3 Business Lessons Everybody Can Learn from New Edition

First off, let me say I am a huge New Edition fan. I have all their albums. Had posters of the group covering all four walls of my childhood bedroom. And when I saw them again in concert a few years back, I shrieked just as I did the first time I saw them perform when I was 12 years old. 

Yes, I love me some New Edition. Now, if you’re NOT a fan, you may have no idea BET aired a 3-day epic movie event, The New Edition Story, where they take viewers through the triumphs and tribulations of five harmonious boys whose sole goal was to “make it out the projects.”

Now, as a kid, I sang every word in their hit songs: “Popcorn Love,” “Candy Girl,” “Mr. Telephone Man,” and the list goes on and on. But what I didn’t realize was the behind-the-scenes turmoil (at times self-inflicted) these boys went through to “make it out the hood.”

And all that craziness bubbled up to the surface as I watched The New Edition Story. You see, as an ambitious entrepreneur, my soul screamed when the camera zoomed in on the $1.87 check they had to split 5 ways after their first tour.

My heart ached when Michael Bivins busted into the executive boardroom at MCA Records only to discover their record deal was with their deceitful manager, Gary Evans. And tears ran down my face when these hard-working teenagers were forced to vote their bandmate and friend Bobby Brown out of the group due to his tumultuous behavior.

Now knowing a bit of the backstory that has Twitter buzzing, let me break down 3 business lessons I learned from watching The New Edition Story:

1. Reading is fundamental.

Sorry, New Edition moms. Allowing your sons to make a deal to “sang their little hearts out” for $500 apiece and a Betamax (an old school videocassette recorder) each was just ludicrous. As kids, they likely would’ve signed the deal for 10 Snickers and a moped each. But you – the New Edition mama bears should have read the contracts. Hired a lawyer. Or talked to somebody – anybody in the neighborhood who knows about business.

Any move would have been better than the one you made – signing your sons’ souls over for a quick buck and an at-home movie player. Now, I know we can all pass judgment after the fact and none of us have walked in your shoes, but mamas, you did the same thing all over again with the second manager.

And that takes us to lesson #2 …

2. Lessons ain’t cheap.

I give you the mistake of signing the first contract. The boys were amped about being stars. Their mamas were excited about leaving the projects. And excitement was in the air. But baby, when the second manager, Gary walked in the apartment holding that briefcase with nothing but stacks on stacks of expense reports and NO money – I didn’t think he was going to make it out that apartment – at least not fully intact.

But real talk … it wasn’t Gary’s job to protect a family that had already been burned by the music industry once before. You see lessons ain’t cheap and that $1.87 check New Edition’s first manager expected the group to split 10 ways – between each group member AND their mamas – was one of the most expensive lessons the group should’ve learned.

Only it wasn’t. because they got hit over the head with an even more expensive lesson the following year. So for that, I don’t blame the manager. I don’t blame the record label. Heck, I really don’t even blame New Edition because they were still babies. Sorry mamas, this one is on you again.

3. The business world is full of hustlers and liars.

As an entrepreneur, I know business folks streeee-eeetch the truth. So when I saw Michael Bivins finally ask the right questions and handle group business, I was throwing up all types of fist bumps and high fives.

You see, in business, the only intentions you can account for are your own. Now, I’m not saying you need to be your own accountant, lawyer, manager or business adviser, but you surely better have some knowledge of how business works.

For example, writing is my talent. Now, as a business owner, I can’t just sit at my keyboard banging out spine-tingling sentences day after day. I also need to know the business side of my talent so my bank account ain’t sitting on empty every single month.

Same thing goes for entertainers. You don’t have the luxury to hop on stage, belt out beautiful tunes and go to sleep. Do that and you’ll wake up broke.

Let me bottom line this for you:

In this wonderful world of business, having talent is cool, but if you want to keep your bank account happy, you better get you some business knowledge.