It is doubtful that the Beatles would have being anything more than a popular local band if it wasn’t for the guidance of Brian Epstein. He is the only person who truly deserves the title of ‘The Fifth Beatle’. Brian managed the band from 1961 to 1967, and with his help they moved from playing lunchtime gigs at a small club in Liverpool to selling out tours across the globe.
The most popular entertainers have always needed somebody special to take care of the business side of things so they could focus on being creative – Elvis Presley had Colonel Parker and the Beatles had Brian Epstein. Managing talent can be a real challenge, though – especially when dealing with such unique personalities as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. The Beatles couldn’t have had a better manager than Epstein, and he deserves credit for creating the opportunities that allowed the band to change the world.
To date, The Beatles have sold more than 2.3 billion albums, and a further 2.8 million singles sold on iTunes. All four went on to have (to one degree or another) successful solo careers, themselves selling millions of albums over time. It’s safe to say the group is one of the most successful of all time, and without the strong business backing of Epstein, they would never have made it to where they did.
Epstein died almost half a century ago, but he continues to be an inspiration for those who are intrigued enough to research his life. Here are just some of the insights managers today could learn from his story:
Learn To Recognize Potential
“ Well, I don’t know about the dizzy height, but I always thought they were going to be pretty big.”
The story of how Brian Epstein discovered The Beatles is now the stuff of legend. In 1961, he was managing a record store owned by his family. He became intrigued by the band when customers began asking about a record by The Beatles called ‘My Bonnie’. Brian decided to go see what all the fuss was about, and he was so impressed by their performance that he asked to be their manager.
By the time Epstein saw The Beatles for the first time, they had already been performing for three years. Two of those years had been spent in Hamburg where they played for eight hours almost non-stop every night. The band sounded good together, but even they didn’t expect to achieve success beyond making enough money to survive. On that first trip to the cavern, Brain managed to see beyond their tatty clothes and sometimes unprofessional behavior onstage – he saw potential that nobody else could see.
Entrepreneurs do great things when they see something that other people miss. It isn’t so much about creating opportunities as it is recognizing them. The greatest business ideas have come about when a visionary looks at something ordinary but sees something extraordinary. Brian’s ability to see beyond the obvious is what allowed him to become so successful –it’s the same ability that allowed Steve Jobs to recognize the potential in some amateurish-looking computer boards designed by Steve Wozniak.
Understand Your Strengths And Weaknesses
The Beatles had their own unique musical style, and this set them apart from every other band on the planet. It was this that impressed Epstein when he went to see them play in the Cavern. He understood it would be a mistake for him to get too involved in musical direction of the band, so he focused on the business side of things. Epstein had always wanted to be a great artist, but he understood his own strengths and weaknesses, and he used his skills where they would do the most good.
There are lots of managers out there who are basically frustrated artists. This can mean they find it hard to leave the artistic decisions like product design to the experts on their team. If this urge to interfere is not kept in check, it prevents the professional creative people from doing their job. Epstein could have easily ruined The Beatles by trying to get them to fit in with his own ideas about music, but he trusted them to do their job. When he did feel the band needed some musical advice, he turned to experts like George Martin.
It’s Okay To Go Against The Flow
“Would The Beatles be where they are today without Epstein? Not the same as we know it, no.”
Epstein was not the typical maverick. He grew up in a reasonably wealthy family, went to a private school, was very well-mannered, and spoke with an upper-class accent. Even the Beatles would joke about him being a ‘toff’ because of his privileged background. Brian gave the impression of being conservative and a traditionalist, but he actually felt like a total outsider because of his being Jewish and gay. He felt no loyalty to the status quo, and this made him a willing accomplice in helping the Beatles change the world.
Achieving greatness often means breaking free of the rules and current way of doing things. If nobody was willing to do this, humans would still be living in trees. Going against the flow can attract criticism and plenty of negativity, and this is why the people who want to change the world need to have an inner-strength and resilience.
Be Invested In What You Do
A nine-to-five manager would not have been able to help the Beatles to achieve greatness. Brian worked tirelessly behind the scenes and was always hustling for new opportunities. He felt passionate about his role in the band, and he made its success his number one priority in life. There is a story about how one time Epstein became convinced that the plane he was on was about to crash, and he spent what he thought were his last moments on Earth writing instructions for the band – that’s real dedication.
Turning a start-up into a thriving business takes a great deal of passion. It involves long hours and complete commitment. These days, there are too many aspiring entrepreneurs who associate doing well with the four-hour work week. This expectation of running a business from the comfort of hammock on an exotic beach can mean that people don’t have the passion they need to succeed. The great entrepreneurs are willing to put in the long hours because they are doing something they love.
Don’t Despair In Success
By 1967, the Beatles were like a well-oiled machine. Epstein no longer needed to work so hard to keep them on track. He’d proven to the world that he was a brilliant manager and visionary, yet he responded to the adulation by falling into depression and turning to drugs. Epstein was happiest when he was hustling to get the Beatles noticed, but in the last few months before his death, he began to feel like he was no longer needed.
Somebody like astronaut Buzz Aldrin would likely have been able to sympathize with the feelings of Epstein – what do you do after you have achieved your greatest ambition? The answer is to redirect this passion towards something else, but for some reason Epstein seems to have been unable to do this. He continued to need the Beatles as much as they needed him in the beginning, and this probably prevented him from moving to the next big thing.
The saddest thing is that Epstein didn’t appreciate how much the band still needed him. John Lennon later admitted, “The Beatles were disintegrating slowly after Brian Epstein died; it was a slow death and it was happening.”
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