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8 Lessons for Business Success from Kevin Hart, Actor and Entrepreneur

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Kevin Hart is a successful actor, stand-up comedian, producer, writer and entrepreneur.


Kevin Hart / blackbusiness.org

Kevin Hart discovered his comic side when he was eleven, trying to stop his mother from giving him a correction – she burst into laughter instead of him bursting into tears.

For a short period of time he worked as a shoe salesman, before getting hired to work in comedy clubs.

He has a reputation of being a hard worker, which he believes it’s “a good reputation to have”:

It’s also about being professional and very loyal to the people who put me here, which would be my fans. I feel like I have a job to do, like I constantly have to reinvent myself. The more I up the ante for myself, the better it is in the long run.

His fans come first. At the same time, he stays true to himself: with Kevin Hart, what you see is what you get.

I try to interact with my fans as much as possible. It’s good that the person I’m being onstage isn’t really an act. It’s really me.

In 2016 he received a star on the Walk of Fame and in 2017, the mayor of Shreveport, Philadelphia declared October 21st the Kevin Hart Day.

Although he is making a great deal of money, he gives back to the community by supporting charities and foundations related to creative arts, education, family/parent support, health, hunger, literacy.

He’s a short little man with a big heart.

Kevin Hart – his journey to $87.5 million

According to Forbes, Kevin Hart’s annual income is estimated at $87.5 million. He has multimillion-dollar endorsement deals with retailers including Nike and H&M, he starred in box-office hit movies and developed TV shows for Comedy Central and other networks.

His comedy stand-up show tour Kevin Hart: The Irresponsible sold over 1 million tickets securing a spot as the biggest comedy tour of 2018. What does it take to sell 1 million tickets? A fan base of 62,3 million followers on Instagram and 24 million on Facebook! And working relentlessly since 1999.

Without durable relationships, timing, empathy, vision and hard work, talent is not enough.

As of 2009, Kevin Hart is the CEO and founder of HartBeat Productions.

Here are 8 business lessons you can learn from Kevin Hart via entrepreneur.com:

1. Don’t be a cog. Be the machine.

The stand-up comedy industry is a tough one. Comedians work constantly to come up with funny and smart monologues to make the audience laugh. They’re doing creative work: they write their own materials and come up with all the great ideas. Knowing this you would think they own the rights to their own product, like any other artist – only they don’t, someone else owns the rights to their work (usually the producer) and earns the big bucks.

Comedians are just cogs in a machine. Kevin decided to turn the tables and become the machine – he founded his company, HartBeat Productions in 2009. He bought back the rights to his own shows, began producing new shows and keeping all the money. He became the machine.

2. Create awesome content/product/service and re-invest in constant development

I’m going to go and become the greatest, biggest comedian in the world, and then Hollywood will start calling me up and not making me audition.

No matter how much money you invest in distribution, marketing and sales or advertising, if your product doesn’t deliver value, your business will not take off as you’d expect.

Kevin worked harder for each new comedy show he put on to deliver bigger and bigger laughs to his audience. His comic materials got better and attracted bigger audiences to his stand-up shows. He invested all his money back into his shows and it paid off. People were coming to his shows as repeat fans and were bringing their friends. Grown little man, Seriously funny and Laugh at my pain were a big success, the latter earning him $18 million. Let me explain and What now? grossed together more than $55 million. By 2016 he had become a very successful comedian and entrepreneur.

3. Build an audience that grows with you

Kevin realized early in his career as a stand-up comedian that he needed to grow his audience and fan base. So he decided to take this matter into his own hands: after every show, he took his fans’ email addresses. He began doing marketing and PR directly to his fans: he messaged them announcing his stand-up locations or cities where he was touring etc. This strategy paired with smart targeting worked perfectly and a year later Kevin saw the number of attending people increase with each show.

Find the best way to communicate directly to your audience; control the medium. If you are using email, here are 5 email-marketing mistakes you should stop doing right now.

4. Grow as big as you can so you can call the shots

Returning fans and acquiring new fans in great numbers allowed Kevin to have the upper hand and negotiate a better deal with comedy club owners, producers, and movie production companies.

His brand awareness grew consistently over the years and now he doesn’t have to go to Hollywood, Hollywood comes to him. HartBeat Productions has a creative team of 12 full-time writers, producers and support staff. The company announced it was doing a two-year, first-look deal with Universal Studios, which means that Universal gets the first opportunity at acquiring any projects that HartBeat will produce. Also to do a movie with Kevin Hart, HartBeat Productions has to produce it.

5. Be patient

First time founders and entrepreneurs often rush into things, trying to do everything as quickly as possible thus failing to understand the importance of timing. Kevin took one step at a time, following his intuition when it wasn’t the right time to move to the next phase. That’s when he exercised patience. And it paid off: almost ten years later he’s a successful entrepreneur.

When you patiently wait, you patiently take steps, you don’t rush it, you’re able to put yourself in a position to win. So many people want to do it all in one day. It’s not a day thing. I waited until the time was right for me to go after what I can.

Besides lacking patience, here are 5 main reasons why 90% of startups fail.

6. Keep your finger on the industry pulse

Although Kevin has found his recipe for success – take his comic stand-up shows and turn them into comic movie specials – he also knew when to stop replicating it.

By 2017, customer behaviour had changed dramatically – people were receiving content differently than they did years before. Kevin saw this change and was quick to adapt to it.

It’s snackable. It’s Netflix, Hulu, it’s Apple.

In 2017 he launched Laugh Out Loud (LOL) Network, a joint venture with Lionsgate, to create digital comedy content.

Keep your finger on the industry pulse, see the trends before they go mainstream and act accordingly. Learn how to do this in our article: 3 Top Skills of Great Leaders.

7. Create something lasting

Most of stand-up comedians focus on writing the best material they can and putting on the best show of the night. They are just one small piece of a very large machine and they don’t get paid for all their worth.

Kevin got tired of doing all the work with the prospect of leaving nothing behind. After all, he is not building skyscrapers for a living; he’s working with punchlines and sketches and makes people laugh. That’s the reason for starting his own company: creating something that can last long after he’s gone.

Not just building the brand, but building a brand that can stand out with or without you. To me, that’s where the power comes in. When it’s all said and done, if the world ever decides to say, ‘We’re done with Kevin Hart,’ well, my brand and my business are still going to work.

8. You’re in the relationships business

As a person in power, Kevin Hart knows how to start and conduct conversations whether it’s with any of his employees, a screenwriter or the CEO of a big movie production company.

Staying humble and grounded — that’s something I try to lead by example with.

This part of doing business is very important and he doesn’t delegate it. He talks to people himself; his approach is personal and upfront. He is also aware of the impact his decisions have on people.

No matter the industry or niche, you’re in the relationship business. Don’t get other people to do the talking on your behalf. Don’t allow yourself to become a name – no one is loyal to a name, but to a flesh and blood person.


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