Business Lessons From The Beautiful Game!

Believe it or not; I have great admiration for sports managers, particularly those who manage elite clubs; whether it is soccer, American football, basketball, or just about any sport played at the highest level.

Let me share with you some of my (BUSINESS) reasons:

1. Fans are important:
If you lose the support of the fans, you are out of a job!
(It is the same with customers in a business.)

2. Competition:
Top managers compete, according to the rules of the game. If you play soccer, you do not expect to win, using your hands, or try to cut a deal with the football authorities that apply only to your team….that is called cheating!
(Using political influence to impede your competitors, or make life difficult for them, is not business.)

3. Respect your competitors:
The sport is at its most exciting when the best teams are pitted against each other. The manager enjoys the competition and the players enjoy the competition. If you hate competition, or believe it should be impeded to give you an advantage, then you are not a sportsman.
(A good business person, enjoys competition, and shows respect towards competitors. Never hate or disdain those with whom you compete.)

4. Strategy and tactics:
The best managers are known for their brilliance in both strategy and tactics. A good manager knows that he can beat a superior team, using effective strategy, and tactics… This is business 2.0!

5. Organizational efficiency:
Good managers understand the importance of an effective organization of their team. A game can be won or lost, if your team has the wrong shape, or field formation; even if you have the best players. The players must play as a unit, and play for each other, on the pitch.
(Remember my posts on how to build an effective organization.)

6. Effective use of information:
Good managers have a lot of information on their own team, and also on the competitors. Today’s manager uses statistical data, showing them the performance of each player on the field.
(A good manager uses proper data, and not here-say, about what is going on, in their business, their competitor, and the market…. Be scientific and professional when assessing performance of your business.)

7. Last season is last season:
Nothing more to add here!
(Stop living on past glory!!!)

8. You must continuously invest in players, and also in coaching.
(Your business is only as good as your ability to attract stars onto your team…Every season…So who was the last star you recruited?
….What was the last training program you did?)

9. Experience is very important, but don’t make a virtue of it. You cannot have a 50 year old on the pitch!

10. Performance on the pitch is all that matters.
(There is no place for philosophers in the dressing room, or the boardroom.)

11. Profitability:
A manager who does not understand how money is made in football, will destroy the team.

12. Succession:
“This too applies in business”.
A good manager always has a program to recruit and develop young talent. Some of the top clubs in the world recruit their stars, when they are as young as 9 years old.

13. Training:
The best managers are also great coaches.

14. Handling a loss:
To win is important, but also to handle a defeat, and pick up your team after a defeat, is very important. Do it quickly, and prepare for the next game.

15.Discipline: nothing to add here!
Once you are on the pitch, you do not want your players trying to do their own thing!
(Even in business.)

16. Innovate or die:
Nothing to add.

17. There are no prizes for second place…. Particularly in business!

18. Don’t glorify mediocrity:
When you lose a game you have lost.
(If your business is not doing well, its not doing well. Don’t pretend it is, because the only person you are fooling is yourself.)

19. Passion, passion, passion….

20. Failure is called relegation:
(In business we call it bankruptcy.)

21. Communicate effectively:
On and off the pitch, continuously.
(This too applies to business.)

How like business, is the beautiful game!
Let’s play the beautiful game, next year.

Happy New Year!

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About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

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