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Presentation Summary and Financial Times Articles
By Mike Southon
Copyright ©Mike Southon 2011
All Rights Reserved
Not to be reproduced without permission in writing
Articles originally published in the Financial Times
Mike Southon can be contacted at:
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -1-
Something About the Beatles
But first here is some advice on funding….
What Investors are Looking For
• Is it in a hot area?
• Can we make our money back quickly?
• Is there a proven team already in place?
Things to Avoid
• Being judged by people with less experience than yourself
• Long, drawn-out decision-making process
• Anyone who is clearly evil
The Three Areas in Business
The Seven Stages of Finance
1. Run a cash business
2. Learn to use a spreadsheet
3. Find a local bookkeeper
4. Find a local accountant
5. Get a part time or virtual ‘finance cornerstone’
6. Get a full-time finance director
7. Get a large accounting firm to act on your behalf
People who might be able to help you (my e-zine sponsors)
The TFM Centre www.thetfmcentre.co.uk
fd Unlimited www.fdunlimited.com
Smith & Williamson www.smith.williamson.co.uk
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -2-
Something About The Beatles
This presentation is about how anyone can be more enterprising and successful, either in their
own business or as an ‘intrapreneur’, being creative in a large organisation.
It uses The Beatles as an example of creativity and entrepreneurship; The Fab Four may not have
made as much money as other well-known UK entrepreneurs, but they have touched more hearts,
which is my measure of success in life.
The Beatles’ brand is one of the best known in the world, even though they stopped recording
together over 40 years ago.
So why be an entrepreneur, or be more intrapreneurial in your own organisation?
The reasons people give are:
• Make money
• Make a difference to myself and my family
• Make a difference to the world
• Have Fun!
• Because I have to
The best reason, however, is ‘to create wealth’
(The definition of the difference between ‘money’ and ‘wealth’ is given later)
The Seven-Year Cycles
We tend to work in seven-year cycles, as follows:
• Between 21 and 28: to try as many things as possible
• Between 28 and 35: you should make a serious attempt at something
• Between 35 and 42: you might want to try something different
• Between 42 and 49: you are often at the peak of your powers
• Between 49 and 56: represents maturity and self-awareness
• Between 56 and 63: you might want to plan your legacy
• Between 63 and 70: you become a true mentor
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -3-
A Critical Moment
Entrepreneurs are characterised by critical moments, which they seize. (“Carpe Diem”)
Regular people just watch critical moments drift by....
For the delegates, hopefully this presentation features a ‘critical moment’ which will change their
life or their perspective on work in some way.
For the Beatles, February 9th 1964 was a ‘critical moment’. I Want to Hold your Hand was
number 1 in the USA, despite several other records failing beforehand. This enabled them to
appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, where 20 million people were expected to watch
Video: The Beatles Performing ‘All My Loving’ on The Ed Sullivan Show
In fact, the TV audience was 73 million, the largest in history.
The UK’s Most Successful Entrepreneur, Today
Video: Sir Paul McCartney Performing ‘All My Loving’ in the USA in 2002
If you want one reason to be an entrepreneur, then consider the middle-aged man in the audience
who bursts into tears on hearing the song.
If you get that level of connection with people, your customers, your co-workers or someone who
has benefitted from your efforts, then that is a good definition of ‘wealth’.
My First Advice for an Aspiring Entrepreneur (or Intrapreneur)
Entrepreneurship is about teamwork, not just ideas. You should find a foil, someone with the
opposite set of skills to yourself. If you are introvert, someone extrovert, if you are good with
ideas, someone who is good at completing tasks; if you are poor with money someone who is
good at budgeting and cost control....and vice-versa.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon
Great example of two people finding their foil: Sir Paul McCartney the extrovert who enjoys
playing live, John Lennon the introvert, much happier in the studio.
Audio: ‘Getting Better’ from ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
McCartney: “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, it’s getting better all the time”
Lennon: “Can’t get no worse”
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -4-
The Original Beermat
Source: Cover of ‘The Beermat Entrepreneur’
The Elevator Pitch
A good elevator pitch has these 5 ‘P’s:
• Pain What problem do you solve?
• Premise Exactly what do you do?
• People Who is in your team?
• Proof Do you have a successful customer story?
• Purpose Why are you doing this, rather than anything else?
The Beatles’ Elevator Pitch
• Pain Rock and roll stars like Elvis Presley would not play outside the USA, and
The Beatles’ Idols, if they did play in Liverpool, were difficult to go and see
Audio: ‘Viva Las Vegas’ from ‘Viva Las Vegas Soundtrack’
• Premise The music you like, for a price you can afford, down your local club
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -5-
Good attributes for a successful Premise:
1. Be Local
2. Be Reliable
3. Be Nice
• People The Beatles, a great team only after they replaced two members
Audio: John Lennon: “We were four guys...” from ‘The Beatles Anthology, Volume 1’
• Proof In 1961, The Beatles were the most popular live band in Liverpool
• Purpose Part 1: To Make Money! (Part 2 comes later....)
Audio: ‘Money’ from ‘With The Beatles’
Find a Mentor.... who Can Open Doors
The Beatles appointed as their manager Brian Epstein, who ran an electrical store in Chapel
Street, Liverpool, which had a large record department. He smartened them up, putting them in
suits and behaving more professionally on stage.
Brian Epstein’s big promise was to get them a recording contract, using his connections.
Audio: Brian Epstein: “I secured them an audition….” from ‘The Beatles Anthology, Volume 1’
Be Prepared for Setbacks
The Beatles were turned down by almost every record company, including Decca, whose A&R
(talent) manager Dick Rowe famously said: “…guitar groups are on the way out”.
In Dick Rowe’s defence, The Beatles audition tape was nothing special.
Audio: ‘Searching’ from ‘The Beatles’ Anthology, Volume 1’
The Beatles’ First Customer
Audio, Brian Epstein: ‘Well The Recording Test came and went…’ from ‘The Beatles Anthology,
George Martin, at Parlophone (a minor label at EMI) was the only person to ‘get’ The Beatles
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -6-
He liked them personally, even though he didn’t think they could play that well and had no idea at
that time that they wrote such good songs.
George Martin, a classically trained musician, arranger and composer, became their musical
mentor, playing on several of their records.
Deal with the Competition
If you are a successful entrepreneur, then people will copy you. The Beatles faced fierce
competition from other bands, including The Dave Clarke Five, The Hollies the Rolling Stones
and The Monkees.
The Beatles responded to competition by constantly improving, for example by putting a string
quartet on one of their tracks.
The album Revolver was released in1966 with innovative tracks such as Eleanor Rigby and
Tomorrow Never Knows; most pop bands of the time found it impossible to compete. Generally,
the competition was beaten – or was it? Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys set out specifically to
make his album Pet Sounds better than Revolver.
Be the Best You Can
The Beatles privately acknowledged that Pet Sounds by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys was at
least as good as Revolver. Their response was: “wait till he hears Sgt. Pepper”, their next project,
which innovated even further and is now their best-selling album.
The Best Song Ever Written For Entrepreneurs
The Beatles in 1967 were at the peak of their powers.
As well as releasing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band they released Strawberry Fields
Forever/Penny Lane, arguably the best Double A-Side single ever.
Amazingly, it was the first Beatles single for five years not to go to Number 1, beaten by Release
Me by Englebert Humperdinck.
They also released a song which perfectly describes entrepreneurship.
Video: ‘All you Need Is Love’ from the ‘Our World’ television broadcast
Nothing You Can Do that Can’t Be Done
The lyric from All You Need is Love is a perfect statement of entrepreneurship
“There's nothing you can do that can't be done,
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung,
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game…it’s easy.”
©John Lennon and Paul McCartney 1967
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -7-
Business in general, and entrepreneurship in particular is a very simple game with simple rules,
even though it can involve hard work and long hours.
Another Critical Moment
In 1967, just after the release of Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles manager and mentor, Brian Epstein died
from a suspected accidental drugs overdose.
The Beatles at the time were in Bangor, following their new guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
With typical successful entrepreneur over-confidence (which some might call arrogance), they
decided to manage themselves and manage their own affairs.
They set up a wide range of entrepreneurial activities, under their new umbrella company The
Apple Corporation, including a record label, a film company, electronics and a retail store.
These companies were very badly run, and soon began to lose large sums of money. Their next
project, a TV film called The Magical Mystery Tour, had some great music but was a critical
The next project, the Let It Be album and film, was even more difficult on a personal level, with
much conflict and arguing. This project was shelved for over a year.
Back in Flow
The last project The Beatles worked on, the Abbey Road album, was, happily, a much more
pleasant experience, with them working together well as a team.
Audio: ‘Come Together’, from ‘Abbey Road’
The Fifth Beatle - Neil Aspinall
Neil Aspinall started as The Beatles’ roadie. Later he ran Apple Corporation, turning it from one
of the worst run companies into one of the best. In my view, he is the true ‘Fifth Beatle’
The Beatles’ Legacy
Today, the Beatles’ brand is as strong as ever, and their legacy is secured.
Apple Corporation (today a very professionally managed company) issued some out-takes and
rare pictures as The Beatles Anthology DVDs and CDs in 1996, and a beautifully illustrated book
In 2006, Cirque du Soleil opened a Las Vegas Show, called Love featuring Beatles re-mixes and
studio conversations, produced by Sir George Martin’s son Giles.
In 2009 saw releases of digitally re-mastered versions of the Beatles back catalogue, and the
highly successful computer game Beatles Rock Band, which although designed for 13-year-olds is
beautifully designed and thematically perfect in every respect.
In 2010 Apple corporation (The Beatles’ company) and Apple Computer (the computer company
finally resolved their disputes and The Beatles back catalogue was realised on iTunes.
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -8-
Apple Computer agreed a massive publicity campaign, and The Beatles were introduced to a
whole new generation of music lovers.
The Beatles and Pete Best
Pete Best is perhaps the unluckiest man in the 1960s – he was fired from The Beatles and
replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962.
While the popular belief is that this was the right decision, it was not handled very well. Pete has
not spoken to any of The Beatles since then.
When The Beatles released Anthology One, featuring some tracks that Pete Best played on, he
received a significant amount of money, as was his due. Not everyone in The Beatles’ camp was
happy about that, so when you look at the artwork on the CD cover, there is a Beatles poster with
Pete’s face ripped out.
Pete responded with his own album, Haymans Green, after the location of The Casbah Club,
where The Beatles actually started, not The Cavern as most people think. The cover artwork for
this album is the piece of the poster that was ripped out, featuring Pete’s face, restored.
So while The Beatles are all now fabulously rich and much admired as proponents of peace and
love, their own behaviour was not always perfect. It can be argued that their ‘karma’ has suffered
because of this.
The Difference between ‘Money’ and ‘Wealth’
Roger Hamilton www.rogerhamilton.com defines this as follows:
‘Money’ is defined by what you have in your pocket, your bank account, or at the bottom of your
‘Wealth’ is what you would have if your money disappeared for some reason; this is your
reputation, what you know, whom you know and how nice you have been to people along the
The Chinese describe this personal reputation and trust as your guanxi, which Wikipedia defines
At its most basic, guanxi describes a personal connection between two people in which one is
able to prevail upon another to perform a favor or service, or be prevailed upon. The two people
need not be of equal social status. Guanxi can also be used to describe a network of contacts,
which an individual can call upon when something needs to be done, and through which he or she
can exert influence on behalf of another.
In addition, guanxi can describe a state of general understanding between two people: "he/she is
aware of my wants/needs and will take them into account when deciding her/his course of future
actions which concern or could concern me without any specific discussion or request".
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -9-
In 1970, after The Beatles split up, they had little cash and were being aggressively pursued by
the tax authorities, as their business affairs were so badly managed at that time.
The Beatle who built up his ‘guanxi’ quickest was George Harrison, who organised a charity
concert The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, long before Live Aid.
How to Build Up Your Guanxi
Three simple rules:
• Always treat people like you want them to treat you
• Always help people, without going broke in the process
• Always tell the truth
And In The End
Almost the last track The Beatles recorded on Abbey Road was the aptly titled song ‘The End’
In this track, Ringo Starr gets acknowledged, with his one and only Beatles drum solo. Then the
other three Beatles play lead guitar in rotation; first Paul McCartney, then George Harrison and
then John Lennon, three times in total.
Audio: ‘The End’, from ‘Abbey Road’
Video: ‘Closing Cinematic’, from ‘Beatles Rock Band’
Then there is ‘The Meaning of Life’ and the moral of this presentation:
“And in the end the love to take is equal to the love you make”
© John Lennon and Paul McCartney 1969
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -10-
Financial Times Articles
These articles are copyright ©Mike Southon 2011
All Rights Reserved
Not to be reproduced without permission in writing
Originally published in The Financial Times
Mike Southon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.beermat.biz
By Mike Southon
It is good to recharge your ‘spirit battery’ now and then, and well-known destinations for this
include The Vatican, Mecca and Jerusalem. I always feel spiritually enriched when visiting
Westminster Abbey, but recently returned from a pilgrimage to my first spiritual home,
I have always had a deep affection for the area; my first job after leaving university was as a
construction engineer, based in Widnes. It was always a thrill to sit on the town’s station platform
(where Paul Simon wrote ‘Homeward Bound’) and to take the short trip to the hallowed stomping
grounds of my great musical heroes, The Beatles.
What really struck me then about Liverpool was not so much the place itself as the people. They
were uniformly open and hugely welcoming to a stranger in their midst, despite my being a
slightly confused ex-public schoolboy, ostensibly from the better side of the tracks.
Back in the 1980s, Liverpool was a town in distress. The Toxteth Riots were followed by the
Hillsborough disaster, which left a sad legacy and still results in lingering prejudices from
outsiders. But Liverpool is now completely transformed and almost unrecognisable from those
dark days. The city is well laid-out, airy and clean; they have carefully preserved their heritage
while simultaneously developing new attractions, such as the Liverpool One shopping centre
which connects the city centre to the formerly grim Pier Head waterfront area. But the chief asset
of the city still remains the people who live and work there.
Paul McCartney explains the nature and attraction of the region perfectly in the Beatles
Anthology. Liverpool covers a relatively small area, about ten miles, but has its own distinct
dialect and culture as well as a deep sense of civic pride. Every taxi driver is an ambassador for
the city; most people you meet serving in hotels and bars are locals and fiercely proud of their
city. This is a refreshing change from London, where, inevitably, few people you meet in a
service environment are home-grown.
Getting to Liverpool has greatly improved since my first trips in the 1980s. It may be popular to
criticise Virgin Trains, but my train was clean and well appointed, the journey time was only just
over two hours, and my off-peak return tickets booked online were only £35.
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -11-
I felt compelled to book into The Hard Day’s Night Hotel, which, while significantly Beatles
themed, is a delightful and tasteful boutique hotel, reminiscent of the Hotel du Vin and
Malmaison chains. It has a perfect location for Beatles enthusiasts, on the corner of Mathew
Street, home to the now rebuilt Cavern Club.
While tourism is important to Liverpool, to get a wider business perspective on the region, I
visited Liverpool Vision, the city’s economic development company.
They are charged with leading the next phase of economic development, from the springboard of
the urban renaissance of the last five years.
The fruits of the £4bn or so of the mostly private investment include the expansion of Liverpool
John Lennon, now the UK’s fastest growing regional airport, and ACC Liverpool which houses
the BT Convention Centre and the Echo Arena, capable of seating over 10,000 concert goers. The
city is home to an increasing number of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies, such as
Eli Lily, Novartis and Astra Zeneca, who have access to leading-edge life sciences research and
development in local universities.
Recent inward investments include a headquarters relocation by shipping giant Maersk, Prinovis,
who invested in a £130m gravure printing plant in Speke to produce large volumes of high-
quality publications and catalogues, , and stockbroker Panmure Gordon & Co. recently opened its
first regional office at Rumford Investments in Chapel Street, near where Beatles Manager Brian
Epstein once had his NEMS record store. Liverpool Vision is also particularly focused on
attracting the creative and media industries.
I promised to return to Liverpool and counter any lingering doubts about the merits of their city
by writing about their new generation of very successful entrepreneurs. So, if you are looking to
relocate your business to a thriving and optimistic city, with a family atmosphere and highly
skilled local work force, then Liverpool has to be high on your list.
Of course, any business decision should be based on compelling benefits, carefully considered.
My suggestion would be to present the business logic first, and then play your hard-nosed
decision makers the Beatles tracks ‘In My Life’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’.
If they don’t get it then, they never will.
Liverpool Vision can be found at www.liverpoolvision.co.uk
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -12-
The Seven-Year Itch (Harry Freedman)
By Mike Southon
I often provide mentoring for early stage entrepreneurs and it is always fun to discuss new
business ideas with enthusiastic people. But I sometimes have to point out that their recent track
record of serial failure suggests that their best course of action is to find a proper job, at least for
A common reason for people to become entrepreneurs is that they have come to the conclusion
that they are essentially unemployable; many have been let go from their last place of work and
have resolved that from now on they will only work for themselves.
This argument has merit, but only extends their aspiration as far as being a ‘sole trader’. This
requires them to do all three jobs themselves: delivery, sales and finance. To grow their business
they have to learn how to attract and work with a team, as well as develop some leadership skills,
fixing the two character flaws that helped terminate their employment last time.
Alternatively, it is very common for successful entrepreneurs to have spent their twenties quietly
working for other organisations. Once they reach their thirties, have developed their life skills and
built a network, they can go for a gap in the market with a higher probability of success.
But entrepreneurs are easily bored, and I have noticed this tends to work in a cycle of seven years.
When I mentor entrepreneurs who are successful but still seem unfulfilled for some reason, my
suggestion is they consider handing over their business to their staff, taking a break and then
looking for a brand new opportunity.
Harry Freedman runs Career Energy, which helps people find new employment. His business is
the perfect bellwether of the careers market; when times are good, he is advising ambitious but
bored people on radical career changes. In these hard times, much of his activity is in
outplacement, helping often very dispirited people regain their self-esteem and find a new job.
Freedman has written a very timely book How to Find a Job in a Recession, which explains his
process. He explains that looking for a job in a recession is different; the key is to be pro-active,
and not just to wait for opportunities. You need to target the right opportunities and then present
yourself in the right way.
A basic difference between people is that some will be introvert, and spend most of their time
working on their CV, filling it with relevant features, while others are extrovert and will rush off
and network. It is important to remember that both tasks need to be done; a brilliant CV, which is
not actively promoted, will just gather dust, and a candidate with an outgoing personality but
without the right collateral will be overlooked for the best opportunities.
Freedman works on both aspects, starting with where to look for potential jobs when nothing is
being advertised. The key is in personal and on-line networking; there are many on-line tools to
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -13-
help raise your profile, another way of describing your personal brand. Most of us now are on
social networks, such as LinkedIn, which is specifically geared for job-seekers.
Freedman’s book also covers the mechanics of responding to job advertisements, the best way to
use recruitment consultants, how to make speculative approaches and the challenge of cold
calling. Then it is all about the interview, an area where everyone, especially the most confident,
needs significant coaching. An interviewer will be trained to deal with the nervous; an over-
enthusiastic interviewee can talk themselves out of an opportunity in a few minutes.
I discussed the seven-year cycle with Freedman and he had some additional insights based on
people’s ages. He suggests that between twenty-one and twenty-eight, you should try as many
things as possible. From twenty-eight to thirty-five, you should make a good ‘fist’ of something.
Between thirty-five and forty-two, you might decide to try something different.
Between forty-two and forty-nine you are often at the peak of your powers, while forty-nine to
fifty-six represents maturity. Between fifty-six and sixty-three you might want to plan your exit,
so from sixty-three onwards you can enjoy your grandchildren.
Once you understand the mechanics of job-hunting and the cycles of life, you might eventually
conclude that, in retrospect, that forced career move was the best thing that ever happened to you.
As Freedman says in his book, there are still many great opportunities out there; all it requires is a
positive mind-set, to understand themselves and then the job market.
How to Get a Job in a Recession by Harry Freedman is published by Infinite Ideas
Career Energy can be found at www.careerenergy.co.uk
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -14-
Something About The Beatles (and Stackridge)
By Mike Southon
I am not a great fan of the television programme Dragon’s Den; in my view it is as much to with
entrepreneurship as The X Factor has to do with The Beatles.
The Beatles themselves were entrepreneurs, following the model laid out in our book The
Beermat Entrepreneur. They developed an Elevator Pitch (‘like Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck
Berry, only better...’) found a Mentor (their manager Brian Epstein), and then a First Customer,
(producer George Martin, who signed them to EMI).
They had plenty of upsets and rejections along the way, including being famously turned down by
Decca, but eventually they were at the right place at the right time, specifically the Ed Sullivan
show on February 9th 1964, when Paul McCartney counted in All My Loving and 73 million
people simultaneously got the point.
There was inevitably competition, in the shape of The Beach Boys’ stunning Pet Sounds, but they
immediately innovated themselves clear of the pack with Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
Band in 1967. They were at the peak of their powers, also releasing All You Need Is Love and
probably the best double A-side of all time, Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane.
Ironically, this was the first Beatles single for five years not to go to number one, beaten to the
top slot by Release Me by Englebert Humperdinck, positive proof that customers are not always
But in August 1967, the Beatles had a critical moment; their manager Brian Epstein died of a
suspected accidental drug overdose. The Beatles decided they could manage themselves, but their
next project, Magical Mystery Tour, while containing fabulous music, was a critical flop, a self-
indulgent film which did not really work in black and white TV, the only multimedia platform
available in most homes that Boxing Day.
‘The White Album’ again featured great songs, but was a less than pleasant experience for them,
with Ringo Starr quitting at one point. Their producer George Martin became exasperated by the
lack of teamwork; sometimes they would work separately in three different studios. Disappointed
by the final result, he resolved not to work with them again.
The next Beatles project, which eventually became the album Let It Be, was another difficult
experience, and was shelved. But they decided to come together with George Martin again for one
last album, Abbey Road, which contains a beautiful epitaph for the band and the sixties: “and in
the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.
The Beatles story has many business learning points, and is now my keynote presentation for both
entrepreneurs and large organisations. It goes down particularly well in schools and colleges,
which not only gives me great hope for the future of UK plc, but also reflects my own personal
experience in the early 90s.
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -15-
After we sold our company, I decided to put together a band, reinventing myself as Confused
Rock Legend Mike Fab-Gere. Bizarrely, I found a significant market in UK universities and for
several years was the top draw on the college circuit, sponsored by Sol Beer and Durex condoms.
We played many Beatles tunes, and I was delighted that all the kids knew all the words; it’s a
myth that the young people just listen to rubbish, I concluded.
Today, I have great fun mixing entrepreneurship with the music that I love. My talk is called
Something about the Beatles, a song by my second favourite band, Stackridge. Their career in the
70s replicated much of the Beatles model: they were a popular live act, were produced by George
Martin, and even played at Wembley Stadium with Elton John, The Beach Boys and The Eagles.
For some reason they did not sell millions of albums, and eventually split up.
But the Stackridge story has a happy ending; two of the members, James Warren and Andy Davis,
later formed The Korgis, and had a huge international hit with Everybody’s Got To Learn
Sometime. Stackridge have now reformed, are touring again, and are working on a new album
with a well-known producer.
I met with them at their recent 100 Club gig in London, and they seemed serene and radiant, a
good combination. Best of all, they are clearly successful entrepreneurs; not in the Bill Gates or
Beatles league, but while some might wish for that level of success, it does come with a price.
As Sir Paul McCartney said on Abbey Road: “boy, you’re gonna carry their weight a long time”.
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -16-
The Long and Winding Road
By Mike Southon
Fans of Sir Paul McCartney are eagerly looking forward to his European Tour, the latest
celebration of his long and successful career as a musician. What is sometimes overlooked is his
status as also one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs.
There is a wonderful moment on his 2002 Back in the US DVD. McCartney starts All My Loving,
and the camera cuts to ecstatic members of the audience, both young and old. Notable is one man
about my age, who is clearly taken right back to watching The Ed Sullivan Show in the sixties,
and tears well up in his eyes.
I am currently touring Universities as part of the NCGE’s ‘Make It Happen’ programme, and I
explain to the young delegates that this is a perfect example of how they can become successful
entrepreneurs. If they can achieve this level of personal engagement for their products and
services, then people will turn into loyal customers for life.
McCartney’s own career followed the classic route of the aspiring entrepreneur. At first he was
driven only by his passion for playing the music he loved, and was later delighted to realise he
could actually earn a living this way.
The Beatles’ success soon meant that they were able to take on extra staff. Neil Aspinall, an old
class-mate of McCartney’s, bought an old Commer Van for £80 and charged each band member
five shillings for carrying their equipment.
The band soon came to the attention of Brian Epstein, who signed them to their first management
contract, promising to get them a recording deal. The Beatles later secured recording and
publishing deals, and even started their own entrepreneurial organisation The Apple Corporation,
a very ambitious venture encompassing a record label, films, publishing and a retail clothes
Looking back with expert hindsight, it might be argued that the various deals the Beatles signed
were less than ideal, and that the Apple Corporation back then, while well-intentioned, lacked
focus and experienced business management.
But like all successful entrepreneurs McCartney learned from this experience and all his ventures
are now extremely well run. The Beatles’s legacy is now expertly managed by The Apple
Corporation, run until 2007 by Aspinall, the one-time roadie.
Not only has the original Beatles material been carefully digitally re-mastered, their brand has
also been successfully extended into Love, the Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas and The
Beatles Rock Band computer game. This game works at every level; for its target market of teen
game-buyers it works perfectly, while Beatles enthusiasts of my generation appreciate its
assiduous attention to detail.
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -17-
The Beatles signed away their publishing rights back in the sixties with little understanding of the
full implications or of their own artistic longevity. McCartney now has his own publishing
company, MPL Communications which owns and administers the rights to a large back-catalogue
of songs from Buddy Holly to Grease as well as his own solo material.
The McCartney brand has also been successfully extended by others, notably his late wife Linda’s
range of vegetarian food products which were the first and only option for many years, and his
daughter Stella’s fashion, perfume and skin care enterprises.
So I will indeed be cheering on Sir Paul McCartney at the O2 arena just before Christmas, and I
am sure mine will not be the only dry eye in the house as he fires up his many hits. And as a
loyal customer of one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, I am indeed hoping Santa will
bring me a copy of his new DVD, Good Evening New York City.
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -18-
By Mike Southon
I often meet people in large organisations who want to be more enterprising. The discussion is
always about new business ideas, and how they plan to stimulate innovation from within.
Once the new ideas are on the table, the challenge is always execution: how to make them
actually happen. However, while most people think that the next stage involves generating new
revenue or an internal budget, I have a more immediate piece of personal advice: that they should
find a ‘foil’.
A ‘foil’ is someone with complimentary skills to your own. If you are naturally creative then they
are more grounded, preferring to make judgements based on careful market analysis. If you are
naturally extrovert and find it easy to generate attraction for your ideas, then you need someone
more introverted and systematic to add substance, the ‘steak’ to your ‘sizzle’.
In addition, many entrepreneurs I meet are terrible with money; they seem to spend every penny
they have, never saving for a rainy day. Their natural ‘foil’ is someone who never seems to be in
debt, using the simple expedient of only having debit, rather than credit cards and accounting on a
monthly, rather than a mañana basis.
With entrepreneurs, I explain that their ability to find a ‘foil’ represents the difference between
success and failure for their new venture. It is possible to be a sole trader, earning a good living as
a ‘gun for hire’, such as a good local plumber or freelance software engineer. These are people
with good delivery skills who learn the hard way how to generate sales for themselves, and do
their basic accounts, usually on a cash basis.
But if someone has ambitions for scaling their business, then a ‘foil’ is essential. Even the most
cursory study of successful, high-profile entrepreneurs always reveals someone in the background
making sure that all the promises are always kept, to the institutions as well as to the customers.
For every Richard Branson, there is a Robert Devereaux; for every Charles Dunstone there is a
David Ross, and for every Bill Gates, there is a Steve Ballmer. Not all of these lesser-known
‘foils’ are necessarily introverts. They do all share the common vision and trust of their better
known colleagues, but also have the ability to shine in areas where entrepreneurs are lacking, such
as systems, process and people management.
Creativity and innovation in large organisations is facilitated by the simple expedient of putting
together mixed teams from the pool of talent available. It is wrong to say that more traditional
organisations lack creativity; in my experience there is always plenty going on, but typically
under the surface, encouraged and monitored by internal mentors.
These mentors, or sponsors as they are more commonly labelled, understand how the processes of
their organisation work, and are very skilled at finding ways round the system, when necessary.
Their other skill is to find creative talent and then double-team these people with the right ‘foil’,
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -19-
more process-oriented people, such as engineers, marketers and finance experts, to increase the
chances of success for the new idea.
I was reminded of someone working well with a ‘foil’ when playing the splendid Beatles Rock
Band game with my son. I explained that when Paul McCartney wrote “it’s getting better all the
time”, his ‘foil’ John Lennon chipped in with the perfect riposte: “can’t get no worse”.
Entrepreneurship is often about blind optimism in the early stages. To succeed long-term, a more
objective and realistic balance is always required, and this is all about people with opposite skills,
working toward a common goal.
More Financial Times columns by Mike Southon can be
found at www.ft.com/mikesouthon and on
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -20-
About Mike Southon
Mike is one of the world’s top business speakers, a Fellow of The Professional Speakers
He is a very experienced conference facilitator and moderator, having interviewed over 100 top
business people, now featured every Saturday in his Financial Times column, “My Business”.
Mike is co-author of several best-selling business books, including The Beermat Entrepreneur
and Sales on a Beermat. He is a Visiting Fellow in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London
South Bank University and has made frequent appearances on television and radio.
Mike built and sold his own company in the 80s and worked on seventeen different start-ups in
the 90s (two later went public, three went broke!). Mike Southon is now the UK’s leading
entrepreneur mentor, and delivers over 100 presentations every year, all over the world.
Mike Southon can be contacted at:
UK: 07802 483834
Outside UK: +44 7802 483834
©Mike Southon 2011 All Rights Reserved -21-