Owners of teams may differ in background or wealth but they all want to achieve success within their chosen sport. As we have become immersed in working with the senior leadership of sporting organisations all striving to be as successful as they can be, in both Europe and the US, we have noticed there are four common challenges they face irrespective of sport or country.

  1. Placing their business success in a sport context
    The majority of owners have had significant success in business that is undoubtedly impressive. It may often be created in quite a linear way, creating a product or service and applying sound business logic to help it grow. They may have even had some luck along the way which has helped them move ahead of their competitors. Setting a vision and deliverable strategy is something they totally understand but when it comes to their sports team they feel those same rules don’t apply. There are myths that need addressing. Having a vision, plan and getting a coach who can implement it is what successful teams do. The brutal reality, however, is you can get everything right and still lose. There are things that you can control and there are things that you can’t. You need to recognise that, as hard as it may be. In team sports when you get a bunch of people running around it is not a linear environment. You could argue that it is much closer to chaos theory. You spend a fortune putting together a team and they lose. What is wrong with these players? Why aren’t we winning?
  2. Recognising the difference between results and performance
    Following on from above, if this can be recognised it can stop you being hijacked by your emotions every week. The fact is, especially in a low-scoring game like football, you can be the better team and still lose. Our partner 21st Club have written in detail on this and I would recommend going to their in-depth work in this area. The knee-jerk reaction is to make changes after a poor run of results when the exact opposite may be what is required.
  3. Insulating themselves from the noise
    There is no getting away from how the media plays a part in applying pressure to teams. Their job is to create stories and interest which needs to be recognised and accepted. However, it rarely does any good to take much notice of this as it is likely claims will be exaggerated or a side will be taken and argued. The cultural norm will be that a manager should be sacked after a couple of bad results. The assumption now is that you remove the manager once results become adverse and the outside noise becomes too loud.That is a flawed way to build a sustainable winning team or culture. There are plenty of examples of short-term success across different sports that wasn’t sustained due to changing the Head Coach. No one likes losing but this is about sticking to a plan which requires courage and real leadership. The press releases clubs and owners give out when making changes are often so similar you can see they are looking at what other teams have done before.
  4. Knowing who to trust
    It is likely that the owner of a new team won’t be an expert in that sport. If that is the case, then you would go to the experts in that field. Ex-players and coaches. People will be quick to offer advice on what needs to be done. If you don’t trust the experts of the sport, who do you trust? How many of the experts though have run a club successfully before? How do you decide if the person is giving you good advice or simply trying to position themselves to better their own situation? The key here is to be able to recognise and hire good people and give them the space and confidence to do their jobs.The most successful owners have an ability to see the bigger picture and don’t abandon the cause they believe in due to some short-term pain. They are motivated and inspired by a vision of future success as well as profit. In the more linear business world, profit often equals success. Running a sports team is less linear than that and requires more than just profit to be able to grow and measure success. How do you measure success as an owner in this complex emotionally driven environment?