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An article from Phoenix Business Journal

Madonna’s top lesson for business success


The last time Madonna was in town for a concert, I had a chance to sit down with her and discuss her thoughts on business. When I contacted her agent, they were more than open to her getting together with me for a chat. When she arrived at the Appointment-Plus office for the interview, she gave me a big hug and even agreed to sing a quick song for everyone. She put her arm around me and we sang Papa Don’t Preach together. The employees went wild. Madonna even suggested that I come up on stage and sing a song with her in her upcoming concert.

Then I woke up.

No, the great Madonna did not really visit our office and no, she didn’t agree to have a nice chat with me. And, no, I’m not going to hop up on any stage and sing, not even after 10 beers at a local karaoke bar.

But, I wish I could talk with her because she’s not only one of the most successful recording artists of all time, but she’s an incredibly successful businessperson. We all know that she’s a worldwide brand, but did you know she also has several clothing lines, has opened a chain of health clubs, has written books and has directed films?

But even though she has been involved in a number of ventures, what is most impressive about her is how she has developed her personal brand.

The Material Girl’s career has had an abundance of controversy. From her religious symbolism in the Like a Prayer video to her provocative performance of Like a Virgin on the MTV Video Music Awards, she’s no beautiful stranger to ruffling feathers. When you are controversial, people talk about you. Look at the controversy that GoDaddy created with their GoDaddy Girl TV commercials. Many people found them offensive, but look at what it did to GoDaddy’s business. It put them on the map, eventually leading to their recent IPO.

But it’s not Madonna’s ability to generate attention through controversy that gives us the most important lessons for our businesses. Nor is it the value of hard work and perseverance, which are two of her strongest traits. The most important lesson that we can learn from Madonna is the need to reinvent yourself. It’s something that she has arguably done more successfully than any other celebrity in history.

We all know that nothing stands still in today’s business world. Everything is evolving, sometimes right before our very eyes. Industries are being disrupted left and right. Just look at what Uber is doing to the taxi industry and what smart phones are doing to the camera business. And, who knows what the Internet of Things movement will have our lives looking like in a couple years.

It used to only be the business gurus on the conference speaking circuit who talked about the need for businesses to reinvent themselves. Now it’s true blue gospel. If you aren’t actively creating a culture that embraces change, you better get started right away because change is coming to a theater near you faster than a Kodak moment.

So, it’s a given that your business has to evolve. But what’s not talked about as much but is just as critical is that you have to evolve, as well. Yes, you.

We’ve all seen long-time CEOs, department heads and other company leaders get replaced because they were no longer effective in their roles. They couldn’t change. They were set in their ways and weren’t actively trying to reinvent themselves.

It’s hard to reinvent yourself. It wasn’t easy for Madonna to evolve, but she innately understood the importance of changing with the times. It requires a deliberate decision to do so, a lot of preparation, and a healthy dose of courage. To reinvent yourself, you have to think differently and act differently. You have to keep your mind open to new thoughts and ideas, you have to work hard at it, and you have to accept that it won’t be easy.

But even though reinventing yourself is difficult, it’s imperative to your success in today’s business environment. The world is moving too fast these days to think that today’s version of you will be effective tomorrow.

Madonna has provided us a great example of the value in reinventing yourself. It’s not easy to do, but it’s also not an option in our Internet-speed business world. You must evolve if you want to be successful over the long term. So, get into the groove and make the commitment today to reinvent yourself. Don’t count on your lucky star to help. Only you can make the decision to cross that borderline into the new you.