When you look at the history of The Beatles, it may seem that their rise to the top of the charts was based on a series of fateful meetings and lucky breaks. But according to Richard Courtney and George Cassidy, there was nothing accidental about it. They say that every move, every junction was carefully planned and vetted with an eye always toward being a musical success. They say, that by following the blueprint set out by The Beatles, any company could rise to the top of their own industry chart and that is the premise of their new book.
Come Together: The Business Wisdom of The Beatles is a simplified, straightforward look at the steps that made The Beatles one of the most successful musical acts in history and how those same steps can be applied to business.
The Long and Winding Road
The book is divided into 100 chapters but don’t let that put you off. Each chapter is a very succinct look at a very specific concept including Thinning the Ranks, Communication, Mediation, Inspiration and if you’re lucky, Paying the Price of Fame. It takes The Beatles, and a company, from the early days of struggling to make ends meet, to handing over the torch to the next generation once you’ve reached the end. It’s a “Long and Winding Road,” but Courtney and Cassidy say that their system can lead to “Money” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
The joy of this book is in its simplicity. Yes, it’s 100 chapters long, but it’s under 300 pages which means most chapters are only a page or two long. There are no complex theorems here, just common sense advice that we already know but don’t always use.
Look at Chapter 7. It’s titled Image and Branding and it’s all about one of the most talked about elements of the early Beatles – their mop-top hairdo. Says the authors, the hairdo came about when the boys met Astrid Kirchherr and her boyfriend Klaus in Germany. Astrid had cut her boyfriend’s hair in an unusual style for a very practical reason, to hide his large ears. George co-oped the style and John and Paul followed, but then drummer Peter Best refused. He preferred to stay with the greasy, slicked back style that was Elvis Presley’s trademark. Eventually, it was this haircut (which became known as The Beatles Cut but should have been called The Klaus) and their matching suits that made them special in a world full of rock ‘n roll bands. Their haircut literally became iconic and was constantly brought up in interview after interview. It also led to one of the most repeated stories about the lads, the one where the reporter asks them what they call the haircut and George says “Arthur.”
To apply this to business, we only have to look at the colors and graphics that define a company. What do you see in your head when I say Coca Cola, or Volkswagen or Apple? A clean, clear, easily recognizable icon is essential for a business that wants to rise above the competition.
Money Can’t Buy Me Love
The most valuable chapter in the book is Chapter 29, “No Pain, No Gain.” This is the Ed Sullivan years. The Beatles drove themselves to exhaustion, touring, recording, filming a movie and putting themselves out there for their fans. They weren’t earning what they were worth and what money they did make, they didn’t have time to spend. While they were in the middle of it, the probably didn’t even notice the landmarks like the TV gigs, record breaking ticket sales or the moment they had twelve songs in the top 100. When you’re knee deep in it and living on Red Bull and Tums, it’s nearly impossible to see the gains, but you have to. Ask a trusted friend to point them out, if you must, but don’t give up because you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. Imagine if The Beatles had given up at the end of that year. If they thought they were too tapped out to write another song. We wouldn’t have “Yesterday” or “All You Need is Love” or “Let it Be.” What a shame, that would be.
Richard Courtney and George Cassidy have done a fine job of combining an interesting subject like The Beatles with the inspiration to succeed at whatever it is you do. The book may be a little too simple in spots, but all of the advice is worth pondering no matter what stage your business is in.
Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles will be available in early March from Turner Publishing.
Full disclosure time: I was given a copy of the book for review but that did not impact my opinions.