5 Lessons I learned About Business from Playing Soccer

As someone who grew up playing and watching soccer, the sport has been a big part of my life. As I grew older, I started to realize that a lot of lessons I learned in the field apply to life in general and more specifically to business.

Watching the World cup the last couple of weeks has served as a reminder of a lot of these lessons and how they apply to running my company. I decided to put together my top 5 lessons I learned about business from World cup.

1- You need to build a great team to be competitive: In soccer every team member has a very specific function and everyone is expected to fulfill their role in the field. From the goalkeeper to the striker, everyone knows their place on the team and needs to perform and fulfill their role in order to win.

In business, you also need to make sure you know what your ideal team looks like to succeed and execute based on that vision. Make sure that you have clear titles, responsibilities, job descriptions, assignments and individual goals. This blueprint begins with the hiring process and continues with individual assignments, as well as specific goals. Just like the best teams in the world cup, having a team that complements each other and plays according to plan is the key to winning.

2- Strategy matters if you want to win: Having a good team is the first step in being competitive. Now you need to define a good strategy. In the World cup we see all kinds of different strategies and how teams execute their strategies; which vary from fast, explosive attack teams, to counter attack and slower more methodical, reserved approaches that rely on keeping the opponent off balance.

In business, you need to understand your strategy as well and this needs to be defined clearly from the start. Starting with your position in the market place, your target client, your approach, your unique selling proposition and how you are going to differentiate yourself from the competition. Understanding your strategy and how you will execute based on that initial plan will make the difference between moving towards your goal (no pun intended) and wasting valuable time.

3- Be flexible in your approach: One of my favorite things when watching the World cup is to see how quick some teams make adjustments. This can happen as a result of a scoreless game when teams feel they are running out of time, or it may be a result of a team being down in the scoreboard, but all teams realize at some point they need to make adjustments and be flexible on how they play the game, if they want to win.

In business, this is one of the keys to success for some companies and it is also a downfall for others. Some companies are quick to adjust to changes in their industry or new trends, while others see their business die a slow, painful death because of their rigidity. Become flexible in your approach and learn how to adapt quickly. This may sound like a contradiction from having a solid strategy but it is not, you can still have the same goals and values even if you make small adjustments on how you do things.

4- It’s all about teamwork: Several teams in the World cup have superstars in their rosters, players like Christian Ronaldo (Portugal) Lionel Messi (Argentina) Neymar da Silva (Brazil) and their contribution is sometimes questioned since the spotlight is on them most of the time, which brings me to my point: Soccer is a team sport and it is usually the best team that wins the game, regardless of the caliber of these superstars, it all comes down to how well teams play together.

In business, there’s really no difference. You have may have a superstar sales person or a marketing guru, but in order for them to succeed they need the support from the rest of the team. (Product team, finance, account management, etc..) It really comes down to execution as a team, as opposed to individual talent.

5- It’s not over until is over: Just like we have seen during this World cup, sometimes what seemed like a sure win turns out to be a defeat or vice versa. The outcome of the game can change in minutes or seconds and sometimes you see teams literally give up when the clock is almost at the 90-minute mark and lose a game. The other side of that coin is the team that keeps playing hard and scores with minutes left on the clock.

There’s no real difference in business, sometimes a company that is struggling to gain market share is acquired by a competitor or releases a new product that turns out to be a game changer or companies that were at the top of their game become complacent and end up being replaced overnight by a competitor. It is really not over until you stop trying. A small adjustment or a new idea can be the path to success. Never give up on what you want to accomplish.