To get the ball – and your business – rolling, you need to ignore the naysayers. But in fact there are more things you can pick up from football that are key for running and growing a business.

Some say that football (or at least something similar to football) was played as early at 4,500 years ago in Egypt during festivals of fertility. Who actually started playing first is a bit of a controversial issue, since the Greeks, the Romans – and people of parts of Central America and Ancient China – all claim to be initiators of the sport.

What we do know for sure though is that mob football was a popular sport in the mid 14-th Century England. It was played between neighbouring towns and villages and the players were allowed to play as long no manslaughter took place in the game.

The players were allowed to play as long as no manslaughter took place.

But it wasn’t until the Football Association was formed in England in 1863 – the first governing body for the sport – that modern football was born. Today’s football has more than 4 billion followers and are being played by 240 million people around the world.

There are many ways to look at the most popular sport on the globe.

Whether you’re totally into football or not – there are a dozen of learnings you can apply in your everyday life as a small business owner!

1. It’s (literally) all about the team

Working on your own or in a small team – what do you prefer? When launching your first own company, it’s easy to forget that it’s not only about you.

Yes, you might be able to run your business solely. Maybe you’re a perfectionist and prefer to master everything. But keep in mind that you risk to burn yourself and never will reach beyond the startup level. When your customers increase and sales go up – forming a (functioning) team is key for growing your business.

2. Score – and set – goals

We love goals – both in football and in business. Football success starts with effective coaching in the same way as a successful business begins with some kind of planning and long-term thinking and vision.

At iZettle we meet hundreds of brave and driven small business owners every year. All of them unite at one specific point – they do have a clear and somewhat defined goal in mind. Bringing a new type of apparel to town, improve the level of delivery and customer service or maybe offer more affordable yet competitive items thanks to cuts in the supplier chain. Why do you actually start your business and what’s your ultimate goal?

3. Perform targeted training

Perhaps penalty-kicks are one of the best examples of very targeted training. The more they train, the better prepared they are for such potentially crucial future elimination processes …

Practicing on difficult tasks of running a business (such as accounting and regulatory issues) is easy to ignore, ‘cause you’re busy doing other things. Ask yourself if it’d make sense to take targeted training courses to boost your knowledge in specific areas. Most likely it’d save you time and money in the long-run.

4. Delegate roles, “3-4-2-1” …

Chelsea’s switch to 3-4-2-1 formation turned out to be a genius move – where the players were assigned perfect roles based on their individual skills. Who would have guessed that Victor Moses after three year seasons out on loan – before this Premier League season – would become a key player for Chelsea?

Many sole traders are perfectionists who like to micromanage. But building a team that you trust is key for long-term success.

Also in your small business, find the right employees for clearly defined positions. Create formations where everyone knows their responsibilities and who they’re reporting to. It will add meaning for your team members, boost productivity and make it easier to trust one another. Just like in football.

5. Learn from your victories

Did your sales go up 25% in the last quarter ? Look into your Point-of sale system  and easily analyse the reasons behind the success. What kind of new products did you introduce? Did you take on new staff? Maybe you tried a different sales technique?

By analysing the performance of your business, you’ll get a better understanding of what works – and what doesn’t work. Focus on proven strategies and methods – and make changes to improve future decisions. It’ll increase the chances of letting your business thrive for the upcoming quarters.

6. Launch your business today

Have your heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule? Basically that you need at least 10,000 hours to become a world-class pro – in anything! In short it’d (to some extent) explain the success of The Beatles, Bill Gates – and why hockey players born in January turn out to be more successful than players born in December. The Beatles, Bill Gates and the kids born in January all got significantly more training that their competitors.

Let’s apply the same philosophy on running a business, let’s say a shop. The more time you spend running a shop, the more experienced you become. So? Like thought-leaders and successful entrepreneurs, 1.) ignore the naysayers, 2.) do your thing and 3.) open your shop today.

Don’t wait! Only by getting out on the pitch – you’ll get the training needed to make you and your shop prosper!


Former football youth coach Johan Bratell never became a professional football player. Maybe because he’s born in April and not January, according to Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule.