What Business Lessons Football Can Teach You

21 October 2015

Whichever club you support in the Premier League, there can be no debate that Arsene Wenger has been one of the most successful and revolutionary managers in EPL history. With his philosophy of beautiful, attacking football, fostering young players, as well as a strict hold of the clubs finances being the hallmarks of his managerial style. It is not hard to believe that amongst Wenger’s experience in football management, he is an accomplished student of economics, having achieved a Masters of Economics from Strasbourg University. Because of this link, it is not too hard to argue that many aspects of his managerial style and philosophy are transferable to a business setting. There are a number of lessons that business owners can take from this man, who is not only one of the world’s greatest football managers, but also one of the great business mentors of recent history.

1. Hire potential

“We do not buy superstars. We make them.” One of the major recurring themes of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal is that he does not rely on big-money transfers, but rather spotting and obtaining youngsters with potential. This is a lesson that business owners can definitely take on board, in terms of their hiring policy. Rather than hiring someone who has the most experience, place a higher emphasis on people who you can train and mould, and someone who you can see grow with your business. Combine this attitude with a killer recruitment process, you are set to fill your team with not-only well-trained superstars, but incredibly loyal ones as well.

2. Know your budget

“My target is to make the players as rich as possible within the financial constraints of the club. My target is not to give them less money. I’m happy to make them rich. A big factor of Wenger’s success at Arsenal has been his tight control of the club’s finances. Wenger has helped Arsenal Football Club through the financial rigours of moving into a new stadium, while still keeping the club competitive at the highest level. For any business to be successful, it is extremely important to know what your accounts mean, and to keep a keen eye on all your finances. Spend well and spend wisely.

3. You need to stand out

The biggest things in life have been achieved by people who, at the start, we would have judged crazy. This is the lesson that is most transferrable to the business world. To compete – and succeed – you need to stand out from the crowd, especially your competitors. In football, as in business, if you do what everyone else does, the best you can hope for is to be average, and the worst possibility is to be completely ignored. In a world where we have had more choice than ever, you need to give people a reason to choose you.

4. Believe in your business

If you do not believe you can do it then you have no chance at all. This is the most vital lesson that Arsene Wenger can pass onto any business owner. Wenger is really clear on his identity. He believes in his team, in his philosophy, and his process to succeed, because if he did not, he might as well just give up, especially when competing in the top flight of European football. As a business owner, you need to believe that your business will succeed otherwise why are you doing this?

5. Take a break

“Any man who concentrates his energies totally on one passion is, by definition, someone who hurts the people close to him.”

Wenger is a true student of football, and that is where his passion lies, but he realises that if that was his sole focus, he would burn out and neglect those around him.

As a business owner, it can be easy for you to focus all of your time and energy on your business and prioritise it above everything else in your life. This is a very shortsighted strategy and while it may seem like it would mean success for your business, it would be detrimental in the long-term. Not only will those who you care about feel uncared for and neglected, but you will also eventually run out of energy.

You need to work hard – no one can deny that – but you need to know when to take a break and take a step back from your business as well. Obsession in any form is unhealthy and it will only lead to a break down of personal relationships, as well as the eventual downfall of your business.

It is not hard to understand why Arsene Wenger is commonly referred to as “Le Professeur”, as his footballing knowledge is only second to his business acumen. Even if you are not a big football fan, there are lessons to be learned from this managerial master in helping run a better business.

Now, one final lesson from a football player turned economics student, turned football manager, and now a business consultant: “Nobody has enough talent to live on talent alone. Even when you have talent, a life without work goes nowhere.”

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