Generally when someone mentions The Beatles, they do so in the context of the band’s incredible success as musicians and entertainers rather than as entrepreneurs. In fact, their track record as “businessmen” with their Apple Corps adventure proved to be rather disastrous.
Still, it’s hard to ignore a business (even if it’s a band) that has a net worth of some $60 million 45 years after the band broke up. And that’s just the band’s net worth. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion dollars.
Maybe the lads from Liverpool have a thing or two to teach us about success after all. While I wouldn’t hold their business disciplines up as examples for modern businesses to emulate, it’s interesting (and, frankly, kind of fun!) to look at a couple of things that made them stand-outs in their industry.
- They Paid Their Dues: The band didn’t start out at the top. They played dark, dingy clubs in Liverpool and Germany working on their songs and their stage presence. They put in long hours practicing and playing live—with little financial reward.
- They Were a Team: Much has been written and said about the songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney. Most of the Beatles’ catalog bears their name as co-writers—even though it became obvious that very few songs were true 50-50 collaborations. But Lennon and McCartney pushed each other—often in friendly competition, trying to outdo one another. And they came from different backgrounds musically. John was more the typical rocker (and less organized). Paul had a significant background in show tunes and was meticulous about making notes and organizing his songs. Their differences made them both better.
- They Challenged Convention: In 1962 after an audition, Decca Records executive Dick Rowe is reported to have said that, “guitar groups are on the way out” and “The Beatles have no future in show business.” The group however persevered and demonstrated that the experts weren’t always right. To be fair to Decca, it’s possible that the group hadn’t yet demonstrated how good they were to become.
- They Didn’t Rest on Their Laurels: While early Beatle’s tunes were undeniably catchy and infectious (and unlike anything anybody else was doing at the time) the band kept pushing the envelope and exploring new sounds and styles. When you compare their early recordings and the complexity and sophistication of their final albums, the difference is astounding. They continued to do things that nobody else had done—and to do it at a very high level.
Isn’t it interesting that even today, successful entrepreneurs are often referred to as “rock stars”?
You may never be celebrated as a rock star for what you do with your company. But if you pay your dues, work as a team, challenge convention, and keep pushing for improvement and pursuing ideas nobody else even sees, you just may see more success than the experts tell you is possible.