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Sgt. Pepper’s guide to building a long-lasting business

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To mark 50 years of Sgt. Pepper. Some Beatles inspired business tips from "the act we've known for all these years".


32 million copies sold, number one in the U.K. for 27 consecutive weeks and now, 50 years later, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is back at the top. When Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play he did a pretty good job. There are many reasons for its greatness and longevity and this got me thinking - could there be some Pepper inspired business tips from the "act we've known for all these years"?

To find out, let’s go back to 1967, or more accurately, 1966.

Stop doing what you don't want to do

The catalyst for Sgt. Pepper came from the simple act of saying no. The Beatles played their last gig in San Francisco in August 1966 - a tour marked by death threats following John's "Beatles are more popular than Jesus" comment. They hated every minute of it and Paul finally agreed with the others that they'd had enough. No more touring, the studio would be their new home.

Saying no to touring in 1966 was unheard of but, to get to a place where they could produce their best work, they had to take back control. 

Sgt. Pepper’s tip: Doing something you don’t want to do - or sell, isn’t a recipe for long-lasting success. If you aren’t feeling it, then your audience - or your customers - won’t either. Stop, and create something you believe in.

Be prepared to take difficult decisions

Most people listening to the title track, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band assume that it's played by all four Beatles. Not so. The dynamics in the band were starting to change. Written by Paul, he had such a clear idea of what he wanted, he insisted on playing all the guitar parts himself - including later overdubbing his own lead solos over George’s - much to his annoyance.

Sgt. Pepper’s tip: Don’t be afraid to make difficult decisions in order to produce the right results. A good team will recognise that it’s the end product that matters most - so don’t be bound by job titles - always use the best people at your disposal, even if they are all called Paul.

Great design is an investment, not an expense

The cover to Sgt. Pepper is as famous as the music inside. It was intended to blow people’s minds, and it did. If it appeared for the first time today it would turn heads but 50 years ago, it was revolutionary both inside and out. EMI initially rejected it but it captured the colour and positivity of the ‘summer of love’ perfectly and has gone on to achieve cult status, recognised the world over.

Sgt. Pepper’s tip: Whether it’s simply your logo or something much grander, investing in great design is your chance to create a lasting first impression and strong emotional connection with your audience. Just like the cover to Sgt.Pepper and the artwork inside, quality design is timeless. And that’s what you want for your business.

Find your 5th Beatle

Sgt. Pepper was the Beatles 8th album in 5 years - and all of them produced by George Martin. Often described as the ‘5th Beatle’ it was never more so than with Pepper. His impact and influence was immense. But, to really appreciate his importance, you have to go back to the beginning.

George Martin signed the Beatles. He saw the raw talent that so many other record labels had rejected and, crucially, for a producer at the time, he was open to the idea of pop artists writing their own songs. Without that belief and trust, the songwriting progression that led to Sgt. Pepper may never have developed. He was their creative mentor and a true ‘talent manager’.

Sgt. Pepper’s tip: Every business needs a 5th Beatle. Someone to nurture ideas and help turn them into reality and whose judgement is respected. A coach, a mentor, a sounding board - a friend. So reach out, sometimes even the smallest piece of advice and encouragement can make all the difference.

Don’t accept limitations

The Beatles biggest challenge with Sgt Pepper was how to realise their almost limitless imagination using the severely limited studio technology of the time. It simply didn’t occur to them that they couldn’t achieve what they wanted.

Steam powered Victorian fairground organs didn’t exist in 1967, but that didn’t stop John expecting to see one delivered to Abbey Road. Merging two tracks in different keys and time signatures, a 41 piece symphony orchestra to finish ‘A Day in the Life’ - no problem if you have George Martin on hand. As a result, Sgt. Pepper took 700 hours of studio time to record. Their first album was done in just 16 hours.

Sgt. Pepper’s tip: Always push the boundaries to realise your ideas. There may be obstacles and people that say it can’t be done - but businesses with longevity rarely last by producing what everyone else is already doing - or accepting no for an answer.

And finally, is it worth buying (yet) again?

As if Macca and co haven’t already had enough of my money, I’ve now bought Sgt. Pepper for the third time - the combination of changing music formats and anniversaries being a convenient marketing opportunity of their own. And the result? It sounds like it was recorded in 2017 - yet it’s exactly the same, well almost. The bass and drums are no longer buried in the mix, the harmonies are so clear it's spine tingling.

Buy it, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

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