I’m writing this off the back of the England team’s triumphant result over Colombia in the World Cup.  The nation is jubilant, giddy with possibility, all following our first ever penalty shoot-out success, and with the phrase ‘It’s coming home’ emblazoned on almost every social media channel available. By the time you read this, we’ll either have lifted the Jules Rimet trophy or be licking our wounds, but there is a lot we can learn in business from the way England have gone about this tournament, whether you’re a football fan or not, and whether we achieve the unbelievable.

Seeing Red

The last time we won the World Cup was in 1966, beating West Germany 4-2 under the Wembley arches.  Four years later, we crashed out in the quarter finals to the same opponent.  Four years after that, in 1974, we didn’t even qualify for the World Cup Finals! Quite some fall from grace. This history lesson perhaps helps to highlight how easy it is, in any walk of life, to go from ‘hero to zero’. It’s easy, when you’ve demonstrated your skills and lapped up the platitudes, to believe that you have reached the top of your game, but there are always others below you looking to take your place, and it’s a long way down. Complacency is a killer. It takes a lot of hard work to reach the top of your profession, but the work doesn’t stop when you get there. If anything, it becomes more difficult; both to retain the standards that helped you achieved the goal in the first place, but also the responsibility of leading the way for others who look up to you and remaining on top of your game whilst under the watchful eyes of an expectant public.

Crossing the Line

In modern times, the England team have flattered to deceive. For the past 30 years, we’ve endured he serial disappointment of early exits from tournaments, despite having plenty of quality players and promising form. For me, this failure was the result of a combination of factors, including arrogance, poor management, believing the hype, media criticism and short-term planning. And the same is true in business. All of these factors can impact your ability to keep ahead of the competition and come out as the winner in your local area.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  If you’re arrogant about your standing as an instructor, there’s a good chance that your peers won’t be around to support you when you most need it.  If you don’t manage your marketing, your records, your money or your customer service properly, you’ll cause yourself all sorts of administrative headaches that take your focus off your principal job of driver training. Finally, if you believe in your own hype, you stop identifying and rectifying your own weaknesses, preventing you from progressing personally and professionally.

They Think It’s All Over

Many people in the footballing world think that our major hinderance at the business end of previous tournaments has occurred because the players have been haunted by past failures, whilst buckling under the weight of expectation. People say that experience is valuable, but what if that experience is bad?  Does it help, or does it add pressure?  I suspect it’s generally been the latter in England’s case, and that of many individuals too, because we lack the skills to place them in the learning context, and struggle to shrug off weight of failures in life and business. They should be a valuable educational and character building steps as we pass from the defence through midfield and cross into the penalty box, but too easily we let the opposition and setbacks define us, losing the battle against the negativity in our minds until we just get too tired to play.  Much of this can be challenged with a positive mind set. After all, you can’t know what success looks like if you haven’t also stared failure in the face. So, looking upon the negatives as simply a stepping stone towards the positive will help you develop, and the key is not to give up, but to establish what went wrong, weak the approach, the tactics and form another attack. That’s what happened with the England team a decade ago when, following yet another tournament failure, the FA made wholesale changes. They went back to basics and, rather than focusing on the senior team, they reviewed all age groups and implemented a single strategy of continuous development throughout the structure, from the kids to the senior team, with a unified approach across the board, implementing fresh ideas whilst recognising, embracing and learning from past mistakes. That’s the theory, and now we’re seeing the rewards for the whole even if the individual parts are perhaps not as strong.

No Substitutes

They have reinvented themselves as a team, full of hope and energy, united and fear less, because negative can be the positives that lift you up. We can all take a leaf from their book.  We can all drive our own businesses forward by taking a long, hard look at what’s happened before, fight complacency and embrace the challenges. Freshen up your brand. Smarten up your online and offline presence. Build up your skills. Raise your prices with conviction. And believe in yourself as a professional, act like one too, and be that winning goal scorer.