As we continue with this series of lessons from somewhat unlikely sources I thought it would be appropriate to look at the most popular sport in the world. Football, soccer or whatever other names you choose to call it, it simply is the most popular sport by far. In addition to being popular, it is also a team sport and businesses are generally team ventures. The teams are not always orthodox but they are teams still. So what lessons can entrepreneurs glean from the pitch?

Assemble the right team

This may seem pretty obvious but it is the most important starting point. The approach to recruitment in a business should spare no expense in making sure the right team is assembled. While an abundance of talent is always great you will find that balance is the most important factor. Teams generally perform best when they perform well across all tasks. We have seen football squads with glorious attacks and yet woeful defences and that never works out well.

Continuous training and development

Week in, week out. The effect of continuous training is so important that a term match-fitness has been coined. This looks at how prepared a player is to perform in the toughest most competitive conditions. The best footballing nations invest heavily in the training and development of their personnel. Germany after bowing out of the 2006 world cup which they hosted completely scrapped the team and brought in a younger team who they focused, 8 years later this team easily won in Brazil. It’s not just about getting good recruits in the door but about what we add to our recruits once they are in the door.

Preparation is key

The desire to win is equal among competitors but the preparation is not. And this is a defining factor in many sports. Success is not created on the pitch on.matchday but rather on the training ground in the days leading up to match day. What does this have to do with business? A sale is not made at the moment the customer is in front of you, it is made in the preparation before the customer arrived. Where you ready to answer their questions? Where you ready to handle their objections and clearly explain the product? Did you enable to make the decision with ease? preparation is the key to success.

Know your people and help them do their best

One thing that fascinates me in football is how much psychology has come to the forefront. Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his book of how he chose a crop of players who could not stomach the idea of losing. This group psychology gave us memorable late win victories in what became known as Fergie-time. By having a unit that largely consisted of players who pushed until the end a team culture was fostered. Knowing your personell and their push and pull factors is important. Even less heralded is the practice of you facilitating their success. Often in business, we tend to forget that the most important thing in the organisation are employees and their desire to perform. As such, it is an employers job to facilitate employees performance rather than to extract whatever they can from employees.

Culture matters

And speaking of culture it is also an important factor to consider in teams. Extremely talented players have been let go by many clubs and countries including Mauro Icardi, Karim Benzema, Mario Balotelli and even the great Ronaldinho. Why? Because these players were deemed to upset the culture of the team and the environment. It may seem a little crazy but all the above-mentioned players who were excluded (save for the first example as it is a current situation) went on to watch their former teams win major trophies. Yes getting one person off the bus surely wasn’t the critical success factor but rather the culture of continuously choosing the team over individuals. It is important to consider the culture in the workplace and harmony. I once worked for a small business that had half the organisation comprised of students on attachment. Decisions made in the organisation had to be sensitive to the younger minds present else risk rocking the boat.