Bernardo M. Villegas
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Management Lessons from World Cup (Part II)

           What else can we learn from the World Cup that can be useful to Filipino business people in attaining global competitiveness, especially in the light of the ASEAN economic integration?  Let me now turn to the experience once again of the Spanish team that was booted out from the very start after losing to Chile 2 to 1.  As I have mentioned in another article, the “Rojos” were too dependent on the star players of the Barca team that won for them two consecutive European Leagues (2008 and 2012) and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  Let me quote here an email I got from a keen observer of the Spanish league, which for many years was dominated by the team from Barcelona.  My Catalan friend Jaume opines:  “I am not very optimistic about next season (2014 to 2015) of Barca.  The ’sacred cows’ will still have an important weight in the team, as Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto’o had in the previous cycle (2004 to 2008).  The golden days of Messi are over (he was expected to shine in the 2014 World Cup but he played average, just to be charitable).  The same thing happened to Cruyff, Maradona, etc. They did not excel for more than five years.  Xavi, Pique and Iniesta do not have the enthusiasm they had years ago and this is to be expected.  Lucho or Luis Enrique, the present manager/coach, will have to fight on many fronts (sacred cows, integration of new players—e.g. Luis Suarez, Raquitic, Ter Stegen, Thomas Vermaelen, Jeremy Matthieu—media pressure, good results, changing styles, etc.).  He may be a good coach but the last word is always of the players.”

          The issue here is obviously management succession.  No football club or national team can expect to be always on the top unless the ageing players, no matter how good in the past, can be replaced by a new breed  of younger booters who can quickly adapt to the style (corporate culture) that spelled the success of their predecessors.  Barca’s success in the past had a lot to do with its “quarry”, its in-house training of kids that turned out to be the Iniestas, Xavis, Fabregases, Puyols, Valdeses, Piques, and Busquets of the golden era.  There must be a base of these “canteranos”—graduates of the famous school La Masia— to whom the expensive recruits like Neymar and Luis Suarez must be grafted.  In an analogous way, I find too many Philippine conglomerates are suffering from the same overdependence on ageing super-executives who are increasingly out of touch and unsuited to managing in a digital world.  Among the top 100 Philippine corporations many of the CEOs and senior executive are recycled retirees, shifted from one subsidiary to another.  Remember, not even the greatest players ever like Maradona and Messi could last forever.  We need more succession planning in the local business scene. Ironically, the industrial scene is threatened by the same malaise as the agricultural sector where the average age of a farmer is close to sixty years.

          Let me end by quoting from an article featured in the Entrepreneurship and Small Business online magazine.  Entitled “What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the World Cup”, the article enumerated four ways that entrepreneurs can learn from the success of the world class players that participated in the World Cup:

          1.  Be persistent.  Soccer players, especially the Germans, push themselves to run back and forth across the field for 90 minutes each game.  No matter what happens, they never give up and this persistence is what can change the outcome of the game.  The Germans, in contrast with the Argentinians, did not relax until the very last second.

          2.  It Takes a Team.  One player cannot win the game on his own; winning requires teamwork and everyone applying their strengths to strive towards the same goal.  Even the success stories that we typically view as solo-entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg and Richard Branson all had help from other people.  The great Messi was a lame duck when he did not have Di Maria to pass the ball to him in the final game.

          3.  Stay On Your Toes.  The game can change at any minute, as we saw in the US vs Portugal game when Portugal clinched a tie with about 30 seconds left in the game.  With how quickly innovation occurs (especially in this digital era), industries can change quickly and affect your business.  Too many Philippine business people don’t know what will hit them when our ASEAN neighbours from Thailand and Malaysia will be all over town competing with them within the ASEAN Economic Community.

          4.  Embrace support.  The World Cup is a great representation of the impact and power of a country’s fans.  They come together to show support, root for and encourage their team and their country.  In the same respect, a customer base is extremely important for a startup company—these are the individuals that will use and talk about your business, getting the word out and helping promote your brand.  Embrace your customers as your fans and give them opportunities to get involved and show their support.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.