I recently participated in a discussion on LinkedIn entitled Entrepreneur Success is down to people, people, people do you agree? When I joined the discussion, a sales person was lauding the importance of sales in a business and someone with a marketing background was talking about the benefits of marketing. I mentioned how value that can be added by good finance people, whilst also saying that there needs to be a balanced approach.

In many respects an analogy can be drawn between a football team and a business team. A football team is made up of:

  • goalkeepers and defenders whose job is to prevent the other team conceding goals,
  • industrious or creative midfielders who make the product
  • strikers who use the product to score a goal

In a business context it can be looked at as:

  • finance people being goalkeepers and defenders
  • the people who provide or develop the product or service are the midfielders
  • the strikers would be sales and marketing people

(I know there are other skills in a business team but I am trying to keep this fairly brief!)

Team selection is a common discussion topic among football fans. Talk about team selection is usually about who are the best players for a particular role. The formation of the team (ie: the mix of defenders, midfielders and strikers) may also be discussed, however there is universal acceptance that a team needs a range of skills.

Attacking players are generally the most valuable when it comes to the transfer market.  However what would happen if there was a team full of strikers? Well compared to a balanced team:

  • there would be less creativity and production of goal scoring opportunities
  • the team would be more likely to concede more goals as strikers can’t defend as well as defenders
  • also the team will be more likely to get on the wrong side of the referee, as strikers (when they do defend) are more likely to make rash tackles. This would potentially result in conceding more free kicks and penalties and getting more yellow and red cards.

In short, an unbalanced team will lose more games than a balanced one!

Put in a business context, a team full of attacking players could (compared to a balanced team) potentially end up with:

  • a poorer quality product or service and having less creative ideas, making it more difficult to sell
  • more focus on selling (but less focus on selling what is most profitable), possibly lower sales prices, selling on longer credit terms and poorer cost control all of which are minuses on the bank balance.
  • a greater likelihood of falling foul of the authorities, as there may be less of an ability to comply with laws and regulations.

Likewise a team full of defensive business players would also result in:

  • a poorer quality product or service and less creative ideas , also making it more difficult to sell
  • less ability to generate sales and let’s face it without sales there is no business!

Taking the analogy further,  a manager decides on tactics for football matches, motivates the team and also takes a strategic approach in terms of selecting a squad and resting players if they are needed for future games. The manager will also be accountable to the team’s backers, the board and the fans for the league position.

In a business context:

  • the manager could be viewed as the owner or MD
  • the league position would be the bank balance
  • the backers would be the business’s funder (eg: the bank or outside investors)

Whether in a football club or a business, a lack of balance in the team leads to poor performance. In football this results in a poor league position, loss of confidence of the fans and the board and in a worst case relegation.  In a business scenario, it will result in poor cash generation and the loss of confidence of banks and investors and at worst insolvency.

Looking on the positive side a strong performance can lead to promotion! However in both a football club and a business going into a bigger league can also present challenges, particularly for a smaller team I’ll talk about that in my next blog! In the meantime, where have you seen business teams that were unbalanced? Please let me know in the comments.