Five business lessons from Eric Cantona

Be different

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.

Train hard

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.

Be versatile

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

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