Business Lessons I Learned From a Leading Sporting Club – Part 1


Business Lessons I Learned From a Leading Sporting Club – Part 1

For those of you who don’t follow the sport of AFL /Aussies Rules.  AFL supporters (like many who follow any sport) very proudly wear their scarves and their hearts on their sleeve.   Every club has long standing rivalry (some may say passionate hatred) between different clubs e.g. Hawthorn and Geelong which can be based on geography (the 2 WA teams), historical win/loss ratios, personalities and on field ‘incidents’.

Ask any parochial AFL supporter and member if they follow the trials, tribulations and successes of another Club, and the answer is usually, “Why would I?” or “just to see who’s out injured when they’re playing us”.

And yet, we know the great lessons can be learnt from looking at those who are doing things differently and making amazing inroads through the power of leadership.   Tamara Simon aka The BSi and avid Hawthorn AFL Member takes an insight look at lessons from the Carlton Football Club to help small business owners get back on track.

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For those who don’t follow the sport, the Carlton Football Club had been floundering for at least the last 5 years.  They have continuously been near or on the bottom of the ladder, had skillful players who looked good on paper but couldn’t translate that to consistent on game performances, traded players who they felt weren’t up to scratch and yet are now flourishing at other clubs, and had players disengage and ask to be traded because they know longer believed or felt part of the Club.

And isn’t this a place many business owners find themselves at least once in their business journey?

Then a change comes into the Club with the appointment in late September of new senior coach, Brendan Bolton, and what a difference he has made in such a short span of time.  A qualified school teacher and natural leader, he set about resetting not only the structure and system of how the Carlton Football Club played on the field; but he came in with a clear strategy to reset the whole football club.  This Reset has been captured in 2 x 30 minute videos called The Journey and I want to share some of the key messages. To watch The Journey (Part 1) – Inside the Reset of a Football Club, CLICK HERE.

Part 1 looked at laying new foundations by establishing a new business culture, determining the strategy and structure moving forward and determining the current and new players that were needed to start that building process.

Key messages/phrases from Brendan Bolton

  1. I work for Carlton Footy Club or I am Carlton Footy Club – just think about that difference
  2. What’s the journey like?
  3. Don’t just sit there – get on mentally
  4. This is a good person who’s made a bad mistake
  5. 1 in – all in – The Musketeers approach
  6. Where am I in all of this – in the middle or at the top? I’m in the middle – deliberately
  7. When it becomes more about you in this room, you’ll see me get a bit edgy. When it becomes more about us, you’ll see me smiling.
  8. Get comfortable being uncomfortable because our players love comfort and will gravitate back towards that. So we need to keep them uncomfortable – not stressed or anxious, just uncomfortable
  9. Don’t just sit there and be a recipient – really understand and be a participant
  10. The game doesn’t wait for you – be ready to go post warmup
  11. I expect it… we expect it
  12. Thorough, genuine and transparent process – no entitlement
  13. I learnt our future is strong

Translation for business owners

  1. What excites you as a business owner and what gets you annoyed? Do you really know these things about yourself?  Does your team?
  2. Are you really understanding and participating in all your business activities (even the ones you don’t like or aren’t as good at) or you being what I call ‘The Reluctant Business Owner’ – wanting the title but not all that goes into the role
  3. Are you uncomfortable in the direction and activities of your business or are you stressed and anxious? If you’re the latter, what needs to change to get the balance right again?
  4. Are you ready to get stuck into your business every time you step into your business or turn on the laptop/tablet?
  5. Are you waiting for clients to come to you or are you out there engaging, building partnership and looking for new ways to meet the current and future needs of your clients?
  6. Are you holding grudges against those who’ve made mistakes?
  7. Who’s really running your business – you in the centre of everything or everyone and everything else?
  8. Are your systems and processes thorough, genuine and transparent so clients and your team can help your build your business?
  9. How are you treating your support network – your family and friends who just know when you’re down and need a helping hand?
  10. What have you learnt about your business? Is your business future strong or does it need some more work and a rethink?

Even if you’re not a football supporter, I strongly encourage you to grab a coffee or a drink, disengage from life for an hour to truly engage and watch these videos.  Then be an active participant by embracing the messages and seeing what you can adapt and adopt for you and your business.

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And here’s the unfortunate kicker for myself as the beloved Hawthorn member.  Brendan Bolton was one of our key assistant coaches for many years and served his apprenticeship under one of the most successful coaches of the modern era, Alastair Clarkson.  So I’ll be watching with interest as a Business Consultant who loves seeing leadership at its best, but as a supporter, I’m hoping he doesn’t get this Carlton Club going too well because I always want Hawthorn’s name on that Premiership Cup.

And now I pass the ball to you.

What’s your business journey?  What do you need to reset in yourself, in your business and in your team to get you uncomfortable and successful as you build a simple profitable business you actually love.

PS Look for the next installment of this Reset Journey in my Part 2 article.

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