In our eighth annual Executive Survival Guide, we show you how to do business with an egomaniac, build a brand like Drake, climb the corporate ladder (without stepping on anyone), avoid Snapchat snafus and ditch underperformers—gently. If you're looking for a slightly more formal education experience, we'll also help you find the right EMBA or MBA program.
Rapper Drake (a.k.a. Aubrey Graham) is one of Canada's greatest cultural exports. He's also an astute businessman, one whom MBA classes would be advised to study. He and his team at OVO have built an enduring brand that intersects with music, apparel, sports and pop culture. Here's how to apply Drake's principles to your own enterprise.
Less is more
Drake's brand is all about being understated. In a world where celebrities use social media like a fire hose, he rarely tweets, and his Instagram profile provides nothing more than quick snapshots. He also rarely grants interviews to traditional media. He learned long ago that mystery sells. The same is true for his newer business ventures. The OVO clothing line has almost no promotion. The kids go crazy for it.
Build it slowly
Drake is rarely rushed. He built his music career methodically, including a 17-track mixtape that proved he wasn't a one-hit wonder. And he studied the industry to find a lane no one else was in, making music that people from different walks of life could connect to. He has since applied the same strategy to clothing: He started with a few sweaters and T-shirts, experimented with a pop-up shop and now does seasonal lines limited to a handful of items. His partnerships, such as his deal with Air Jordan, are promoted in the same low-key fashion.
Drake is open and honest, telling personal stories about growing up without a father, about being worried all the good women will be taken, about his deep connection to his mother. By being vulnerable, he creates emotional connections with his listeners, bonds that give them reason to forgive him whenever his flaws are exposed.
Keep the family close
From the moment he blew up, Drake has kept the same people around him. These aren't the usual yes-men and money-moochers—they're his producers, his managers, his confidantes. Which is why details of his personal life rarely leak. His mother, a former teacher, is also an undeniable force in his life—he often devotes lyrics to her in his songs. No doubt Drake flaunts his wealth—he bought a multimillion-dollar home near Calabasas, and he's building another in Toronto's Bridle Path. But the deep connections to those he came up with keep him grounded. Usually.
Executives are prone to panic whenever the media calls them out. Drake learned long ago to deflect the negative vibes. As a half-Jewish Canadian rapper who likes to write about his feelings, he's come to expect flak. So he flips the script and openly mocks himself by, say, posting old photos from his days as an actor on Degrassi: The Next Generation. He's also aware that his moment is fleeting, which is likely one of the reasons he's been embracing emerging artists, adding verses to the tracks they release. It helps him stay current, sure, but it also suggests he knows he can't ride his own wave forever. Hubris has felled far too many businesspeople. Ahem, Bill Ackman.