I was 8 years old when I fell in love with soccer. My favorites were the Brazilian and the Italian national team. The World Cup 1994 took place in the United States. Sweden, where I come from, won a historical Bronze medal but Brazil became the World Champions.
Germany is the only team in history to reach the semi-finals four times in the last four tournaments, a world record. They last won the World Cup was 24 years ago. Now Germany has defeated Brazil with a lopsided 7-1 score, one of the most shocking defeats in the World Cup history. This was Brazil’s first defeat for 12 years. The loss, at their own World Cup, is a tough pill to swallow for Brazilians, whose country is built on sporting pride. The sting of this defeat will hurt for years.
What made the Germans become a winning team all of a sudden? These are the five most important lessons that every startup should learn from the German soccer team, lessons that I have learned as well through Absolute Internship.
1. Never give up. The Germans never quit. They fight until the very last second of the match and never give up. They never quit, they fight one battle after another, one match after another. The thought of losing doesn’t even exist in their minds.
Startups go through cycles all the time. It’s a rollercoaster. If you don’t have a winning mentality, it will be very challenging for you.
2. Learn from the competition. In 1998, France became soccer world champions by beating Brazil with 2-0. Both goals were scored by Zinedine Zidane, an Algerian immigrant and one of the best soccer players in history.
Zidane was not the only French player with a foreign background. France won the World Cup with a team full of talented immigrants with a never-die attitude.
Germany fielded a multicultural team in the 2002 World Cup that included players from Poland, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Africa. They reached the final. Germany learned from the competition the value of players with a foreign background.
When Barcelona dominated the entire soccer scene with their coach Pep Guardiola, the most famous German soccer club decided to hire him. Joachim Löw, the current coach for the German soccer team, learned everything possible from the best. That clearly this is paying off for Germany reaching the final in the World Cup after beating Brazil.
Startups should keep a close eye on the competition. You learn from them.
3. Be flexible. “Move fast as a mouse otherwise you get crushed by an elephant.”
That is important wisdom I learned early in my career. Don’t stick to your original plan if it doesn’t work. The willingness to change your approach approach and business strategy is essential to any startup..
Prior to the start of the World Cup the German media called Joachim Löw “undetermined” and “lost” because he changed the playing formation of his squad countless times before picking the final 23 players who went with him to Brazil. He kept changing the tactics and adjusting the starting eleven. He moved from one formation to another during the World Cup. His approach beat Brazil with 7-1.
4. Never let go of the goal. In the German soccer federation building hangs a photo of the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro where the final match will take place next Sunday. The players, managers and staff at the federation all know exactly where they are heading and what their goal is. They kept visualizing how they would get there, and nowhere else.
Startups must stay ultra focused on where they are heading. Stay away from distractions. Follow the German way.
5. Seize all opportunities. Germany scored five goals in the first 30 minutes against Brazil. They did not stop. The scored another two in the second half and would have scored more if the match was longer than 90 minutes. For the Germans, there was no limit. There was nobody who said “that’s good enough.” They kept attacking.
Startups must be limitless and seize all opportunities. The sky is not the limit when there are footprints on the moon. Startups must stay strong against larger competitors and aim high.
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