10 Business Lessons to Learn from the Beatles

Business Lessons to Learn from the Beatles - StartupStorey Entrepreneurship Guide

The Beatles were successful because of several reasons and we pick out the business lessons to learn from their wildly successful experiences.

I’d recommend reading Larry Lange’s “The Beatles Way: Fab Wisdom for Everyday Life” – a pretty interesting, light, non-preachy book on the subject. I don’t have the book with me, but some takeaway points I remember:

Build the best team that you can find

Ditch your Pete Best for a better Ringo. Be willing to let go of original members (Shotton who?) for better team members (McCartney, Harrison) that you might not necessarily personally know.

How does this relate to our work here at StartupStorey?

Firstly, you will need to justify the need to set up a team in a startup!

I said this because, many startups today go on a hiring spree without setting the ground and ultimately the start-up fails!

Now coming to the question, the following are the 10 steps to be taken to set up a high performance team for a start-up

  1. In a startup, hiring someone for a role should arise only when the co-founders are unable to handle the volume of work.
  2. Setting up a team should be considered only when the person hired is unable to handle the volume by himself/herself
  3. The first 30 hires should be really smart and dedicated people who understand what working in a startup means.
  4. Train your first member of the team on the process and make improvements to the process based on his/her feedback.
  5. Maintain proper reports
  6. For your next hire, ask the first hire to train him/her. This would automatically set the hierarchy in the team.
  7. As more people are hired (4–7), promote the first hire as the team lead/manager for that team. (Make sure your first hire is capable of handling this responsibility and ensure you hire the right candidate for this role)
  8. To ensure the team is highly productive, make sure they run race together as a team not as individual players.
  9. Give team targets and motivate them to work together to achieve it
  10. Give team incentives when targets are achieved such as a team lunch or an outing.

Related: What do I need to do to manage a UX team effectively?

Dream big

“Make your own dream. That’s the Beatles’ story, isn’t it? … Don’t expect Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it yourself.” (Lennon)

Set your goals in realistic steps

The best in Liverpool –> Top 20 UK –> Top 1 UK –> US + the world. When “Love Me Do” reached #17 in the UK charts, one of them said that they were “really happy… because that’s our goal at the time. Not #1, not top 5, but top 20” (can’t find the exact quote here…)

You need to work backwards.

Looking at an end goal can be super scary and often times, seems impossible.

The bigger the more impossible.

For example, if your goal was to make $4,000,000 in 3 years. If you look at that as a whole, it seems pretty much unachievable.

But if you break it down and focus just on the next step, then it starts looking a whole lot more possible.

Work hard

In Hamburg, they played for long hours every night. After their breakout, they averaged two albums / year, with crazy touring schedule around the world and 5 movies in 9 years. No one now work on that kind of schedule.

Business Lessons to Learn from the Beatles - StartupStorey Entrepreneurship Guide

Expect the most from people

Lennon wanted to combine his two favorite tracks for Strawberry Fields Forever. When George Martin protested that it was impossible, as the two are in different tempo and keys, Lennon said, “Well, you can fix it.” and Martin did.

This happened a lot in the studio, as they wanted weirder and weirder effects for their songs.

Praise when it counts, but not too much

McCartney commented that Lennon was ungenerous with praise, motivating him to work harder and harder. When Lennon did praise people, he did it in private – and he meant it.

Have a sense of humor

Their interviews are funny! George Martin wasn’t that impressed with their original songs audition – but he quipped that he would sign them on their wit alone.

Don’t care too much about education – care about real skills

None of them can read music. Back in Liverpool, they would skip school to hop on a bus to go see someone in another town to learn how to play a chord.


It’s crazy to think that “Please Please Me” and “A Day in the Life” are only 4 years apart. They make it a point to make each album different, and not to stick with their winning formula.

Healthy rivalry is good

Lennon – McCartney’s rivalry makes them better together than not. Beatles – Beach Boys friendship and rivalry makes both Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s better.

Help people – even your rivals

Lennon / McCartney gave The Rolling Stones their song (“I Wanna Be Your Man“) for their first single. Beatles and the Beach Boys’ members contributed to each other’s records.

Don’t give up

They were rejected a lot. Remember “Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein”?

Be sensitive to what’s going on in the world

The Beatles created soundtracks for almost everything that happened in the second half of the 1960’s—The Civil Rights movement, the counterculture, the Vietnam War, the Summer of Love, The Moon Landing and the Woodstock Rock Festival.

The best way to see what’s going on around you is to look and listen.

Look at details, the way people interact with others, the words they use and try to work out what they want to achieve.

Spend time observing people. Sit on a bench in a shopping mall and just watch people go by.

When other people are talking, listen to what they are saying, and don’t worry about you should say in reply.

Sometimes, you learn more by not replying – let the silence linger.

The best way to see whats going on in the world today is to read. Read news, read books, read wikipedia or read answers on popular online forums like Reddit and Quora.

Read about history, science, culture and civics. Don’t believe everything that you read straight away. The truth is never that obvious.

Read opinions that you disagree with. Read other people’s opinions about opinions you agree with. Follow thought leaders, like Seth Godin and David Meerman Scott if you’re interested in Marketing as well.

Try to use your skills learnt from watching people to work out what the writer wants you to believe.

Find a second opinion and see what someone else thinks from the other side. The truth is usually somewhere in between.

This is part of our “Business Lessons to Learn” series where as you can see, they’re mostly my favourite artists!

  1. Business Lessons to Learn from the Kardashians
  2. Business Lessons to Learn from Walt Disney
  3. Lessons to Learn from Steve Jobs for your Startup
  4. Business Lessons to Learn from Jay-Z

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