HR · 22 August 2017

Five football business lessons for owners at the start of the season

Chelsea
Will Chelsea FC retain their 2016/17 Premier League title?

Are there any football business lessons to be learned from the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City – the country’s top football teams – this year? Chief accountant at FreeAgent, Emily Coltman, takes a closer look at the new season’s football business lessons.

The new football season is upon us, which means the cream of the world’s footballing talent will be competing for Premier League supremacy once more over the next nine months.

Even if you’re not excited at the prospect of a year of goalless draws and lukewarm half-time pies, are there any business lessons you can learn from the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City this year? Here are five football business lessons owners can take away as the new season kicks off.

Good teamwork is vital

A group of flashy individuals can be great for producing a few moments of brilliance that will make the highlights on Match of the Day. But unless they get together and work as a cohesive team, they’re unlikely to succeed in the long-run.

In the Premier League, it’s not always the richest teams that emerge victorious. Just look at Leicester City, who beat the odds to become champions in 2015/16 thanks to their strong team ethic and dogged determination.

Likewise, in business, it’s usually committed teams of employees who work well together who succeed. And if you’re in business on your own, your team will be the suppliers you rely on, such as your printer and your accountant, so making sure you’re working well together and all on the same page can give you the edge you need.

When hiring staff, see the bigger picture

For every successful football transfer, there’s always another that proves disastrous. Take world class players like Diego Forlán or Andriy Shevchenko, who struggled to replicate their stellar goal scoring exploits when they moved to England in big money deals.

As a business owner, it might be tempting to go for the candidate that looks best on paper when you’re hiring your staff, but make sure you delve a little deeper than just their CV headlines.

For example, when you interview them, try to find out if they share your own (and your business’s) interests and values. If you already have other staff, look at whether their personality will mix well with their new colleagues – or if it could cause any potential tension.

Don’t forget to look for other skills that could be an asset for your business. An eloquent footballer who can talk to the media, and whose status will help sell more replica shirts abroad, is potentially more valuable than someone who merely possesses skills on the pitch – so long as they can also play well. Could one of your candidates offer you something similarly beneficial?

Play the long game

At the start of every football season, there’s always an immediate surge of adrenaline as clubs battle it out to become the early pace-setters. But the Premier League isn’t a sprint – it’s a 38-game slog where the key to victory is sustained success on the pitch.

It’s the same in business. An impulsive business decision or idea that you make on a whim might be great for short-term success, but it’s unlikely to be the basis for your business’s longevity.

You need to make a long-term business plan, review it on at least a yearly basis, and make sure not to get too distracted away from your core objectives as you follow it.

Don’t be afraid to change tactics

It’s not uncommon to see a team that looks depleted and beaten one minute suddenly surge back and seize the initiative. And more often than not, this change in fortune is due to an inspired substitution, or some other tactical change by the manager.

Similarly, in business, if you aren’t getting the results you were expecting, is there something else you could do to change your fortunes? Perhaps there’s a new group of potential customers you’ve overlooked, or a minor tweak that you could make to your product in order to make it irresistible.

Or maybe there’s an opportunity to completely pivot your business which you haven’t spotted yourself, and which you need someone with expertise to highlight. Business ownership is all about analysing your options, listening to advice and making difficult decisions.

Pay all taxes!

Numerous football clubs (and players) have fallen foul of the taxman by failing to pay the correct amount of tax that they owe. And in some extreme cases, this has led to hefty fines, clubs falling into administration and some even going out of business altogether.

It may seem obvious, but it’s vital to know exactly how much tax you owe HMRC, and to make sure you pay it on time. When you’re running a business, tax can be incredibly complicated and it’s surprisingly easy to make a muddle of things when it comes to things like calculating VAT and national insurance, or working out which business expenses you can claim tax relief on.

To stay on the right side of the taxman, make sure you have a robust bookkeeping system in place and stay on top of your figures. Technology like cloud accounting software can help you easily manage your finances and forecast your tax liabilities but, if you’re still unsure about anything, you can also ask a professional accountant for guidance.

Emily Coltman FCA is chief accountant to FreeAgent, which makes award-winning cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro-businesses and their accountants.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Emily Coltman is chief accountant to FreeAgent, provider of cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro businesses and accountants. She is passionate about helping the owners of small and growing businesses to escape their “fear of the numbers” and she translates small business finance and tax into practical common sense speak.

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