Whether you're a football fan or not, chances are you've
heard of Eric Cantona. The legendary number seven celebrates his
forty-sixth birthday today and after looking back on his career,
it's obvious there are valuable lessons, which you could apply to
running a business.
When Cantona swaggered over from France in 1992 he was like no
player to have graced the English game before. The ban on English
clubs competing in Europe had recently been lifted, but the years
left in the European wilderness meant fans were used to homegrown
no-nonsense type players. Not flamboyant Frenchmen with an upturned
collar and arrogance in abundance.
This can be applied to business, you need to have a USP -
something that makes you stand out from everything else. There's no
point doing the same business as everyone else. You need to give
customers an alternative; something new that will drag them away
from you rivals and into your shop.
Cantona wowed the crowds with his swift ball control and
exquisite skill. But this ability to find the top corner of the
goal from any angle is not down to luck, It came from hours spent
on the training ground, practising every turn, flick and kick. It's
the same in business. Before launching your start-up, you need a
business plan. You need to have researched the opposition, studied
the market, and then practised your business and tweaked it to make
it absolutely perfect, like a Cantona volley.
Know when to exit
Cantona broke the hearts of Manchester United fans when he
retired from football at 30, still in his prime. Yet this meant he
left on a high, In the fanzine Inside United, Cantona was
voted the clubs best ever player. Would this have happened
had he continued to play, clinging onto his past as his powers
faded into old age? Probably not. This is something you can take
into running a business too. You should always exit at the right
time. Don't hang onto the business once you've taken it as far as
you can. It's best to get out while you're ahead and then start
looking for the next venture.
Stick up for yourself
Business is tough. Sometimes rivals will undercut you or
investors might play hardball. There are occasions when
keeping quiet and working hard will do, but every now and then you
have to puff your chest out and make sure no one bullies your
business. Cantona was never afraid to stand up for himself. When
faced with moronic abuse from a hooligan in the stands, Cantona
simply kung fu kicked the guy in the face. Now, we're not condoning
any violence or encouraging it, but make sure you do everything you
can to give your business the best chance.
Since hanging up his boots, Cantona has tried his hand, and been
successful in, a host of other industries. He has acted in 21 films
and television programmes, winning critical acclaim for his turn
in, Looking for Eric, he's managed the French national
beach football team and is director of soccer at the legendary US
team the New York Cosmos. A good entrepreneur isn't a one trick
pony. They should be adaptable and able to carry out different
roles in the company, as it's likely at the start, they may be the
only one running it.
For five business lessons from Football Manger, click here