10 Essential Entrepreneurial Lessons From the Notorious B.I.G.'s 10 Crack Commandments

02/06/2015 04:14 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015

Of the many great insights gleaned from rap lyrics, few are as applicable to startup success as The Notorious B.I.G.'s 10 Crack Commandments.

Assuming your business, drugs or otherwise, is legal, you may have overlooked hip hop as a source for business wisdom. If so, you've been missing out on a wealth of smart strategy.

In addition to the What Would Jay Z Do? sign above my desk, when a relevant rhyme drops on my office playlist, I keep an ear out for dime bags of wisdom. Kanye advises me to retain ownership of my content, Nas reminds me to pay attention to customer feedback, and pretty much everyone advises on work-life balance.

In my first book, Exit Stage Right, I explain that if even drug dealing could generate a marketable skill set, any resume can be written to showcase strengths. Likewise, leverage the acumen of an industry leader who went from Brooklyn kid to global legend to strengthen your own hustle.

1. Never let no one know how much dough you hold.
Unless you're going public, most people don't need to know the details of your profits or cashflow. Biggie's reasoning is, of course, that more money can bring more problems, including jealousy and even shady dealings by those who are less than trustworthy. On the flipside, if you're still building your business, you don't want to scare away potential partners and customers by giving off a desperate vibe.

2. Never let 'em know your next move.
Today's market is flooded with competitors. When everything moves at the speed of technology, it can be best to hold your next campaign until everything's polished and in place. If you're in idea or development mode, keep your cards close to your chest. Have your team sign non-disclosure agreements if necessary, and better yet, only bring people with a track record of integrity onto your team.

3. Never trust nobody.
While paranoia is no way to do business, neither is blind faith. Still doing business on handshakes and verbal agreements? Don't be surprised if you get burned.

One place I see bootstrapped entrepreneurs get in trouble is avoiding written agreements, especially barter deals. Even if an exchange doesn't include money, you should always clearly outline the responsibilities of each party involved. More on business partnerships here.

4. Never get high on your own supply.
Control your inventory. Everything carries a cost. It's tempting to indulge, but especially when it comes to sharing that privilege, comping is a slippery slope. "Just one" turns into "just one more," and friends expect the same treatment the next time they stop by.

Put a policy in place to protect your inventory and your relationships, whether it's designating giveaways for staff or a standard 10% off for friends and family.

5. Never sell no crack where you rest at.
This one goes out to those who use their Facebook feeds to promote their personal business, usually a network marketing product that encourages sales to friends and family. There's no faster way to get unfollowed on social media or uninvited to real-life events than to pretend you're just casually mentioning this amaaaaazing new wrinkle cream that you also happen to sell.

6. That g--d--- credit? Dead it.
If your customer doesn't have the money to pay you now, they probably won't later either. I'll take it a step further and add that the customers who ask for discounts are generally ones to avoid as well.

As a consultant for new businesses, I also avoid offers of equity in lieu of my fee. To even consider an equity deal, partners should receive the same information and consideration as any other investor - not just, "Hey, this is a great opportunity!"

7. Keep your family and business completely separated.
It's not just the premise for Empire. I've worked for multiple companies run by sets of siblings, and family dynamics always trickle down from the top, for better or worse. It can definitely make sense to go into business with your friend or family member, but in the interest of your relationship, be realistic about what you're getting into.

Shifting into business mode with a loved one can threaten the business, or worse, the relationship. Be very clear on responsibilities, boundaries, and create time to develop your relationship both inside and outside of work. Also be conscious about creating a fair and objective environment for the rest of your team.

8. Never keep no weight on you.
Are you weighing yourself down with too many commitments? In my book Game Plan, I explain how entrepreneurs undermine their goals by taking on roles that should be outsourced to maximize time, team, budget, and your valuable energy.

Or perhaps you're held back by other issues. Do you approach new business with old baggage? Does a chip on your shoulder drive your decision-making? I've had clients whose business instincts were severely undermined by a need to impress others or prove someone wrong. Get your mind right and let go of the past in order to move forward in a way that benefits you and your business.

9. If you ain't gettin' bagged stay the f--- from police.
Know your allegiances. Loyalty counts in business. Your partners, team, and clients should always trust that you have their backs. Deals made solely to benefit you (versus your team) or your business (versus your customer) will always come to light and damage trust that can't be restored.

10. A strong word called consignment: if you ain't got the clientele, say hell no.
Growing your business at the right speed was wisdom long before Lean Startup methodology. Don't over-commit in the early stages. Test your concept and build your audience before quitting your day job, hiring staff, or borrowing money.