5 Lessons the World Cup Can Teach Entreprenerurs About Business

The World Cup is more than just a sporting event; it is an international moment that comes once every four years and captivates both seasoned football fans and those foreign to the sport.

The World Cup is more than just fun and games. International soccer is big business, and as such, its biggest tournament can teach us a lot about our own businesses.

The World Cup generates billions of dollars in revenue. But what can entrepreneurs learn from an organization that has the world on edge every 4 years. Turns out tons!

1. Teamwork is everything.

The most obvious lesson the World Cup teaches us is that teamwork is everything. You could put the best player in the world against a less-skilled team and, alone, they won’t produce. However, build a team around that player and develop a strategy based on your team’s core strengths.

For businesses, recruiting talent based on your goals and developing a strategy accordingly is how you drive results. You need people with a variety of talents to accomplish needed tasks; you need the goal scorers and the support players. Dedication and skill are key, but the ability to integrate those traits into a wider team is what defines success as an organization.

2. Sometimes David beats Goliath.

Nobody would have predicted it until it happened, but reigning World Cup champion Germany failed to make it out of pool play. After suffering crucial shutout losses to Mexico and South Korea, Germany was eliminated from the tournament and sent packing. Mexico advanced to the knockout round of the tournament, while South Korea was eliminated, but Germany’s exit has dramatically changed the landscape.

Germany’s defeat at the hands of much less celebrated teams is akin to a small company or startup disrupting a legacy company. Sometimes David does beat Goliath, and the results are a rapid recalculation of opportunity by all market players. Sometimes, the disruptor survives, as is the case with Mexico, and other times it fails like South Korea. Whether you’re the disruptor or merely a bystander, watching for these opportunities and seizing them when they arise could help boost your business.

3. Marketing is important, but action is essential.

Marketing and advertising are huge components of any international sporting event, be it the World Cup or the Olympics. With so many eyes from so many places focused on the same place, companies clamor to get their message on screen in any way possible. This means advertising and broadcasting for the World Cup is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity.

But that opportunity only exists because of what is happening on the pitch. If it weren’t for the teams and the players, the spectators wouldn’t fill the seats and the ad space would be worthless. That holds an important lesson, particularly for startups, about balancing the necessity of a strong marketing campaign with the action and real value to back it up.

Look in the stands during any matchup during the World Cup. What do you see? Rabid fans and hooligans fully dedicated to their team. Every goal draws an uproar from the crowd, every win inspires pride, and every loss conjures tears. These teams have cultivated fandom throughout the years through their stories, their triumphs, and their potential.

For your business to be successful, you’ve got to do the same thing. Once you begin building a customer base, you’ve got to develop a core fandom that will not only offer repeat patronage, but also act as brand ambassadors in the wider market. Winning your customer’s loyalty is essential to developing staying power in any market. 

5. Good leadership can make the difference.

Finally, the talent on the field during the World Cup is highly visible and critical, but it’s the leadership on the sidelines that helps bring it all together. Raw talent without cohesion and direction can result in competing egos, conflicting agendas, and chaotic disarray. When directed by strong leadership with a coherent vision and a concrete plan to achieve it, that talent can be harnessed to achieve goals and win championships.

The same is true for businesses. You can assemble a great team and still fail if your company is listless or disorganized. You need to take that talent you’ve spent so much time, energy, and money recruiting and apply it to specific, measurable goals. Regular communication and feedback from leadership is key, as well as incentives and performance indicators.

If someone isn’t performing, good leaders work with them to address the problem. Leaders clearly define roles in a team and connect team members together, so that their strengths amplify one another’s and diminish their weaknesses. Finally, the best leader’s allow the players to get the recognition for on-field accomplishments, and allow the results to speak for themselves.  

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Joan Guzman