IN MY VIEW: 5 lessons a start-up can learn from the German National Football Team


The day was June 29, 1998, the place was Lyon, France, and I was just an 11 year old boy watching Germany playing Croatia in the World Cup. It was the first year I showed interest in football, and I instantly fell in love with the Mannschaft (the German football team).

To be honest, I was not a big fan of the skills the German players showed, nor of their techniques, but I was a huge fan of their fighting spirit, and of how they ran across the field from the first minute till the final whistle.

On that sad day, Germany lost 3-0 against Croatia in a very dramatic match. Nobody expected that, and I remember crying like a spoiled kid who did not get his dessert.

4 years later, Germany reached the finale against Brasil, and lost 2-0. Another 4 years after that, they reached the semi final and lost 2-0 against Italy. Another 4 years, and they lost 1-0 against Spain. And 16 years later, they crushed Brazil (the hosting country) 7-1 in the semi final (They reached the semi finals 4 times in the last 4 tournaments, a world record).

Plenty of lessons are there for us to learn from the Germans. Here are 5 lessons for startups to learn from the Mannschaft.

1) Determination.

They never quit, they fight one battle after another, one match after another, and they never throw in the towel. Startups go through roller coasters all the time, if they are not in it to win it, then they should not even bother to book domains for their sites.

2) Learning from the competition.

In 1998, France won the World Cup against Brazil through 2 headers by Zinedine Zidane, an Algerian immigrant who joined the Gallic roosters at an early age. Zidane was not the only player in the French team who was a foreigner. France won through a team of immigrants that had the talent, the attitude, and what is most important, a healthy integration.

In 2002, Germany had a multicultural team that consisted of players who had Polish, Spanish, Italian, and African roots, among others.

Having a bocquet of multi-ethnic players was not the only thing Germany learnt from the competition. When tiki-taka proved itself as a winning style of football, Bayern Munich hired one of the scholars of this modern technique, Barcelona's ex-manager Pep Guardiola. This move gave Joachim Löw (National Team manager) a front seat view to learn all the tricks of tiki-taka. It is evident that Joachim has put into practice what he learned from Pep at the World Cup, and it is paying off.

Startups should keep a close eye on the competition, both local and global, and seek to learn from their successes.

3) Flexibility.

"Release fast, release often, and iterate"; these golden words describe the best approach toward releasing a new product in any startup. Changing the formulas, and business tactics is viable for any startup to survive. Don't stick to your original plan, if it does not work, you need to be quick and flexible enough to alter your moves.

Joachim Löw experimented with his squad many times before he picked his 23 man squad for Brazil. He did not stop there, he changed the tactics, altered the players, and moved from one formation to another during the tournament until he found a winning formula.

That formula was there to be seen in the 7-1 demolition of Brazil.

4) Keeping all eyes on the goal.

If you get the chance to walk into the German Football Federation building, you will find a picture of the famous Maracana stadium in Rio De Janeiro, where the World Cup Final will be hosted.

Everyone in the German football team, the players, the managers, even the physicians kept an eye on where they are going, what their goal is, and visualise how to get to that stadium on July 13th 2014.

Startups should display their aims on a wall for every employee to see and as a reminder of the cause they are working towards. There is no room for distractions where winners come from.

5) Seize all opportunities, score all goals, be limitless.

The Mannschaft scored 5 goals in the first half an hour of semi-final against Brazil, but they did not stop there. They scored another two in the second half, and could well have scored more. They were ruthless and put the Brazillians to the sword. They kept going and going.

Startups should be limitless, fearless, they must believe that they are good enough, strong enough, and that there are no limits to their success. Startups must stand tall against a competing business, no matter the size of that, and strive to be bigger and better than all of their compeititors.

It was a long journey for the Germans from 1998 till 2014, but they are now closer to the prize than they have been through determination and persistence.

By Morad Jarrah

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