5 Things Startups & business leaders can learn from Leicester City’s amazing title run!

Sports, they say, is an amazing teacher. Reels and reels have been dedicated to sports based films which celebrate the underdog story! Sport stars have been invited to institutes to give management lessons. Coaches have come to structure a company’s system. That is because, human excellence come out best on the sports field.

On Monday, May 2, 2016, one of the most amazing sports story reached its culmination. Leicester City, a 132 year old football team, playing in the English League won the English Premier League for the first time in the history of the club, just a year after flirting with relegation. Everyone, other than Tottenham Hotspurs football club and their supporters, were praying for this team to win! This is really a story plot worthy of an Oscar. It is also a story, which Startups and Business leaders can learn a lot from. Here are few key elements to ponder upon basis the facts of Leicester City’s fairy tale run.

NEVER GIVE UP!

In 2015 Leicester City were going down. At least everyone outside the King Power Stadium, and few inside as well, believed that. Then, they went on run which helped them jump from bottom of the table to eventually finish 14. Their form at the end of the gave them the confidence which translated in to a great run at the start of this season. Leicester City were undefeated till their 7th match. By then Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, West Ham United, Southampton, Liverpool & Chelsea had all lost at least one match. In fact, Chelsea the defending champions, had lost 3 times, which exactly is the number of matches Leicester City has lost throughout the season! The transformation of last season came from the then coach Nigel Pearson and the team’s belief that they can make it! They didn’t give up. Their belief has made them the champions today.

The most important takeaway for a startup from this dream run of Leicester City is do not give up just because things are not going your way.There is no easy way out for you. You have to work things out and fight till the tide turns. If need be, embrace a change in your strategy to achieve your goals just like Leicester City did when they removed Nigel Pearson and appointed Claudio Ranieri to emerge victorious.

FUNDING IS NOT A GAURANTEE OF SUCCESS

This is the most talked about factor of Leicester City’s triumph. This is a true cockroach vs unicorn story. £54.4 million was spent to assemble the team of champions. That is almost equal to what Manchester City paid for Kevin De Bruyne’s transfer fee of £54 million. Tottenham squad is worth £161.1 million, Arsenal sits at £251.9 million and Manchester City has a squad worth a whooping £418.8 million! Funding is not a guarantee to success! Bootstrapping can bring you success if you are willing to work hard. If you always find yourself chasing money, then you must look at your business model. Football world will also need to sit up and think about the outlandish transfer fee that the clubs are dishing out.

DON’T WRITE YOURSELF AWAY

Claudio Ranieri had just been fired as the Greece National Team Coach when he was appointed the coach of Leicester City, his 16th coaching assignment without a single league title to his name. Riyad Mahrez was playing in the second division in France before joining Leicester City. Jamie Vardy has had just one season of first division in England at the start of 2015-16 season after being released by Sheffield Wednesday. Kasper Schmeichel was let go by Manchester City. These were rejects, they can survive but they can’t achieve greatness, is what people said. But they did!

Don’t write yourself off if one investor turned you down or the first prototype didn’t turn out as great as you had believed it to be. Keep working at it if you believe in your idea. Change, adapt and move on. There will be a market for your product if you have done your research well.

RIGHT TEAM DOES MATTER A LOT

A lot of team members at Leicester City didn’t work well in other teams. Some were released and some fired. But at Leicester City, they all clicked together. That is because every team member complimented the exact requirement of club. Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante, Leonardo Ulloa, Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Coach Claudio Ranieri all served a very unique purpose. Dilly Ding Dilly Dong! A harmony so well established that the best teams in England couldn’t stop them from winning the title.

Your startup, in all likelihood, will not have the money to blow. You need to find team members who are double the value of their recruitment. Every single team member should fill in the void that is there in the company. Apart from being a drain on your cash flow, one wrong hiring decision can derail the whole machinery by creating bottle necks, weak links or simply stopping the process altogether. Make sure you spend some time in recruiting your first team members. They will either relegate you or make you the champion.

PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTH

Barcelona has Tiki Taka, Liverpool has Gegenpressing, Bayern Munich has Position Football and every big team in Europe is playing a style or trying to play a style they think they can adapt. What style do Leicester City have? None. They don’t play possession, they don’t play hard pressing, and they don’t play in the positions. In fact Leicester City rank 18th in possession. They have the lowest pass success rate. And yet they are the Champions of England. Ridiculous? Maybe. So what made Leicester City win? Their persistence of playing to their strength. They had only one way of playing because of the limitation of the squad. Direct, long balls and quick counter attack. And they did that all season. While everyone figured it out, they couldn’t counter it because Leicester City were so strong at it.

As a startup, you need to find your strength. You need to find what sets you apart from the rest. Stick to it, grow on it and become so strong that others feel threatened to enter your market. Don’t try and become another business or imitate a business model that is not yours. Find the one which is best for you and work with it.

BONUS

As a bonus, here is the 6th tip. What Leicester City taught us most importantly is to be yourself. That is what Po also taught us in Kung fu Panda. What it means is, while we can learn from Leicester City, we don’t have to be Leicester City.

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