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How the Rolling Stones Got Rich by Following the Rules (And You Should Too)

The Rolling Stones are known as one of the most lawless bands ever. Here's how they used rules to attain success--and how to do the same.


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To people around the world, the Rolling Stones have represented freewheeling creativity and reckless abandon for decades. You might be surprised to learn, however, that they only became the (insanely wealthy) legends they are after constructing a set of rigid boundaries for themselves and sticking to them at all times.



If you’re in a business in which innovation matters, you could do worse than to examine how these rebellious rock ‘n’ roll legends found success by always following the rules.



Gimme Shelter



In 1964 Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham didn’t know what to do. While his band was getting a bit of traction, they seemed unable to break out as real stars. A big part of the problem was the Beatles. The Stones were good, but there didn’t seem to be any room left for them.

The members of the Stones were middle class boys with diverse backgrounds and tastes. They included the alumnus of the U.K.’s most prestigious business school, a stately jazz drummer, and a girl-shy guitarist with big ears. Fortunately for anyone who loves rock music, Oldham had an idea that changed everything. He gathered the bandmates together and told them from then on they would play the role of “bad boys.” Instead of trying to compete with the charming Beatles, who even grandmothers could tolerate, they would be rude, surly, and by extension, dangerous whenever they interacted with the public.



By setting narrow parameters for how the band should behave, the Stones’ manager established a framework for them that guided everything that followed. Not only did this new image launch the careers of one of the most popular music acts of all time; their focus on the worst parts of human nature yielded such classic songs as “Satisfaction,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Get Off of My Cloud,” “and Sympathy for the Devil.”



Not Fade Away



Your business most likely does a lot of things well, and your employees probably have a wide range of talents. There’s a good chance there are a thousand and one different methods that could lead to the ideas, inventions, marketing materials, and sales techniques that your company needs to take off in a big way. Unfortunately, when there are too many solutions to choose from with not enough focus, the result often becomes a muddled mess that appeals strongly to no one.


Time Is On My Side



Consider what role hasn’t yet been claimed by your competition, and then make sure that you filter everything you produce through that lens. Instead of giving your team free reign--whether they’re coming up with new features, designing your packaging, or writing a blog post-;communicate a set of rules that line up with your organizational philosophy. What you’ll find is that instead of restricting innovation, these boundaries will help your team make connections within the context of your overall purpose and message. Before you know it, your growth will have as much momentum as a pack of wild horses.

Last updated: Jan 21, 2014

MICHAEL SCHEIN | Columnist | Founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications

Michael Schein is the founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications, a digital marketing company. He has created or facilitated the production of content for companies such as eBay, LinkedIn, Avectra, Tesla, SEER Interactive, Interneer, Arise Virtual Solutions, and Citrix. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors and got his start at Spin the Bottle, the production company behind VH1 hit show Pop Up Video.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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