Extra Time from Sir Alex

Well, remind me to blog about how badly Newcastle are doing more often. Clearly last week’s mention worked and they’re now level on points with Manchester United – a team teetering on the edge of a crisis according to some pundits.

What’s caused the crisis? The departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest club manager football has seen.

But this is a business blog, not a football blog. What has Sir Alex got to do with us? Simply this. With plenty of ‘Fergie time’ suddenly on his hands Sir Alex has been outlining his management philosophy – the central beliefs that helped to create a series of title winning teams at Old Trafford. I first covered this in one of my posts in February but I think it’s a subject worth returning to, especially as Sir Alex has now spelled out his philosophy in greater detail. As before, here’s the link to the article I was reading in the Guardian.

In the article Sir Alex makes eight points. Let me pick up on three of them:

• Dare to rebuild your team
• Set high standards – and hold everyone to them
• Never stop adapting

What does he mean by ‘dare to rebuild your team?’ And am I suggesting that you wander into the main office and start handing out P45’s? Far from it. “I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years and then some change is needed. So we tried to visualise the team three or four years ahead and make decisions accordingly.”

I think that’s a great point – see your key members of staff not just as they are now, but as they will be in three to five years’ time. Are they developing in the right way? Will they have the skills to deal with the challenges the growth of your business will bring? Or in your heart of hearts do you know that the only way to move to the next level is to pay the big bucks and sign the equivalent of a star striker?

The standards Ferguson set for himself were exceptional – but he held everyone else to them as well, and demanded even more from the star names. Players like Ronaldo, Beckham, Scholes and Giggs had exceptional talent – but they had to marry that with exceptional hard work, and a refusal to give in. The number of late goals scored by Manchester United under Sir Alex has become part of football’s folk-lore. “I said to them all the time. If you give in once, you’ll give in twice.”

I firmly believe in ‘late goals’ in business: the £100 you make at 5:00 on Friday afternoon buys just as many tins of beans as the £100 you make at 9:30 on Monday morning. One of my very first bosses used to say, “Do a full day’s work every day,” and the saying has stayed with me. So keep going to the end – in my experience even if a day starts off with a disaster it will turn itself round if you simply keep working and don’t give in.

The final point that Sir Alex made has exact parallels with business – and I think it is one that is especially relevant for TAB members. It’s ‘never stop adapting.’ He makes the point that when he became the manager at Old Trafford there were no agents, no foreign owners, no millionaire left backs and pitches were a sea of mud from November to February.

It’s the same in business – the internet and mobile technology has revolutionised the way most of us do business and the pace of change shows no sign of slowing down. These days, if your business isn’t constantly adapting it’s almost certainly facing an uncertain future.

Those are just three points – but as I mentioned above, all the points Sir Alex makes directly translate into a business context, especially if you’re a member of TAB. Even a manager as individual as Sir Alex Ferguson freely admits that the team that surrounded him in the dugout was every bit as important as the team he sent onto the pitch. That’s exactly what TAB is: a team of highly experienced colleagues and friends that can help you organise your goals and your business tactics – and make sure you get the very best results from your own team.


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