February 9th of this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Their live performance (the first of three successive appearances on the show) introduced an estimated 73 million U.S. television viewers to four mop-headed lads from Liverpool, England. To the majority of those viewers, the Beatles were an instant hit, an overnight sensation. And, in the weeks and months to follow, the band captured the hearts — and wallets — of millions of American teenagers.
But the Beatles were anything but an overnight success. Before touching down in the States, the group worked hard perfecting their skills into the polished, professional, and remarkable performance millions witnessed 50 years ago.
A Brief History
John Lennon, lead singer in a band called the Quarrymen, met Paul McCartney before a performance on July 6th, 1957. The two met afterward at a local pub, lied about their ages (Lennon was 16; McCartney 15), and shared a few pints. That fateful meeting began what would eventually become the most prolific and celebrated rock band of all time, but nobody — including Lennon and McCartney — knew it then.
Later, Paul would introduce school chum George Harrison to John. George auditioned on the top deck of an open-air, double-decker bus; John was impressed and the trio was formed. The band’s drummer, Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) would be a late addition, replacing Pete Best as their drummer at the behest of producer George Martin.
The boys honed their skills in Hamburg, Germany; the epicenter for rock ’n roll music (as well as strip joints, prostitution, and vice) in Europe at the time. Those gigs were brutal: 8-hour sessions with few, if any, breaks. The band performed mainly cover tunes from American rock ’n roll artists of the time, including Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley.
But this is where the Beatles honed their music and performance skills. Under substandard conditions and unruly crowds, the band polished their performances. Timing, tempo, stage presence — they didn’t realize it at the time, but those shows were transforming three unruly and undisciplined kids into the foundation of a band that would revolutionize pop music forever.
Brian Epstein discovered the Beatles playing the Cavern Club — a pub in Liverpool — and quickly went about polishing and promoting them.
By the fall of 1963, the Beatles were a huge success in the UK, with chart-topping original songs and an ever-growing fan base, but few in the U.S. knew about them when Epstein booked the band for the Ed Sullivan Show in November, 1963.
The rest is history.
Okay, the Beatles were a great band; you might even have purchased one or two of their albums. But what does that have to do with What’s Working and your business?
Glad you asked.
So often we look at the success of others and attempt to duplicate it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Why reinvent the wheel, right?
The problem is, we tend to jump ahead to the success of those we’re attempting to emulate without considering the effort it took to achieve it. What we really want to become is an overnight success.
But the idea of an overnight success is generally a myth… even for the Beatles. That doesn’t mean you can’t emulate their success; it means you need to consider how they earned it.
5 Simple Rules
Here are 5 simple rules taken right from the success of the Beatles that you can apply today to make your business and lives better:
1. Love What You Do! (and who you do it with)
In the beginning it was obvious that the boys loved what they did. By the time the Beatles disbanded in April, 1970, it was just as obvious to anyone paying attention that the group really didn’t enjoy being together any longer. Their famous rooftop concert was evidence that the most popular and influential band of all time had run its course.
The same thing happens in business all the time. We call it burnout, but what really happens is we fall out of love with something we were once passionate about.
This condition can be terminal for any business success: the faster you recognize it the faster you’ll be able to get on with a better quality of life. Sorry, but you can’t fix something that no longer exists. The best you can hope to do is ride it out to the bitter end (emphasis bitter).
Thankfully there are several things you can do to avoid burnout: Take a vacation or a break from your routine; eat healthfully; learn to delegate — all great starts. We’ll cover more on this important issue in later articles.
2. Manage or Be Managed
It’s hard to say whether we’d have ever known the Beatles if it weren’t for their manager, Brian Epstein. Before Epstein discovered their potential, John was the band’s manager. But John recognized that, for the group to reach the next level, they needed proper management.
It was Epstein who turned the musicians into an act, from the clothes they wore, to the synchronized bow at the end of a song, to their unique haircuts. Epstein organized the talent, managed the bookings, recordings, and business contracts and made it possible for the world to know the Beatles by booking them on the Ed Sullivan Show.
What would have become of the Beatles if John let his ego manage the band instead of Epstein? Thankfully, we’ll never know.
Too many shop owners let their egos manage their shops, believing that no one, no organization, no training service, can understand how to get the results they need. So they close their minds to new ideas and training, only to learn (usually too late) that their management styles won’t help them reach the goals they once thought possible. Not only don’t they like the management end of the business, they fear that no one else could do it to their satisfaction.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
In business we call practice training; and here’s the key to training: It has to be done consistently.
Just like the Beatles, who practiced continuously to perfect their act long before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, so, too, must businesses continually train their staff on everything from technical issues to proper shop management techniques… consistently and continuously Practice, Practice, Practice = Train, Train, Train!
4. Assemble the Right People
Pete Best was good drummer, but not a great drummer, according to Sir George Martin, who produced the Beatles songs at Abbey Road studios. Martin told the boys that, if they wanted to succeed, they had to replace their drummer.
It was a tough decision for John, Paul, and George to cut ties with Best to make room for a new, potentially better, drummer, but that’s what they did.
Brian Epstein ultimately had to tell Best of the band’s decision; he claimed it was one of the toughest things he ever had to do.
We’re often too quick to hire and too late to fire. It just seems easier to go with the flow, hoping that things change. They never do and the business suffers.
Your business should be constantly recruiting to discover the best employees possible. Too often we react to employee problems and end up settling for less than great. It’s hard to imagine the Beatles without Ringo. Is there a Ringo waiting to join your company?
5. Believe in Yourself and Your Product
When Epstein reached out to the Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles were an unknown British act. Capitol Records, the largest record company in the U.S., passed on their first singles, “Please, Please Me,” and “From Me to You,” rationalizing that the band was more of a novelty than a sustainable profit center.
Instead, the Beatles were signed to a small record deal with Vee Jay records out of Philadelphia. There was no British invasion, yet Epstein was able to secure not just one appearance on the largest-viewed show in America at the time, but three appearances on consecutive weeks!
How did he do it? By believing in his product. Epstein knew that the Beatles’ infectious sound, look, and style would be a huge success in the States, and he knew that the boys believed it, too. That’s how he convinced Sullivan’s booking agent to book them. What do you suppose would have happened if Epstein hadn’t believed in his product? (Cue: chirping birds)
So there you have it: 5 simple rules learned from the most popular and influential band of all time, to help you clear the fog of confusion in your business and life. The Beatles might not have been the overnight success that so many assumed, but, as you can see, they gave us so much more than just great music.