5 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the World Cup
Larger than the Olympics, The World Series and even The Super Bowl, once every four years the FIFA World Cup takes place putting 32 nations on stage to battle for title of “Very Best.” The entire world is put on notice for such a big event, as it captivates fans, spectators and even naysayers
Much like the teams, the games and the fans, there are lessons learned that can be applied to the life of an entrepreneur. So if you are going to watch the World Cup, especially during the workday, here are five takeaways that will make the time spent not only entertaining but good for business.
1. Talent doesn’t always win. Four years ago Spain captured their first world cup title. Folks were expecting them to do it again this World Cup. With some of the best players in the world and a large part of the rosters of highly acclaimed Real Madrid and Barcelona, people predicted Spain would make another deep run. However, they didn’t. They exited after an embarrassing loss to the Netherlands and two lackluster efforts to follow. England and Italy, two other nations with lengthy resumes made similar exits while making way for smaller less talented teams to advance.
These early exits serve as an important reminder for businesses: Talent alone doesn’t guarantee success. It takes more with things such as effort, innovation and strategy immediately coming to mind.
2. Community is a brand’s best friend. The World Cup has been good for global brands. Nike, Coca-Cola and many more have set the world on fire with innovative and compelling campaigns capitalizing on the world’s passion for the World Cup. (Snickers, anyone?) Having said that, most of the brands focused on tying their products and services to the global football (or soccer) community and not to products and services themselves.
For entrepreneurs, this is a great reminder of the importance of building community for your customers and prospects. Focusing on education, information and service rather than pure self-promotion as a way to propel brand awareness without feeling like Spam 2.0. After all, any brand that keeps me watching commercials is on to something good.
3. The underdog has a role on the big stage. While the remaining teams are all highly acclaimed soccer powerhouses, many of the 16 teams that emerged into the knock-out rounds were not the world’s best. Countries like Greece, Costa Rica and the U.S. all came out of very difficult groups to emerge ahead of teams like England, Italy, Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
In every big sporting event this happens and for business owners it shows the biggest players aren’t always the most fit to deliver the products and services that clients require. This should serve entrepreneurs as a reminder that they can provide unique value and differentiation even if they are smaller or less experienced.
4. The relevance of scarcity. We live in a world of instant connectivity. Between social media and mobile devices we can be reached around the clock. With 91 percent of people sleeping within arm’s reach of their phone, we are more connected than ever. You would think that FIFA may want to glom onto a trend like this and expand the World Cup to something like every two years. But much like the Olympics, the World Cup is kept to every four years as the build up creates greater and greater interest as the event nears.
Businesses could learn from this as well. While we never want to make our customers wait, there is something to be said about having your truly unique differentiator. Football is played year around on many great stages but only the World Cup brings the passion and commitment that we are seeing right now. For FIFA its differentator is scarcity, entrepreneurs need to think what makes them unique and memorable. Eighty percent of business owners think their products and services are truly differentiated, yet only 8 percent of customers felt the same, according to a study conducted by consulting firm Bain & Company. The World Cup has its differentiator, what is yours?
5. Strategy is the ultimate leveler of the business-playing field. If I were to suggest that Costa Rica would take the star-studded Dutch team to penalty kicks in the quarterfinals most would have never believed it. It happened, and it wasn’t by accident. Costa Rica knew they were outmanned (it wasn’t even close) but unlike those that couldn’t get the job done against the Netherlands before, Costa Rica was going to trap the eager flying Dutchman with a simple football strategy: “The Offsides Trap.” More than a dozen times, the Costa Rican defense halted the Dutch progress as the stepped up in line and won an offsides penalty.
For entrepreneurs, this small but successful plan executed by Costa Rica is a reminder of the importance of strategy. Companies with talent can go so far but businesses s with talent and a plan are the ones that go deep into competitive battles and often come out on top.
The 2014 World Cup has for just a moment brought together fans to watch the world’s largest sport compete on its largest stage. If you peek through the noise, you will see there is much to be learned from the teams, the sponsors and the events governing body that can be applied to every business, every day.