Dr. Dre’s gone straight outta Compton and straight to the top of Forbes’s 2015 list of the world’s richest musicians. In addition to racking up Grammy nods, he founded Aftermath Entertainment and Beats by Dre, and, more recently, joined Jimmy Iovine in donating $70 million to the University of Southern California to found the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation. What can entrepreneurs learn from the strategies that took Dre from hip-hop legend to billionaire business leader? Here you go.

1. Know your strengths.

Dre struggled in school, but he’s demonstrated that academic success is not necessarily an indicator of entrepreneurial acumen. As it became clear that school wasn’t the place where he could shine, Dre began devoting himself to his DJ work--leading to his alliance with the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, his first step on the pathway to success. Dre’s success grew from his ability to identify and play to his strengths. If you’re struggling to get ahead, take a step back and evaluate where your strengths really lie.

2. Have an eye for talent.

Dre has worked with some of the top talent in the music business, from Mary J. Blige to 2Pac and Snoop Dogg. He produced Eminem’s groundbreaking albums, and helped launch the Detroit rapper’s meteoric career. Dre’s success isn’t just a result of personal skill, talent, and expertise: It’s grown from his collaborations with other talented people. Take note of this as you build your team and grow your business: A successful leader is only as strong and effective as the people he or she leads.

3. Don’t buckle to skepticism.

The hip-hop culture that Dre grew up in and helped build is one that fosters and relies on entrepreneurial skill. In the early years of hip hop, record labels were skeptical of the genre, and worried that it would be a difficult sell to middle America. Hip-hop artists were thus masters of hustle: They were out there promoting their mixtapes and starting their own record labels, doing everything it took to get their music heard. Dre was part of this scene, and learned how to be an entrepreneur almost out of necessity. Innovators create opportunity by forging ahead, even when they meet great resistance and skepticism.

4. Hold on to what’s yours.

One of the early ways that Dre combined artistry and entrepreneurship turned out to be one of his smartest moves. He made sure that he earned a royalty from all of the records that he produced, which included blockbusters like Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, which sold more than five million copies. While many artists find themselves stuck in bad contracts that don’t allow them to capitalize on their recordings, Dre was smart and made sure that his producing work could be a powerful revenue stream. Never jump into partnerships without looking ahead and protecting what’s yours: now and in the future.

5. Build brand appeal.

Dre partnered with Jimmy Iovine to launch Beats by Dre in 2008. The pair subsequently founded Beats Music, a streaming service, and, in one of the biggest deals in the industry, the company was acquired by Apple. This success was possible because of Beats by Dre’s swift rise to the top of the consumer audio technology industry--and that rise was the result of Dre’s savvy branding acumen. Beats by Dre weren’t just headphones--they were beautifully designed headphones. Dre and Iovine did a little celebrity branding of their own by making sure the headphones were spotted on the ears of the hottest and hippest people, from will.i.am to LeBron James. Dre tapped his extensive network of entertainment luminaries to pull off the marketing coup that made Beats by Dre an unprecedented success. You can learn from this move: Don’t underestimate the importance of brand identity.

Published on: Sep 3, 2015
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