Washington, DC – I’m not a part of the Beyhive, BUT I will say that one of my business mentors for the past several years has been Beyoncé. She is a worldwide sensation – and it’s for good reason. After becoming the first woman of color to headline Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2018, she’s now surprised us with a live album of that epic experience in conjunction with ‘Homecoming,’ a Netflix Film, that documents the behind the scenes making of what some consider the most important live musical performance of the century thus far. From her editorial control of the coveted September issue of Vogue Magazine to her latest musical and media move of Homecoming, I have learned sound business acumen. Here’s a few lessons about business acumen, and life I want to share with you too.
In a world of doing things for “double taps” and “likes,” one of the most powerful things about the queen of the beehive is that she is wholly herself. Agree? She broke off from Destiny’s Child and allowed her gift to make room for her. Her art has only become more skilled and key to her success. ‘Yonce and all of her success prove that the world responds different when you truly align yourself with the work that is assigned specifically to you. Stand out a little more so that you too can reach your maximum potential.
It took some years before Destiny’s Child made their major label breakthrough by signing with Columbia Records in 1999 with the album “The Writings On The Wall” (who could also forget “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Say My Name”). Since then, she has shown us that ‘Beyoncé the brand’ is reliable. She has sold out concert halls, stadiums and venues for decades. People have been buying her albums and having high expectations. She never disappoints. Her brand is consistent and simultaneously evolving. Brands like Nike, Apple, Google and Disney understand that branding is a constant. She doesn’t follow the trends but rather keeps up with current culture and rather creates the trends.
She has the uncanny ability to empower her audience to be okay with being expressive. Just like Beyoncé, you and your brand should have an emotional connection with the people around you and your customers. Successful businesses put the customer first. Look at Amazon. The connection you create will last longer than any promotion or any product you can offer. Her connection at Coachella was so profound, the hashtag #Beychella had over 314K post on Instagram. She single-handedly made time stand still. That one connection can create evangelists (the term used by Salesforce for various customer centric roles) for your product.
Her 2018 Coachella performance was rich with history, overtly political and just grand! It obliterated the Coachella ideology of a relaxed festival. As the first female of color to headline the event, her show was filled with horns, trumpets, trombones, sousaphones and drums. She was backed by a ‘lit’ marching band in a historically black college football halftime show. Her arrangements were alive and then slow. The way she slowed down some of her most famous hits like “Drunk In Love,” and a savage low-end stomp version of “Formation” teaches us that slowing down the pace isn’t always a bad thing.
In 2013, in the middle of the night with absolutely zero warning, Beyoncé released a new album. With one post on Instagram that read “Surprise,” Beyoncé stunned her fans and sent the media world into a frenzy. The element of surprise and word of mouth paid off for the album complete with 14 songs. Conventional marketing from business school teaches us to build the buzz over months until it reaches a fevered pitch. Her bold move paid off, ranking as the largest single week ever in the US iTunes Store and iTunes’ fastest-selling album worldwide.
Oprah is quoted as loving the theory that there are “10,000 hours behind anybody who ever gets to be successful,” the theory popularized by bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell. Beyoncé show’s us that success does not happen overnight and that no one is exempt from the life’s curve balls. Beyoncé shows us that there is a process to this thing called success.
When you look at the list of the world’s most powerful brands – Amazon, Apple, Nike, Pepsi, Google – they have several decades to tell their brand stories. Today, when we talk about brands we’re no longer just talking about companies, we are also talking about people. While people as brands are different from a product, there is certainly much to learn from a performer like Beyoncé. She wields 127 million Instagram followers. She is an influencer. She is now the newest evangelist for Adidas as a ‘creative partner’ for the brand. Through a carefully managed image, she shows us she can be a sexy performer, and an astute businesswoman. She can partner with L’Oréal, construct the House of Dereon (named after the seamstress grandmother) and personify powerful women in films like “Dreamgirls,” “Cadillac Records,” and contribute to Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.” Beyoncé show’s us that in order to build a successful brand you must diversify across multiple platforms, learn the delicate balance of untouchable yet relatable, and manage damage control well.
It is okay to admit that you need help. It is okay to realize that your life’s work cannot be done without a team of people who understand your vision and can work effectively. Her digital manager Lauren Writer states that “she is aware of and approves every piece of content that goes everywhere all the time.” It is equally important to recognize the strengths of your team. Although they may be a trusted confidant and friend and superb in one area, they may not be well suited in another platform. Dedicate time to develop the skill of building a solid team.
Beyoncé is not a size zero and we love her for it. She is the epitome of beauty, power and health. Her recent switch to a vegan diet was not for weight loss but rather to become the healthiest version of herself. I’d like to think that it made her Sunday Brooklyn Pizza dates trickier with Jay-Z. And let’s not just stop at physical health. Tina Knowles Lawson (the queen’s mother) took Beyoncé and Solange to counseling as children to help them deal with fame. Mental health is equally important if you intend to juggle work, family, home and a social life.
Her critical acclaimed success has earned her a catalog of awards, she’s ranked as one of the richest women and she’s only 37 years old. Despite her success she shows us the power of teamwork. She is aware of the fact that growing success comes from involving others. Her 2018 Coachella performance is a key example of this as she collaborates with artist, dancers, drummers and the list goes on.
She seeks to constantly include destiny’s child in her performances. I was once asked the question can she entertain a crowd without Kelly and Michelle? My response was “of course!” But she performs with them and shares her platform with the group that helped her become a household name.
She successfully built a small business empire. Consider the life of then 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, the photographer of her Vogue magazine photo shoot hand selected by the star. He was the first black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue. According to Forbes her OTRII Tour grossed $166M. Consider the local impact she has on restaurants, hotels, and travel while on tour. Her resume continues to build with a performance at the Superbowl, a presidential inauguration, fragrance bottles, and Pepsi commercials. She has also earned the title of philanthropist donating $7 million to the homeless of Houston, and her global campaign – the #BeyGOOD initiative, the Homecoming Scholars Award Program, and her fight to eradicate hunger.
It is fair to say that her commanding presence rules the music industry. With more than 17 Grammy’s, countless albums, and a career that spans over 20 years it is safe to that “Sasha Fierce,” is creating a legacy for generations to come. Her music elevates the consciousness of hip hop culture and racial identity. Her 2013 surprise album changed the way artists share work. She acknowledges that double standards still exist in the world and that real conversations are the way to remedy that. She owns her sexuality and embraces her cultural heritage that can be heard on Lemonade especially.
But even for the fellas, you’ve gotta give it to her. She sets the bar high. She makes it a point to show women (and the fellas too) that you don’t need to be scared of boasting about your accomplishments. In fact, it’s kind of how the corporate world works. Beyoncé is not afraid to celebrate her “paper” and personal successes as (defined by Fairygodboss) Beyoncé’s work reminds us to position ourselves for success. Ask for that raise. Put in the work to earn that promotion. Be a boss. Don’t be scared! Go after your dreams!
It takes a village to create everything and she knows that. She has taught us that we cannot do it alone. She takes time out to publicly thank the dancers and performers. She even acknowledged a fan who had on her outfit at Coachella 2018 during her performance of “Sorry” (iTunes audio, 4:58). Sometimes we when get a little bit of success, we let ego get the best of us. Beyoncé reminds me that “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Take some time out to thank those who help you to live your best life.
Beyoncé reminds many of us ‘thirty somethings’ that you truly can have it all. She has a successful career, a family, multiple streams of income, children, bffs, and has managed to earn and keep respect. To the creator of the meme that states “you have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé,” is a reminder for us all. Although we may not have her net worth of $350 million but we do have the same 86,400 seconds in a day. She reminds us daily that a little hard work and determination goes a long way.
Beyoncé has opened a discourse that classrooms around the globe could glean from an offer courses on Beyoncé with curriculums centered around branding, black racial identity, business, entrepreneurship, feminism, and self-affirmation and would be relevant in doing so. Beyoncé, keep inspiring.