Material Girl. Madge. Provocateur. Icon. At the age of 56, and with the recent release of her 13th studio album, Rebel Heart, Madonna, has had many famous monikers, as well as her fair share of very public successes (introducing the world to the original pop diva) and commercial flops (Dick Tracy).
What entrepreneurs should take note of, however, is that Madonna is a savvy business woman, with one professor at Cranfield School Management going so far as calling her “America’s smartest businesswoman.”
As controversial as she may be, Madonna’s success in the music business is clear. In 2014, she topped a list of the world’s wealthiest recording artists, besting a list of musicians including Paul McCartney, Jay Z and Celine Dion.
While her music industry success is apparent, what is less obvious, are the valuable lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Madonna. Whether you love her or hate her, here are seven key lessons every entrepreneur can learn from Madonna:
1. Age is a state of mind.
Not only does Madonna exemplify the idea that age is a state of mind, she also is not shy about calling out ageism when she encounters it. When it comes to her age, Madonna says she has experienced people “… judging me by my age… Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they’re not allowed to behave a certain way.”
Ageism — especially towards women — is prevalent in the business world, and entrepreneurs can learn from Madonna’s defiant response. Her inspiring answer to ageist critics? “I don’t follow the rules. I never did, and I’m not going to start.”
2. Ignore the haters.
Entrepreneurs inevitably will encounter naysayers on their road to success. Madonna exemplifies someone who focuses on the positive — her fans — pushing forward and ignoring naysayers. Speaking about the need to persevere in the face of negativity, Madonna offered this motivating quote in a 2013 magazine article, “One of the many things I learned from all of this: If you aren’t willing to fight for what you believe in, then don’t even enter the ring.”
3. Take care of yourself.
As an entrepreneur, your personal health and well-being is of the utmost importance, yet many entrepreneurs end up putting their own health on the back burner. This is a big mistake. You need physical endurance to make the hard journey, which is full of stress and is physically, emotionally and mentally taxing. Throughout her career — and well into her 50s — Madonna is a great example of someone who keeps herself in prime physical condition.
4. Turn lemons into lemonade.
When her new album was hacked before it was due to be released, Madonna turned it into a positive, strategically releasing several songs before releasing the finished product.
As an entrepreneur, you will encounter inevitable setbacks. The key will be your ability to turn such crises into opportunities.
5. Think about succession planning early.
When entrepreneurs involve their children in their business, kids learn valuable like skills such as responsibility, while founders gain priceless extra time with their kids. As a mom of four, Madonna is a great example of a woman who involves her children in her business. Her son, Rocco, has danced on stage during many of her concerts and she partnered with her daughter, Lourdes, to create the teenage fashion brand, Material Girl, for Macy’s.
Encouraging your kids to be a part of the “family business” also helps with succession planning for the day when you are ready to hand over the reins. If you don’t have kids, you can still take a cue from Madonna and think about grooming your protégés for succession planning or, at the very least, promoting them within your business.
6. Think differently.
It’s no surprise that Madonna has been a trendsetter for years. As one of the first artists to demonstrate the power of music videos in promoting an album or to offer live performances that border on performance art, she ushered in an entirely new era and approach to entertaining. Had she not thought differently about how music is brought to the public, pop artists who followed in her footsteps might not have found success. While some of her trends have caught on more than others, she has never been afraid to think differently. The ability to think outside the box and create something brand new is one of the most important and essential elements to being a successful entrepreneur.
7. The show must go on.
Perhaps the biggest lesson entrepreneurs can learn from Madonna? When Madonna recently tumbled down a staircase during her live performance, she got right back up and resumed performing – without missing a beat. If you fall, pick yourself up and keep going, because no matter what, the show must go on!