When Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought Leicester City football club in 2010, they were playing in the football league championship. Everybody thought it will be just like another big billion purchase where the owners will try to change the managers more frequently like changing their luxury cars. But it proved to be wrong and that was just a starting of a fairytale story of how to build a champion club.
Leicester city won the premier league against all odds. Even the hardest fan of foxes won’t have dreamt of their team being the champions this season. Last season they were fighting to avoid relegation and won seven successive matches to stay in the top flight. This season they are on top of the table defeating the biggest & richest clubs of England on the way to success.
Source: Premier League
As Leicester city wakes up to life of newly crowned champions of english top flight football, what can startups learn from this amazing story. We can make out a strong correlation between Leicester’s success and life at a startup. 9 out of 10 startups fail. This is same with football clubs. Startups have about as big a chance to succeed in the market as does a championship football club with little to no budget has to win the premier league.
1) Spend within your budget and find your right team!
Startups often have to spend within their budget and spend wisely as well. It’s about finding the right talent and nurturing them to suit your culture. Leicester are the one of those teams which entered the market with limited budget. They spend only $37M in the transfer market as compared to Manchester City who spent $220M. The total value of the squad is around $70M when compared to Chelsea’s $557M.
When they found their perfect manager in Claudio Ranieri, he did not change things drastically. He followed the footsteps of the former manager Nigel Pearson who helped to build the foundation of their current squad. Either you can spend like Manchester City or Real Madrid and can hire people who are already proved and worked for successful companies. But can they repeat those success in your company? Do they have that hunger still in them?
We have seen players like Fernando Torres for whom Chelsea spend around $45M and was a failure. But if we see Leicester’s scouting talent and team selection. Their squad did not have any expensive player, but they build a team of energetic, hard-working players who were fearless and had the hunger to win. Fearless, Forever as their fans chant. They build a team around Vardy, Mahrez, Kante, Morgan who are always striving for success. In fact Leicester is the team whose players started more often than others. They used fewer players than others in the premier league.
Spend your effort and money on finding the right talent and nurture them to succeed. If you can fine tune and get the best of out of your own talent, it is the most inexpensive route to build your business.
Source: BBC (Leicester City is third from the bottom)
2) The Team Culture
Everyone from the background staff to the owner to the manager to the player has contributed to the success of Leicester City.
“Claudio comes in and says hello. He brings back chocolates from Italy. So does Gokhan [Inler]. He brings back that Lindt stuff from Switzerland and it’s beautiful.” Source: Telegraph
Everybody is a part of the team. They won the league as a team. Not as individuals. When the new manager was unveiled last year, he did not expect a miracle like this. In almost all the press conferences, Ranieri focused on reaching 40 points which means his first target was to stay in the league. But he nurtured a culture of team bonding and has never walked away from the club culture.
He kept the core team of his players and background staff and built a strong bonding between them. This ensured that the hunger for success is same as the last year and he could continue the winning momentum from the last seven matches of last year to this year.
Startups need to build a culture of their own and follow those principles. Show them by example and invest your time & energy in building your team culture. This will encourage everyone in your company to walk that extra mile to success.
3) Know your Strength and Weakness
Ranieri knows his team’s strength and weakness very well. He utilized his weakness very well to convert it to their strength. Leicester has one of the least ball possession record in the premier league this season. They don’t play a possession football like Chelsea. They believed more in counter attacks and used their player’s speed very effectively. Players like Vardy, Mahrez was found to be effective for this system rather than a possession based football. Even though they lacked technique, they very well utilized their speed, energy and defensive skills.
Not big and strong enough to control the competitor? Moving fast and break things? Sounds familiar? Startups too can’t expect to dominate the market from the get-go. They have to keep things simple, leveraging the small size of their team that allows for easy communication and team work. They may not have the size of the team or the experience of the players that allow for nitty-gritty detailed “possession game”, but they can move fast. As for Leicester City, speed is the only way with which they can beat the big guys. [source: Medium]
4) Set your goals and work towards it
When the league kicked off in August, Ranieri never talked about being league champions. He pointed the importance of reaching 40 points and staying in the league as his priorities. But by the time his team reached top half, he next aimed for a spot in Europe and finishing in top 6. Once achieved, he set his goals on finishing top 4 and with a handful of games left, he was not at all worried about finishing second or first.
To have a proper vision and incremental goal achievement will motivate the entire team and success of your startup. There were many founders who were concentrating on developing two products at a time. But rather build your first product, grow with your first one and once it is stabilized, you can concentrate on your second one. Every startup should set their short-term and long-term goal sheets. This will help you to achieve more and motivate you to progress more steadily.
5) A leader with a vision
When Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha took over Leicester, he had a dream of making them league champions one day. That came true now. After seven years of continuous hard work and dedication from his players, manager as well as the staff. He kept faith in all his managers, whether it’s Nigel Pearson or Claudio Ranieri. At a time where premier league clubs are flipping their managers very often, Vichai kept his faith in Pearson and he managed the club for four full seasons.
Every startup founder should lead by example. Don’t go beyond funding rather enjoy the benefits of bootstrapped business. If you can articulate your vision to your team, everyone can work toward the same goal rather than spending time to solve the disparities.
You have to make sure that the face of the organisation, its core offering and the team behind delivering this is on the same page. Motivate your employees by rewarding them on big occasions and spending time with them.
Leicester City chairman gave every Foxes player a brand new £32,000 Mercedes as a gift. Even though most of the players have luxury cars, this may be some perk to motivate them to work hard.
6) Wait for the right time and opportunity
Leicester were lucky enough to have a season where all the big four failed miserably. Holders Chelsea are placed ninth, while arsenal and city are inconsistent and losing matches. United is still struggling to find their right combination, that paved way for success to small clubs like Leicester, West Ham.
When biggies failed, Leicester grabbed the opportunity through discipline, hard work and their style of play. Every other team tried hard to keep their players fit enough, Leicester had the advantage of keeping their starting eleven in tact and use them for all the big matches. Ranieri even played with their second string of players for FA cup tie so that he can use the advantage of a stronger team for premier league matches.
Keep your eye and ear open. The markets change rapidly like league table. You have to be patient enough to grab the right opportunity at the right time. This will give you advantage over your competitors.
7) What Next?
When the dust and heads clear over Leicester’s success, the next big question is What next. The new season begins in another two months, all the big and small clubs will reinforce their squad with new players. Ranieri and his team will have to start again. With success, comes expectations to improve further. Neither Ranieri nor his team can be complacent. As all business, the shareholders, fans, management and the media will expect more next year. Remember there is little tolerance for dip in performance.
Even in startups, we have seen media talking about performance dip. Once you exceeds your expectations, you are under constant threat to achieve more.
Whether Leicester city become champions next season or not, these lessons can teach any business or person on how to succeed with your limited budget and within constraints. Building a successful sports team is as difficult as building a team for startup.
Post your comments below if I have missed out any other points. Appreciate your share and like for this post.