Business Lessons from the Women’s World Cup

Last month, we discussed the business owners’ new American Dream of having time to pursue your passions and interests. This month, I am thrilled to be modeling that behavior by attending the Women’s World Cup Finals in Australia later this month. As I watch the early Women’s World Cup games, I am drawn to the parallels between being a business owner and soccer.  

Your Team is Everything

Even if you are a solopreneur or a freelancer, owning a business requires a team of people with the same vision and goal, but different skill sets. As with sports teams, you want to assess each individual’s strengths and how they contribute to the overall vision. While it may be tempting to build a team of Megan Rapinoes, to do so would lead to an unbalanced team for many reasons. The team needs the Alex Morgans, the Sophia Smiths and the supporting players. Individually, they are great, but together, they are practically unstoppable.

As a business owner, you want to follow the same strategy in building your team. You want to find people that complement your skill set, not replicate it. You want your team to ignite each other’ skills and take your company to the next level. When building your team, your key players should include an accountant to keep your numbers in line and a CPA to file your taxes. Oh, and be sure you have the proper equipment to play at the pro level, which means having solid accounting software for your business.    

How you handle losses matters

When you win it feels amazing, but when you lose, not so much. That’s a completely normal reaction, but the question is, how do you handle a loss? Do you sulk and think about how the odds were stacked against you or find excuses for the loss? In any sport, the strong teams take a step back and analyze the situation to see what lessons can be learned. Essentially, they go back to the drawing board and see what could have been done differently and what can be done differently going forward. It’s not an emotional blame game, it’s an objective exercise in finding where improvements can be made. As a business owner, reviewing your financial statements will be a primary step in identifying and overcoming your loss.

How you handle wins matters

A win is a win, right? Not always. It’s tempting to take the W and move forward but wins require analysis as well. Just like sports teams, the post-game analysis looks at how and why that particular winning strategy worked, can it be repeated, does it make sense to be repeated in future scenarios? What worked against one team may not work against another, as the new team likely has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, very similar to the ever-changing market climate in business.

Also, was the win a win because of your strategy or the lack of strategy and ability of others? Could you have done better? Specifically, I am referencing the US Women’s Soccer Team’s first game against Vietnam. The prediction was that the US would dominate with a 7-0 win over Vietnam. Instead, they managed a 3-0 win. Still a win, right? Yes, but if you caught the game, you likely saw plenty of missed opportunities for the US to score. That 7-0 win should have been attainable, but the team was misfiring much more than usual. Even though the win still moves them up in ranking, the team likely did a hard dive into what happened during that game so that they can be ready when they face tougher opponents. Are you doing the same kind analysis with your business performance or are you just taking the win? Just as you tackle a loss by reviewing your financial statements, these same financials will help you identify areas that could have performed better.

It’s a about sportsmanship

Whether you win or lose, mistakes will be made in soccer and in business. The true test is how you handle correcting the mistakes. As mentioned above, there were clearly some misfires in Game One, and while the team has likely reviewed each play, the question is how teammates respond to those that made the mistakes? In elite, high-performing teams, they support each other, not vilify each other. They work together to support each other. Does your business follow this model? Have you created a culture where mistakes can be addressed and corrected without demeaning the person who made the mistake? In both situations, the team that moves ahead is the team that supports each other through victories and defeats.

In both soccer and business, it all comes down to strategy. How you build your team, how you learn from wins and losses and most importantly, how you support the team. Personally, I will be supporting the women’s soccer teams and my business team from Sydney Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia.