The parallels between football and business - building a successful team

By John Whitehead

Published on 19-03-2014

The parallels between football and business

With the Football season kicking off last weekend I found myself thinking about the similarities between football and business.

Pulling a successful team together in business is a much like building a successful football club.  When the great Sir Alex Ferguson took over the reins at Manchester United in 1986, little did everyone know that he would go on to be one of sport’s greatest all time managers.

You could argue that Manchester United never had a team of champions, rather Sir Alex built a champion team.  Sure, there were always the big stars such as David Beckham and Ronaldo. But his team was built on a foundation of hard workers and players prepared to play a role and put the greater good of the team first.  Anyone who wasn’t prepared to adhere to this code found themselves sold to other clubs, often at immense value.  Perhaps another indication of Sir Alex’s business nous, knowing when to sell.

In our own football mad culture in Australia, coaches are put under huge pressure to deliver successful outcomes, much like managers in the business world.  What do they do to achieve their objectives?  How do they do it?

A manager’s success, like an AFL coach, will hinge on being able to pull a successful list together and get those people working together as a team.

Draft for talent and trade for need.  Hire for talent, recruit for need.

Too often managers look to hire people who come from a similar role, often being drawn to candidates from competitors.  This is a strategy that can work; you get to draw on some great intellectual property and insider knowledge.  But are you getting the best candidate?

Some of the most successful placements we have made over the years have been when companies look to a candidate’s core transferable skill set, what they have achieved and the cultural fit.  Industry and product knowledge can be taught.  Work ethic, creativity and motivation are traits that can be cultivated and harnessed to create the winning team.

What criteria do you use to create a winning team?