Success comes after hard work and making changes to your business strategy. Photo/FILE

Success comes after hard work and making changes to your business strategy. Photo/FILE

As a teenager, I listened to rap music. Teens everywhere were listening to rap music anyway, which by then had become a mainstream musical genre.

Of course my parents were very concerned about what I was listening to. I suspect they wondered whether the music was promoting a positive message—but that’s a story for another day.

The top artists we listened to back then were Tupac Shakur and Dr Dre. For the last six years, Beats Electronics records—a company owned by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre—has turned Beats By Dr.

Dre headphones into a $1 billion-plus (Sh87.7 trillion ) business. And this is the clincher. In what would be the largest-ever purchase by the iPhone maker, Apple is in advanced talks to acquire Beats Electronics LLC for $3.2 billion (Sh280.8 trillion).That is what we call a tipping point.

In the book, ‘‘Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,’’ by Malcom Gladwell, he describes the tipping point as a magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire.

Just like a single person can start an epidemic, a small but precise push can cause a trend or a product to become the next big thing.

Gladwell proposes that three factors contribute significantly to the creation of social epidemics and reaching a tipping point: The first is “The Law of the Few”; social epidemics are created by a small group of people with strong connections.

The second is “The Stickiness Factor”; the product, idea, or trend needs to be memorable to spread quickly and effectively. And the third is “The Power of Context”; small changes in the environment can make a big difference in how people act.

Of course the three factors are important for a product or service to reach a tipping point. However, it is the “The Law of the Few” that really got me excited when I read the story of how Beats by Dre headphones broke into the market.

The law basically states that 80 per cent of the work is done by 20 per cent of the population. In disease epidemics, it is only a few people that are the cause of the viral spread at the heart of epidemics.

In HIV/Aids, Gladwell argues, there was a single flight attendant who was particularly promiscuous and from her engagements, HIV/Aids tipped. The Law of the Few revolves around the idea that the few are connectors, mavens and salesmen.

When developing the first Beats headphones, Iovine would lay out various prototypes in his office and then poll everyone who came to see him.

As he and Dre prepared to launch the final version of Beats, Iovine sent a pair to LeBron James—the most valuable player in the NBA.

James’s business partner called him back and said, ‘‘LeBron wants 15.’’ Iovine sent them, and they turned up on the ears of every member of the 2008 US Olympic basketball team when they arrived in Shanghai. A great example from “The Tipping Point” is the resurgence of Hush Puppies brand shoes.

After dwindling into obscurity, Hush Puppies went from anemic sales of 30,000 in the early ‘90s to more than 400,000 in 1995.

The few turned out to be a small group of children in New York City’s East Village and Soho who started wearing the shoes specifically because no one else was wearing them.

The company fed off of the trend started by these few children and started answering the requests of noted Manhattan and Los Angeles designers who had been infected with the fashion statement. From those small, localised beginnings, the epidemic spread.

Successful investors can tell you that they were persistent and that they also kept themselves open to change. And at some point, with enough change and enough persistence, they hit a tipping point and everything started to go their way.