I am constantly searching for examples of how other businesses stay successful despite losses. Examples are everywhere, but one of my favorite examples is Southampton Football Club (Southampton FC).
Southampton FC is based (obviously) in Southampton, England and it plays in England’s top football (soccer) league, the English Premier League. Each year the club loses their best players to rival clubs with more money to spend on acquisitions. Each year they lose their head coach (manager, in England) to rival clubs.
Any business that consistently loses its best performers would be expected to slide into oblivion. Southampton FC temporarily appeared doomed to such a fate. In 2008, Southampton FC was bankrupt and demoted. They began the 2009/2010 season in the third tier of English football. (By comparison, the U.S. has two tiers of professional soccer.)
Then a group of new owners bought the club and initiated two key strategies. First, they brought financial stability with a cash infusion and a new team of experienced financial advisers to run the back office. Southampton’s problems were apparently rooted in poor financial practices.
Second, the new owners reinforced the existing corporate culture of the club. The club has a reputation for developing young talent. Their corporate culture requires everyone from the youth academy to the senior players to use the same system of training and learn the same game tactics or style of play. That may sound like a no-brainer, but an amazing number of businesses try to change their corporate culture each time they choose a new manager.
Southampton FC hires managers (coaches) that fit their system. The corporate culture is so resilient that each year the manager changes and the top players are sold but the club remains competitive. It’s called “the Southampton way”.
By the 2012/2013 season, the club had played its way back into the English Premier League and has finished in the top ten every year since. Other businesses now regularly travel to Southampton to study the club’s business model. Southampton FC’s four-year journey from loss to success is truly inspirational.
About Norma Shirk
Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.
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