From the pitch to the boardroom

Top business lessons you can learn from four Premier League managers

Top business lessons you can learn from four Premier League managers

Professional football managers epitomise the fast paced nature of business. This season alone, 47 managers have been sacked across the four major football leagues in England. Taking the Premier League on its own, this season has seen both rising stars and falling heroes, but with a focus on Leicester, the unexpected triumphs have been far greater.

With this in mind, the surprise successes of many teams have highlighted a number of best practices for growing businesses. Below are four managers whose lessons you can adopt in your own challenge for the managerial title.

Claudio Ranieri – Know your strengths

After a bumpy introduction to the Premier League last season, and after the dramatic exit of manager Nigel Pearson, Leicester were hot favourites for relegation as the new season approached.

However, Claudio Ranieri stepped in and saved the day. By quickly introducing counter-attacking tactics which suited Leicester’s squad, Ranieri led Leicester to the top of the Premier League, where they currently sit pretty five points ahead of the competition.

Allowing your team autonomy in how they work is an empowering message. How can you ensure your teams at their best when allowed to operate freely? Perhaps by building a culture that clearly states expected behaviours but then recognises and rewards initiative alongside teamwork? If you can find a way to give autonomy and empowerment to individuals you’ll end up with a more engaged and higher performing team.  

Quique Sánchez Flores – Create a shared ambition

With a brand new foreign manager and 15 new players, relegation seemed imminent for recently-promoted Watford. Flores however promoted one goal – mathematical safety. By rallying the team behind hitting the magic 40-point mark and staying in the top league, Watford are now only one win away from their target.

Within your business it can be powerful to unite everyone behind a common goal to drive productivity and focus. Developing a siege mentality can mean any negativity is blocked out and success ensured. This is especially true for an entrepreneur or a growing business, as this can often be the most painful stage. Focus and drive are paramount.

Manuel Pellegrini – Keep your team engaged during disruption

Pep Guardiola was recently announced as Manuel Pellegrini’s replacement at Manchester City, despite the fact that they were still very much in the race for all four competitions they were involved in.

Since the announcement, Manchester City have experienced a meltdown, winning just one game in their last six. The players have taken their foot of the gas as they await the new season and new manager.

Manchester City’s drop in form highlights the need for a business to ensure that staff are engaged and incentivised to work for the good of the business during episodes of transition. Take the Concur SMB team last year for example. I came in to replace David Vine as managing director. In order to minimise disruption, the message was announced early, plans were formed in preparation and repercussions explained to those affected. If you know major change is approaching your business, it’s crucial to ensure it doesn’t destabilise what you are building.

Guus Hiddink – Experience and stability can often save the day

By the time Jose Mourinho left Chelsea at the end of last year, they were in full blown crisis. Instead of defending their title, Chelsea were fighting the threat of relegation. So, Mourinho’s replacement was of upmost importance. Guus Hiddink was brought in, and by utilising his previous experience at the club, he managed to steady the ship and somewhat lessen the embarrassment.  

If a change of management is needed within your organisation, bringing somebody in with previous experience can ensure that there is minimal disruption. If an entirely new senior member of staff is brought in, then a familiar board of directors can also be used to promote stability in a difficult time.

If all else fails…

Take a slice of advice from Ranieri, who promised his team pizza for every clean sheet they kept, and keep tactics simple but motivating!

Dafydd Llewellyn is the MD UK SMB, Concur.

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.