Are you getting excited yet? In just a few days time the 2014 World Cup starts in Brazil. Now I know not all of you will like football. Of those that do many of you will think the England team have more chance of having to live on ordinary wages than lifting the most coveted trophy in sport. It's true that Roy Hodgson's squad is probably not the best in the competition and is not even the best England have sent to a World Cup in recent times. But like many of you, I'm really a frustrated football manager at heart, and as an entrepreneur I believe there are strong lessons that can be drawn from business management that would help our team go all the way.
First of all, like success in business winning the World Cup is all about the team, not a group of individuals. This means you can only select people who are team players even if that requires you to leave famous names out. France, who've faced team discipline challenges in the past, are a case in point. This year Manager Didier Deschamps said, "I built the best squad, I did not pick the 23 best French players".
Secondly, like most things in life preparation is almost everything. To me this means the England management must plan the build up, the player fitness regime, travel and accommodation, leisure time, interaction with WAGs, psychological preparation, scenario training and above all penalty shoot-outs to the Nth degree. Everyone needs to know what to expect and what will be expected of them throughout their time in Brazil. In the multi-million pound game of football there is no excuse for anything less. I believe it is commitment to thorough planning rather than necessarily having the greatest talent that has led Germany to success again and again.
Thirdly, like any business England will need to understand their opposition thoroughly. What are their strengths and weaknesses, where are our competitive advantages? Is x fast, nimble, slow, strong, tall, short? Can we use y to counter/beat him? Once we understand this we can plan to win.
Fourthly, once we have our game plan it needs to be communicated well. To me that means spending time in the classroom, watching match DVDs as well as preparing on the training ground. Everyone should know their role, understand their opponents and be committed to their part in reaching a clearly stated set of common goals. Again, communication of "goals and roles" is vital to business success.
Fifthly, like any business once we're in the game we will need to be flexible and adaptive as well as calm and focused on our plan. If something isn't working we will need to make a change but we'll also need calm heads and strong wills when the going gets tough. Mental preparation is vital in this respect. It's why a team psychologist is just as important as a team physiotherapist. I've often thought we should have a psychologist in the office too! A football game lasts 90 minutes so it's worth remembering we're just as likely to score in the last minute as the first. We'll need to keep going and in the words of Churchill "never, ever, ever give up".
Lastly, we need to banish fear of failure and replace it with confidence (not arrogance) in the possibility of victory. The England motto is "Pride, passion, belief". In my view the greatest of these is belief. Pressure and the fear of failure have done for us many times in the past and account for our under-performance in penalty shoot-outs in particular. That's why we need to practice our penalties again and again and again.
On top of all this advice the team needs to try to relax and enjoy themselves. Like businesses, football teams won't be successful if they are unable to have fun. So have a great time in Brazil guys, you know that your country will be cheering you on all the way. Oh and don't forget to bring back the cup. No pressure!