Business is much the same as football. As a football fan, and an art director here at Flume, I see frequent parallels.
There are times of success (unless you’re Accrington Stanley). Times of transition. Times of new systems implementation. Times of team re-shuffles. Times of player fall-outs. Inevitably too, times of failure. My task here is to briefly lay out the similarities of business and football, but with a focus on how “I” should respond to such things.
- The success of a football team relies on the collective whole.
Every team has a super-star or two. Every team is grateful for those. Ask Wales about Gareth Bale. But success comes when everyone puts in a shift. No one man can run around the pitch like a lunatic and be everywhere, all of the time. Each man – that’s 11 in total – needs to know and own their role. If you’re a defender, defend the living day-lights out of oncoming strikers. Stand tall. Protect the last line of defence – your keeper. Put in those bone-chilling tackles. Play as a second winger, by providing support to the midfield. Team players who are hesitant to get stuck-in and offer their support, are less trusted. Similarly, if the ball keeps bobbling over my foot every time a pass is played, one is less likely to include me in a move again. Trust is essential on the pitch. Do my team mates trust me? Do I always play my best? Do I want all of the glory but for minimal effort?
- What I do, impacts me personally, not only the team.
It’s great to do work that matters. If I’m going to do anything, why not do it properly, right? It is well documented that Christiano Ronaldo (now at Real Madrid) was so determined to be ‘the best’ that during his time at Manchester United, he would not only train extra hours after the rest of his team mates had long gone home, but bought a house with an indoor pool to help with after game recovery time, and also had his own personal chef to make sure what he put in was of utmost quality. No Macdees for him. Whether you love Ronaldo or not, few can argue that he and Messi are the two best players in the world right now. But, few appreciate the sacrifices he made as a spindly 18 year old. Abstaining from parties to get his optimum sleep before a big game, is not everybodies cup of tea. 3 FIFA Ballon d’Or’s later, it’s paid off. There is always a healthy balance to everything, but if I don’t invest in myself, no-one else will. Do I put in the work – even if it means after hours? The perfection of my craft benefits both me and my team. Everyone wins. Learn that software. Read a book. Practice. Let’s be real here: No team wants average players. Their tenure at any club, does not last for very long.
- Defined roles. Knowing my place.
We’ve all seen it, or experienced it first hand. When a team is well organised with just the right amount of pressure to achieve great things ie. winning a trophy/ landing that account, things are just peachy. When a team gets lazy, or a player does not know where they belong anymore, things get tricky. Have a look at the season Chelsea are having so far. From a team of winners last year with an excellent (if not annoyingly arrogant) manager, goals are now being leaked, performances are poor, and losing matches is the end result. There is a lot that can be written about how and why this is, but the number one issue from my perspective, is that if my position on the field is in doubt, I won’t perform well (Terry sitting on the bench while Ivanovic plays. Really?!) There is a huge amount of peace and security that comes from knowing that my role is valued. I will not only perform better, but I will enjoy playing more. Last year, the Arsenal full-back Bellerin, came into the side due to a player injury. He’s been so good, he’s completely cemented his place. Be that good, that the manager can’t afford to leave you out!
- Utility men are for the birds
There is a lot that can be said for ‘finding your niche’ in any industry. It’s great to have a general understanding in a few areas, but far better to really know what you do on a daily basis. Players that are used as ‘utility men’ for a need as and when it arises, never hold down a starting position. If I’m being chopped and changed from left mid to right back, with the odd stint down the middle, I won’t be able to fully adapt. My focus will be divided. This of course may simply be put down to having never perfected one position to begin with. But being utilized as a squad player only holds an allusion of value – you are never really first choice. The team’s winning, so does it matter? I get paid either way, regardless of game time, right? But why wouldn’t I want to be in the starting line-up, every game? Either I need to put in the extra hours to improve or I need to find a team that sees and values my contribution. Be the player that others want to pass too. Be the player that has a shirt number in the single digits.
- Work hard together, but form strong relationships off the pitch too.
Is it very common that when a new management stint arises, the backroom staff often make the journey with the new manager from their former club. Liverpool’s new man of the hour, Jurgen Klopp is a prime example of this, bringing in his two key lieutenants from Dortmund. A major factor in the success of a football club are the relationships. The togetherness of staff and team. We spend a lot of hours at our places of work, so it is super-healthy and necessary to laugh, have coffees together and press ‘pause’ throughout the week. Having played in a pretty good 5-a-side team for a number of years (not quite the Premiership elite I do admit), I saw how valuable it was to play with friends. I was more than happy to play that final ball for others to score. If they scored, I ‘scored’ too. But the best thing about those evenings were the times we would sit around afterwards talking about the finer points of every tackle and goal. If you’re very lucky, after work hour braai’s and trips to the pub will be a joy!
Just as on the pitch, business often involves a clash of cultures, ego’s, different work ethics, and a small dose of politics. But it can also contain amazing human beings and some giddy highs that can never be achieved as an individual. I love football. It’s an awesome game.
Written by: Martin Roberts