Business and Football

Which type of football does your business look like?
What can businesses learn from football?

Each version of the beloved game has different rules, different playing periods, team sizes and injury levels/quantities.

The reason I use football here as a sporting metaphor is the varying stop and review periods:

Footballers have one real aim: to get the ball down the other end and into the goal/across the line more times than their opponents do. Small business owners aim to win customers more frequently than their competitors do. That way they grow their profits and meet their goals.

The use of rest periods in football as a business metaphor is to compare and contrast how often small business owners take time out from the business to look at what is going on; to work on the business instead of in the business.

Working in the business brings in the money as you deliver on each customer order. Working on the business ensures the company is heading in the right direction, is meeting its targets and everyone understands is what direction they should be pushing.

Within large businesses there are layers of management to be doing this type of work constantly; for smaller businesses this isn’t the case. There is rarely enough money to have somebody doing this, unless you consider that to be the sole purpose of the Managing Director. The problem is that even he, or she, often gets pulled in to the business; meeting customers, going to sales meetings, talking to the bank etc. So what do you do?

In my humble opinion, you monitor constantly and assess periodically. Monitoring constantly doesn’t mean looking over everyone shoulder every minute of the day. Football managers are lucky as they have the TV cameras to record everything and the statisticians to produce relevant statistics. Small business owners should identify what is important for them to assess and then ensure the necessary information is being recorded constantly.

What do I mean by this? Lets consider some examples:

  • If you are a manufacturing business, keep records of raw material costs, the time used in the manufacturing process and the rate at which stock is moving.
  • If you are a services business, record the time used to deliver on each project.
  • If you are a retailer, look at the footfall patterns, the stock levels and ensure the date codes are being watched.

Above all else, make sure you know where your sales opportunities are coming from, no matter what type of business you are.

If you look at your financial year as a football match, how often should you be assessing and communicating? Again, let’s look at the various versions of the beautiful game:

  • Mob football had few, if any, rules. I doubt there was a manager and the free for all meant that lots of people got hurt or simply buggered off because they didn’t know what was going on.
  • Sunday League teams will stand at the side of the pitch at half-time for a fag and an orange segment, listen to the manager for a couple of minutes and then slag each other for either not doing something or doing it badly.
  • Premiership teams will return to a private space (their dressing room) to receive, hopefully, constructive information about the performance and direction on how to improve in the 2nd half of the game.
  • Aussie Rules and American football break the game into quarters. This means there are more opportunities to assess and communicate so the players know what is going on and how it can be further improved (or fixed dependent upon the score at the time).

Which do you think is better for your business?

How often do you take time to assess the performance of the business and then communicate matters to your staff?

How often do you listen to them about what ideas they have that could improve the business and generate more profit?