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The Practice Doctor is IN

The Beatles and Practice Management

by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant

Al Depman photoAs you may have heard, February, 2014, marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' legendary appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. At the time, few fans could imagine the trajectory the band would take over the next six years. That what seemed to be merely a zany pop band with a few very catchy hits would transform itself, its members and its fan base into a global and cultural phenomenon was beyond imagining.

My serious involvement with the Beatles came as they evolved into the Rubber Soul and Revolver era and I was completely converted to a hard-core fan with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. My library is filled with books on the band and their music has been a constant companion ever since whether in vinyl, cassette, CD or MP3 format.

In studying their history from the beginnings as teenagers in Liverpool through the acrimonious breakup in 1970, I have identified a few best practice management nuggets of wisdom.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his book Outliers, the "10,000 hour rule" applied to the Beatles. This rule states that to become excellent at your craft, you must spend at least 10,000 hours in dedicated practice. The Beatles spent years (1960 – 1962) in clubs throughout England and Hamburg, Germany, playing endless shifts on stage in front of crowds both hostile and friendly. This give-and-take with these diverse audiences evolved into their stage persona, each member taking on their particular role: John (the caustic one), Paul (the cute one), George (the quiet one) and Ringo (the easygoing one). Additionally, their musicianship developed with the sheer hours on stage. This is true in the instrumentation and in their vocal harmonies, both hallmarks of their best work.

In our business, reflect on how you, as a financial services professional, spent your 10,000 hours learning your profession, making mistakes, getting the proverbial bloody nose, and surviving despite the odds. Be sensitive to young advisors just starting out or transitioning from another occupation. Have patience with them and mentor the next generation. It reflects well on you!

Polish, Polish, Polish

In his book Here, There and Everywhere, Geoff Emerick, who engineered many of the Beatles albums and worked closely with producer George Martin, gives a fascinating account of how the band developed their song tracks. Paul and John began with the melody, laid down the instrumental tracks with the group, and then overdubbed vocals and other effects. Each track was a polished gem, never good enough until it sounded like what John or Paul had envisioned. No wonder their music has continued to sound fresh and innovating all these years later.

Are you still polishing your value proposition to your clients? Have your presentations become routine and cookie-cutter? Is each closing appointment, client review, and appreciation event a unique gem, the best it can be? Remember, these client encounters are your legacy.

Structure Matters

An argument can be made that the Beatles wouldn't have been the Beatles without the structure imposed on them by Brian Epstein, their first and only manager. They were talented, charismatic teenagers with lots of songs and ideas but lacked discipline. Epstein insisted they conform — he coordinated their uniform look and managed their publicity. He smoothed the rough edges (especially John's) and created an acceptability that was non-threatening to parents (as opposed to the Rolling Stones) and allowed the four personalities to shine through. Without this structure, the Beatles could have been torn apart even earlier by their strong egos.

As a practice management consultant, I'm all about structure. One of my primary endeavors is to turn your charisma into systems. Unstructured charisma can be very messy and results in high turnover and a practice that is all but unsellable. Is your practice structured enough?

Competition Hones and Forces Innovation

Many arguments have been made that the competition between John and Paul produced the genius-level quality of their songwriting. That the spark of genius was there is undeniable. Would each of their best songs been produced if they had not been together? My opinion is "no." One of their finest songs, A Day In The Life, is a collaboration that would have been two unremarkable songs apart. As John and Paul polished the song to perfection, they forced the engineer and producer to invent new sonic events such as the orchestral crescendo that connects the sections of the song and the piano chord that ends it.

Who are your friendly competitors? Do you continue to measure yourself against anyone who keeps you sharp and juices your creativity?

Challenge Your Team

As in A Day In The Life, the Beatles continually challenged each other and the recording team to make the voices in their heads become reality. Geoff Emerick notes that John wanted his vocals on Tomorrow Never Knows to sound like "The Dalai Lama singing from the top of a high mountain." Geoff experimented and delivered the resulting effect, which helped usher in the psychedelic music genre.

Are your team members being challenged to perform at their highest levels? George Harrison was challenged to write songs and eventually produced the classics Something and Here Comes the Sun. Do you challenge your peers to grow and develop?

With my Beatles neckties and mouse pad, I remain a nerdy fan. Sigh. As with anything brilliant, however, I try to derive some wisdom from the passion. I hope these lessons have made sense!

Let me know.

The Doctor is OUT

© 2014 Al Depman

Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is's Business Practice Consultant. He is the creator of "The Practice Management Assessment" tool and materials and has authored numerous articles in professional publications on practice management, and author of the book, How to Build Your Financial Advisory Business and Sell It at a Profit, available from McGraw Hill. Al combined his Liberal Arts studies with 10 years of management experience with McDonald's Corporation to enter the financial services world 25 years ago. Since then, Al has evolved from an MDRT-level sales rep into a full-time consultant specializing in helping others engineer their business practices to the next level. Contact him at

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