Cliff Ennico
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It's sum ... sum ... summertime. Time to throw away the business books and do some brainless "beach reading."

Except when you write a small-business column, you see entrepreneurial advice in just about any book you pick up. It goes with the territory. Truth is you can get business lessons from just about anyone in any field.

So just yesterday, I finished reading the autobiography of one of the great entertainment-industry entrepreneurs of the last century — the co-founder of a successful organization that will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year after having earned billions worldwide.

His name is Keith Richards. Yep, him. The lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones, the world's most successful (and longest-lived) rock band. Most people don't think of Richards as an entrepreneur, but he deserves the title even though (let's face it) he's had a lot more fun building his empire than most entrepreneurs do.

While a very entertaining read (Richards is surprisingly articulate and remembers a lot more about "what actually happened" than you might think), Richards' life story contains some powerful lessons for entrepreneurs. For example:

You start out where the market is, then build on that. Richards says the Stones didn't set out initially to be the world's greatest rock band. Their objective was much more modest: "to be the best R&B band in London." Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s was crazy about American blues, and virtually all of the "British Invasion" bands started as blues bands. Most never evolved beyond that, but, hey, you have to start somewhere, so you go where the demand is. Then you figure out how to do it better.

It's all about being a team player. According to Richards, the only time the Stones franchise ever suffered was when one of its members thought himself "bigger than the group" and tried to put himself out front at the expense of the others. First, the late Brian Jones in the 1960s. Then, Mick Jagger in the 1980s (more about that later).

Although he was the driving force behind most of the Stones' greatest hits, Richards throughout the book acknowledges Jagger's talent, especially in coming up with lyrics, and steadfastly refuses to take credit for other band members' contributions.

You push yourself to do whatever it takes. The Stones' first manager insisted the band would have no future if it merely "covered" American R&B and rockabilly tunes. It needed original hits, but nobody in the band had written a song before.

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Cliff Ennico

Cliff Ennico's "Succeeding in Your Business" column offers straightforward small business advice and tips

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