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Business lessons from the AFL

Published on September 8, 2014 by in Blogs
As the AFL moves into its finals, closer to that one day in September and as a die-hard and emotionally traumatised North Melbourne supporter, I felt there must be some lessons to be learnt throughout this football season which relate to business. By the AFL I mean from watching the AFL,  particularly my team of choice – North Melbourne, not the enterprise that is the AFL itself. So, what lessons can be learnt from this game and from my club in particular?
Maintain the belief!
Belief in a sports team is often a difficult one to sustain.
You find a mix of emotions such as being  joyous during the ups, whilst remaining pessimistically confident during the downs. I’ve had the belief in my team for nearly 40 years and it is excruciatingly hard at times to maintain it when being constantly let down, especially in ‘should’ win scenarios and by something that is 100% out of my control.
In business, you must stay the journey and keep the dream alive as long as you have the belief. The belief that your product or service is one which matches the consumers needs and wants, the belief that you will win that next deal and the belief that you can overcome adverse challenges. The moment you lose that belief, commonly known as giving up, is a signal that perhaps you should.
Never give up!
If you maintain that belief, then you don’t give up. My football team has challenged the belief dozens if not hundreds of times and although I get annoyed, frustrated, upset and down right peeved off, I have never given up. Each week I am tormented when they play a pathetic quarter and look like they’re about to get slammed in a game, but then they make their infamous comeback and either get across the line or just miss out. All this does is re affirm the belief, and prove I shouldn’t give up on them.
The key in this lesson for business is in the self belief. Imagine if the team have up the moment they were behind on the scoreboard! The game would be all over very quickly, but they have a self belief that they have skills, ability and drive to bounce back and take up the challenge thrown at them. The same goes for your business. It isn’t and won’t be all smooth sailing. You will get kicked down, rejected, lose and be humiliated. It is how you respond and whether or not you give up that will determine your success. Most great entrepreneurs have failed several times before they achieve success, so if you give up after that first rejection or setback you may be missing out on a great potential success. Just hang in there!
Develop new people
In the last few weeks my team has introduced several young and new players into its list. One of them, Kane Turner is the youngest player in the AFL and still at high school and this week he played his first AFL final in front of 80,000 people at the MCG. While North Melbourne has many experienced players, they have been actively ‘blooding’ new talent even late into the season, a tactic that is working well so far as they are still alive into the finals as I write this post.
The same goes for your business, you must continue to develop your people and bring new people in to grow the talent base. You will never be there in charge, so a succession plan is crucial, and by developing people into multi tasked roles will allow for less stress should you have an unexpected loss of a key team member. Review  your current turnover rates and plan for turnover with your recruitment and invest in staff training and development.
Rest and look after the experienced
As the season came to an end, in the last game North Melbourne rested several of their key players in the lead up to the finals. The strategy here was to have them fresh coming into the first week of the finals, especially given their place in the final 8 was secure.
In your business, the same tactic is needed. You must encourage your staff to take their leave, and rest them up so that their productivity and efficiency is at maximum when at work. Some staff like to accumulate and build up their leave, but this is not only a financial burden to your business, but a negative in the productivity output. If you have several staff, develop a policy and process around leave scheduling and plan for the periods of leave so that there is minimal impact on the operation of the business.
Whilst football is a great game, regardless of your code, these strategies are relevant cross code. The same lessons can clearly be adapted to the business world by looking at how the professional sports team take the approach of running their teams as a business.
Take the time to review your business and see how you stack up against these learnings, and have a sanity check on your belief, your faith and your people to make your business awesome.
Go the Roos!
Tony Ozanne
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