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10 Principles of Startup Success You Can Learn From Sir Paul McCartney

Sir Paul McCartney at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts — San Antonio, Texas — October 1, 2014 — all photography by me.

There’s a lot your startup can learn from Sir Paul McCartney…

Here’s some basic principles that I believe have long applied way before we had the personal computer, the smart phone, the tablet, the Internet — and certainly the social web as we know it today.

  1. Allow for the realities that your founding team may not last.

The Beatles as knew them — John, Paul, George and Ringo, were together from 1960 to 1970.

They lasted ten years.

While their music and cultural influences touched millions (if not billions) of us around the world over the last forty years, one can never rest on their laurels.

You have to keep shipping and expanding your body of work.

2. Listen to, and engage with your fans.

Long before the Internet and social networks, and way back when Sir Paul, was just plain old Paul and a member of The Beatles, the founding team had what I would consider to be the world’s first community manager: Freda Kelly.

There’s a documentary, Good Ol’ Freda, which I recommend getting your whole team together for an evening and watching it on Netflix.

There’s a lot you can learn from Freda.

She really was the original community manager. She even gave out her home address, since The Beatles did not have an official “home” for their fan club, and email did not exist.

3. Technology and innovation is great, but don’t stop using the basic tools that got you there.

Paul can buy any instrument in the world, or have any instrument made for him.

But no.

He still uses his iconic Hofner bass, several Martins, a couple of Gibson Les Paul’s, the Epiphone Texan, and a few cool pianos that he plays on tour.

4. Emulating someone else’s ideas and work is really OK. Just make it better and give it your own signature.

Paul and of course, The Beatles as a group, were influenced by many early American rock and roll musical artists, in particular, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, and Little Richard.

McCartney specifically was influenced by his father, who played vaudeville-themed music in their home as he grew up. Songs like “When I’m 64,” exemplifies this.

Oh.. and Steve Jobs did the same thing with the mouse and many other technologies from Xerox PARC.

From left to right (top) Wix, Abe, Paul and left to right (botton) Rusty and Brian

5. Listen.

A McCartney concert is not just Paul up there performing.

He speaks not just to, but with the crowd.

He engages.

He’ll acknowledges and calls out signs that people bring to his concerts.

And once in a while, he’ll even play a request that’s not on the set playlist from the audience.

Your narrative helps you sustain and define your startup’s mission.

6. Don’t just story-tell. Develop a sustainable narrative.

Your story may change over time, but you want to have a narrative — something purposeful that you stand for.

McCartney is about love, hope, peace, family and being healthy.

He’s also involved in side projects such as Meat Free Mondays which is aimed at raising awareness as to the benefits of being vegetarian, (even if it’s one day a week) reducing greenhouse gases, and reducing cruelty to animals.

7. Remain laser-focused.

As a creative leader, it’s easy to get side tracked, especially with random opportunities that may come your way.

Stay the course.

Allow for creativity, but when you are on stage or in front of a major pitch even or on task to close a round of financing, it’s best to remain laser-focused, and get it done.

Think global. Don’t forget The British Invasion…

8. Think global.

It’s a really big world out there.

I see this particularly with U.S. startups: they aren’t export minded.

Remember, there’s another billion people getting online in the near future, and many won’t be in the U.S.

 9. Delight. And always think about the user experience.

Opportunities arise.

Fans engage.

Without getting distracted, you can often delight — even if it’s even one customer or fan.

Paul often stops to sign autographs.

He’s even facilitated marriage proposals done randomly on stage.

10. Recruit the right team members to collaborate with you.

McCartney’s band, has been together for 12 years — longer than The Beatles were in force.

Brian Ray, Rusty Anderson, Wix Wickens and Abe Laboriel, Jr. are each accomplished musicians in their own right.

Sure, they’ve got the best gig in the world, but you still have to be methodical in who you bring into your startup.

You also have to ensure (as best as possible) that it’s a team effort focused on delivering of a wonderful product, a terrific user experience, and on-going community engagement.

All photos by me. Shot on location at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts — San Antonio, Texas. October 1, 2014

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