What your business can learn from the World Cup

Just in case you didn’t know, the 20th FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil on Thursday.

“What’s that got to do with business?” you may ask.

Well dribbling past the fact that football is big business – we think that some important business lessons can be learnt from the actual football pitch.

A friend inspired me to talk on this to you ….

Don’t underestimate truly exceptional talent.

Just ask the Argentinians about El Diego.

Football – You know Maradona is possibly the greatest player that the beautiful game has ever produced and in Mexico ‘86, where Argentina won the World Cup, he was at the peak of his powers. His incredible talent was particularly evident against England in the quarter finals when he scored ‘the goal of the century’.

Business – Don’t underestimate how far a brilliant individual can take you. Always be on the hunt for exceptional talent… this can take you a very long way. Identify this talent in your organization/team.

On the other hand teamwork is key, as the Dutch will testify.

Football – Holland have always been regarded as one the of the most aesthetically pleasing national teams producing talent such as Van Basten, Cruyff and Bergkamp (to name just a few). Yet somehow Holland have never been crowned world champions and are instead renowned for in-fighting.

Business – Having the most talented individuals does not guarantee success if the team can’t perform together under pressure. It’s imperative that your staff work effectively as a team. Build your team.

Home advantage counts… 1966!

Football – Brazil are the favourites to win this year and it’s not only thanks to the talent in their team (I think Spain and Germany are stronger); it’s because they are playing at home and so can count on fanatical support. In total, the host country has won the tournament six times.

Business – Working with local businesses and community leaders is a great way to spread the word about your enterprise, especially in the initial stages when marketing budgets can be tight. Network with your local community of clients, vendors, professionals, and friends.

Keep your cool, otherwise it can cost you.

Look at Beckham and Zidane.

Football – The World Cup has had its fair share of ugly incidents – particularly in the high pressured latter stages. David Beckham infamously earnt a red card after kicking Diego Simeone in ’98; a crucial factor in England’s loss against Argentina. But perhaps the most famous incident was in 2006 when Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi in the final, a game France went on to lose.

Business – It is important to stay calm under pressure in business. Whether its pitching to a potential client, dealing with a backlog of orders or just the general stress that can come with running your own operation. The best way to achieve results is to stay cool, calm and collected. Get organized, for this.

Be like the Brazilians; have fun and enjoy what you do.

Football – Brazil have always produced teams known for enjoying themselves, on and off the field. No doubt a factor in their record five tournament wins. In particular, the winning squad of ‘70 (Pele!!) was known for its sense of harmony, something reflected in the way they regularly dismantled teams.

Business – The culture in your business is equally important. Ensure camaraderie is promoted through work drinks, pub quizzes, team bonding days and anything else you can think of to create happiness in the office. Enjoy your work and share your joy with the team.

Don’t stick with the tried and tested formula; promote youth.

It worked for the Germans.

Football – This summer England are likely to field a relatively young team with talent such as Barkley, Sterling, Chamberlain and Sturridge tipped to play a major part in the tournament Some say this team lacks the experience to go far but you only need to look at the Germany side of four years ago to see that youth can thrive. Back in 2010 players such as Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Manuel Neuer were relative unknowns, yet they found themselves in the semi finals playing vibrant attacking football.

Business – Your business should not be afraid to promote young talent. You may be surprised by how beneficial a fresh approach can be, especially when it comes to digital marketing areas such as social media. Also, it motivates others.

Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re not 100%.

Football – The 98’ World Cup was supposed to be Ronaldo’s tournament. He was the most dominant and high profile player in the world. Surely this World Cup would cement his place as a footballing legend? Yet something strange happened before the final. Ronaldo was apparently unwell and had been suffering from panic attacks and fits (conspiracy theorists have claimed his sponsors Nike put pressure on him to play the game). No one is sure what exactly happened but one thing is for certain; he was not even close to being 100%. He played the game and was totally anonymous as France won convincingly.

Business – Don’t be afraid to take time off for rest and recuperation. You will not perform to anywhere near your maximum if you’re unwell. Take a break and come back to work better, stronger and ready to perform – learn from Ronnie who went on to lift the World Cup in 2002 after scoring twice against Germany in the final. Remember, you are not super human being!

What do you think?

What other lessons can the world of business learn from football 2014?

Let Pathfinders know your views.


Suresh Shah, M.D., Pathfinders Enterprise

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