30 pounds of muscle to his self-proclaimed "Indian frailty". He published his progress (or lack there of) on the Internet for people to cheer or ridicule him. Although he had tried several times to gain muscle only to meet with lackluster results, adding a layer of public accountability (with a healthy dash of bravado) helped him finally achieve his desired body recomposition and made him a regular in the husky section of the men's department.

It's difficult to be a successful entrepreneur in private. Inherently the work of building a business is a spectator sport.  Don't be sheepish, embrace the attention and call your shot. Proclaim to friends and foes alike that you're going to the most profitable artisanal ice cream shop within a year. Or that you're going to disrupt an industry that is ripe for molting and leave it unrecognizable within the next three years. Be clear in your intent and brave enough to be held publicly accountable for your work and results. Not only will you gain motivation, you'll most likely gain a support system and even a mentor or two that will help you achieve your goal. 

He's Got The Right Partner

I can't be with any girl but Kim because that's the girl I look at her pictures the most, I get turned on the most - Kanye West on Kim Kardashian

The Kardashian component of the Kanye West equation might just be the most important in the long run. Say what you will about Kanye's other half, but not only is she onboard with what Kanye is doing, her brand of famous-for-being-famous cunningly compliments his bravado and self-promotion. Having the right partnerships, both personally and professionally, is vital to long-term success. 

 The life of an over achieving, uber productive entrepreneur is fraught with early mornings, late nights and not much time in between. It's full of ups, downs, pitches and pivots. Greatness is rarely achieved between 9 to 5, so having a significant other who understands the demands on your time and attention, who appreciates your vision and ambition and who can value the realization of your potential greatness is a vital component to the structure of success. 

Your professional partnership are just as important as your personal ones. Kanye, who has stated in a previous interview "I have to work with number one. I can't work with anyone but Jay-Z because that's the number one," clearly understand the important of partnering with those can help you be successful. Entrepreneurial success is as much chemistry as it is pure business sense. You need to make sure that you mesh with the people around you which usually requires their ability to challenge you to improve.