Martin Stewart is chief executive of The Money Group
I did a post on twitter and LinkedIn last week which met with the usual avalanche of tumbleweed. But I thought it was an important analogy, so I have taken this opportunity to write a more detailed account of the message that I was trying to portray.
It is no secret I am a huge fan of The Beatles, as much for their story as for their music, and having just read the excellent ‘One, Two, Three, Four’ by Craig Brown, it struck me how many times throughout reading it that I realised there were many similarities between running a band and running a business.
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I know what you are thinking – “he’s reaching again” – and maybe you are right, but in a world dominated by entrepreneurs who all seem to be saying the same thing, surely it cannot hurt to try an alternative approach to relaying an over-used message?
We have all read ‘The Art of War’ and been told business is war but without the bullets, so why not view business as art and see where that can take us?
So, lets take some business terminology and see what John, Paul, George and Ringo did with them:
No rocking up to the Birmingham NEC for the Fab Four, shaking hands with Simon Cowell and then three months later being the biggest boy band in the world. On the contrary, it took The Beatles five years to become an overnight success, and it is estimated that they played live for over 10,000 hours and performed more than 600 gigs before they even got signed.
Not all talent is natural, some of it only develops through sheer hard work.
When things were not going well for the band, they would often get disillusioned. But then John would say “Where are we going, fellas?” The others would reply, “To the top, Johnny!” To which John would say, “Where’s that fellas?” and they’d respond with “To the toppermost of the poppermost!” Tenuous? Maybe, but we all get days where we want to give up and that is dangerous because it is the Devil tempting us with the easy option.
At the start of 1963, The Beatles were not even the biggest band in the UK. Twelve months later they were the biggest band in the world. That is some ‘toppermost’, and their self-belief was a huge contributor to their success.
As business owners, if we cannot get this bit right then we may as well all give up now.
A reflective McCartney once said on film “Brian had a vision for us that even we couldn’t see.” As their manager, Brian Epstein was often overshadowed by the talent and personality of The Beatles. But make no mistake, without him formulating their image and steering them through the early years, their future could have been quite different.
So, you may have all the talent in the world, but you still need someone to tell you what to do with it. Do not ignore the quiet guy in the room, he might just be the key to unlocking your growth.
No, not for you, I mean keep an eye out for real imposters.
As you grow your business, they will soon come crawling out from beneath rocks to try and share the spoils of what you have created. The risk is, bringing unknown outsiders into your boardroom could have dire consequences for your company. And no, I am not talking about Yoko. Yes, she might not have helped and even possibly accelerated matters, but the 1969 Beatles were very different from the 1962 Beatles – a split was inevitable.
Instead, beware the ‘Magic Alex’ and the Allan Kleins of the business world. They can, like water, find the path of least resistance and disrupt the balance of what you have created. Get it wrong and you could end up spending more time in the courts than you do in business.
The Beatles were ultimately signed not on the strength of their music but on the strength of their personalities – let that sink in for a bit! When Epstein went to see them perform at The Cavern, he did not think much of them, but he was drawn to the way they larked around on stage swearing, fighting and eating sandwiches. Given this was the era of Cliff Richard and Matt Munro, they must have stood out like a sore thumb. That is possibly the point.
Cut to Abbey Road 1962 and George Martin did not much care for them either – until he sat down to lunch with them and was so drawn by their personalities that he decided to roll the dice. The rest, as they say, is history.
In conclusion and from a business perspective, we are at a similar crossroads. The moving on from middle of the road ‘muzak’ in to a whole new energised, fun and engaging way of communicating with the consumer and each other. The ‘Cult of Business Personality’ may well be the new rock and roll, where Beatlemania becomes Businessmania.
So, there you go. Know your history and learn from it – all the answers are back there somewhere. And I will tell you something else for nothing, the music back then was much better as well.