Just like many others, I am obsessed with the musical Hamilton. Coincidently, my obsession started at about the same time I started my law firm. I found myself identifying with the story since Hamilton and I practice the law (“we practically perfected it”), we both broke away from oppressive rulers (for me, my former boss) to create a new nation (or business). Endlessly listening to the soundtrack, I picked up 5 lessons which I applied to my business:
- “If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for” – By consistently standing for what he believed, Hamilton quickly rose to fame while the cautious Burr floundered with the philosophy of “talk less, smile more, never let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” I consistently tell people what my business stands for. I am a construction attorney, a niche practice. Unlike others who may try to do construction law as a small part of a broader practice, specializing in one area gives me great knowledge and experience in this field. As an entrepreneur, you should find your narrow focus, create a consistent message and “shout it to the rooftops” so that everyone knows what you stand for. “If you stand for nothing,” why would anyone use your services as opposed to a more established firm?
- “Young, scrappy and hungry” – As a new business you must be “young, scrappy and hungry” and fight for everything. Don’t expect the cavalry to come to your rescue. Instead, it is your job to find creative ways to win the fight, just like Washington and his troops did. The most important thing to do is keep your overhead low. If you waste your money on frivolous expenditures, you will quickly “make it impossible to justify the cost of the fight.”
- “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story” – At the end of the show (spoiler), Burr kills Hamilton in a duel. Hamilton’s story lives on though because of the efforts of his wife Eliza. She secures his legacy and makes sure that his story is told. As an entrepreneur, businesses who live and die are determined by who is telling your story. The best (and cheapest) way to do this is through networking and word-of-mouth referrals. As an entrepreneur, it is your job to make sure that everybody and anybody is telling your story. It is important to spend the time to cultivate relationships and make sure that everybody sees you and your business as a “diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal.” To be truly successful at this, though, you must understand that networking is not a one way street; be sure that you are offering to help out the other person just as much as you want them to help you.
- “Non-stop” – During the musical, we are told that the reason for Hamilton’s success is that “the man is non-stop.” Hamilton is always “writing day and night like he’s running out of time.” As an entrepreneur, you must do the same. If you are not working day and night, your business likely is running out of time. Being a successful entrepreneur means that you are always working. For me, even during my “down time” I am finding other ways to market my business or educate myself on the construction and real estate industries. In the past several months I have ran into people that I have not seen in over 10 years, but since I have constantly been marketing myself through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook they all know before I can mention anything that I have opened my own firm doing construction law. Clearly working non-stop has helped.
- “Take a Break” – Even though you must work non-stop, it is important to take a break. In the show, Hamilton’s wife Eliza begged Hamilton to take a break and spend time with his family. When Hamilton failed to do this, he began to make terrible mistakes (right after the song “Take a Break” Hamilton cheats on his wife, is discovered and his political career was in ruins). As much as you must live and breathe your business, you must also take a break here and there to recharge.
As an entrepreneur, I have not thrown away my shot. I wake up every morning excited to begin my day and have never worked harder in my life. The minute I declared my freedom and made the decision to go out on my own, I have loved every minute and never looked back. I hope this helps you too and we can all “raise a glass to freedom.”