Start-up lessons from the FIFA World Cups

When you build a company, focus on building a world class team. It is only when you create a team of highly competent, committed and enthusiastic professionals that your start-up can really deliver results over the years.

June 18, 2018 12:19 IST | India Infoline News Service
The FIFA fever is on and Russia has already stamped the home team advantage with an emphatic win over Saudi Arabia. FIFA is not just a game but it is a global emotion. In 2014, nearly 1/4th of the world population watched the FIFA matches. That is likely to get bettered in 2018. With so much popularity, there is obviously something in it for everyone. Here is what start-ups and entrepreneurs can learn from the FIFA World Cups of the past.

It looks highly impossible until it is done
When France hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1998, Brazil was still the fancied team to win the Cup. After all, Brazil had come with four victories under their belt and they were the reigning champs having beaten Italy in the 1994 FIFA finals. France, on the other hand, was a first-time finalist in 1998 and had actually failed to qualify in 1990 and 1994. While Zidane was undoubtedly world class, nobody gave France a chance against Ronaldo’s machine. That was when Zidane decided to tighten their defence in the finals and attacked Brazil via corners. The result was emphatic 3-0 victory in favour of France. The same is the story for start-ups. When you add up the numbers logically, it often appears to be impossible. It is then up to the conviction of the entrepreneur and the team to carry them through. Keep believing!
Winners are those who improve a bit each day
Italy hardly looked like a world-beating side in 2006. What set them apart was their ability to consistently improve their game with every match which helped them to beat Germany and France on their way to the World Cup. Even if you leave the Zidane head butt in the finals, it was a story of a constantly improving Italy that worked. Start-ups have a frustrating journey. The method appears to be right, customers are interested but it is just not translating into revenues. What does the entrepreneur focus on? Just keep improving yourself that little bit each week, each day and each hour. Like in the case of Italy, success is bound to follow.
When nothing goes right, think out of the box
When Germany clashed against Argentina in the 1990 finals, the focus was entirely on Diego Maradona. Germany realized that if they had to win the game, they had to target Maradona’s game. Germany took the risk of setting aside 2-3 players at any point of time to just mark and lock up Maradona. Without the genius of Maradona, Argentina was literally fettered. It was hardly surprising that Germany ended up winning the 1990 FIFA Cup. What does a start-up do when nothing appears to go their way? Just take that risk! Of course, let it be a calculated risk. Innovative thinking is the key.
Great captains lead from the back
Franz Beckenbauer of Germany has a unique distinction. He led Germany to victory as captain in 1974 and as team manager in 1990. The unique feature of Franz Beckenbauer was his ability to take tough decisions off the field and then let each player do the job on the field. In the 1974 final, it worked to perfection as Germany beat Netherlands, led by the legendary Johann Cryuff, by 2 goals to 1. This is an important lesson for start-ups. In many cases, the leader or the entrepreneur becomes central to the entire game and actually makes others perform below par. The lesson from the likes of Franz Beckenbauer is to set the proper framework and then lead from the back rather than the front.
Past is history; just get over it
When Diego Maradona scored that famous “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 semi-finals, there was no doubt that Maradona knew about it. Normally, such an occurrence is likely to impact the game. Not for Maradona. He just took it in his stride and not only won the game against England but also a hard fought final against Germany. That is a challenge many start-ups face. You make mistakes along the way and are unable to move on. The key thing for start-ups is that mistakes are part of your journey. You need to just learn from it and move on. Do not let past experiences either condition or influence your future actions.
Invest in building a great team
One of the best examples of building a top class team is that of Spain post the 2006 World Cup. Spain focused on excelling in virtually every area, including the forwards, midfield and the defence. Casillas was one of the most formidable goalkeepers. The result was that Spain lifted the UEFA Cup in 2008, FIFA Cup in 2010 and again the UEFA Cup in 2012. That was absolute dominance for a stretch on the back of a solid team. The rule applies to start-ups too. When you build a company, focus on building a world class team. It is only when you create a team of highly competent, committed and enthusiastic professionals that your start-up can really deliver results over the years.

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