I’m Not A Businessman I’m A Business, Man

Quote by rapper Jay-Z in the song “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix).”

If you don’t know Jay-Z, you might portray him as your typical rapper with extravagant jewelry and bad spending habits. But Jay-Z is different. He is someone to look up to not only in the music industry but also in the business world and he has the track record to prove it.

Jay-Z amassed a net worth of over a billion dollars by understanding money. He diversifies his portfolio and makes sound investments. His most recognized assets are in real estate, alcohol brands, art, clothing, fragrances, startups, investments (he owns stakes in Uber & Robinhood), and of course his music.

“For a young person growing up, he’s the guy to learn from,”

Warren Buffett
Jay-Z parties with Warren Buffett at the grand reopening of Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club.

Back to Jay-Z’s quote, it is pretty self-explanatory. Read it again slowly… “I’m not a businessman I’M A BUSINESS, MAN”. It’s such a simple yet profound concept that we all need to keep in mind as we pursue our own businesses.

Trump, Oprah, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Elon Musk, and Kylie Jenner are perfect examples of a business. Their image and reputation have been formed into a brand no different than Apple, Walmart, or Google. Their audience trusts them, and their name by itself has immense value.

Something they all have in common is that they are not restricted to one product like a typical business is. If Google wanted to start a clothing brand, its current customers may have a hard time adjusting. Oprah on the other hand can use her brand and reputation to receive millions of dollars in investment capital and backing to open a new hotel, or beauty supplies that her millions of adoring fans will buy because they are loyal to her business. This is not to say that having a personal brand gives you the power to have a piece of every industry or that you will be successful in every niche, but you are more flexible than a typical business.

The business model of being a business actually has many advantages over an ordinary businessman. If you haven’t already read my previous essay, Attention Is The New Currency, you must do so to truly understand why it is so beneficial and profitable to have a large audience engage with your content.

Let’s compare and contrast a businessman to a “persona business”:

BusinessmanBusiness, Man
Your brand is tied to your current productFlexibility to change what you are selling & the range of products you sell
You are selling a service or physical itemYou are the product and you are selling yourself first, and sell a range of products under your name.
You are a part of the culture You move the culture

Here is how Jay-Z explains it in his own words: “My thing is related to who I am as a person,” he says. “The clothes are an extension of me. The music is an extension of me. All my businesses are part of the culture, so I have to stay true to whatever I’m feeling at the time, whatever direction I’m heading in. And hopefully, everyone follows.”

Jay-Z Photo by Men’s Health

If you already have or work for an established business, you can still learn from Jay-Z’s quote. Whether you are an employee, owner, consultant, writer, or gamer, your reputation is your business. No matter what your career is, your reputation is what determines what doors are open to you and what doors are closed. It determines who wants to do business with you and who doesn’t. So you are a business, man! And it’s important to protect your business.

Jay-Z is the embodiment of a living brand and the American Dream, who we could all vastly benefit from learning from and listening to. To read more about his quote and Jay-Z’s brand and business philosophy, check out this article by Men’s Health.