Top 5 business lessons from Sir Alex Ferguson

1. Find the best people and make them better

Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand are just a few of the players Alex Ferguson built a winning team on. While other clubs let their talent be tempted abroad, Manchester United held onto their assets and Alex Ferguson constantly revolutionised the way he used them. Seven seasons ago, who would have put Rooney in midfield? Now, Ferguson knows that's where he's best used.

There's more than one lesson in this. Retaining talent is vital but understanding your staff's expertise is even more crucial. Don't miss out on opportunities to retrain or reuse people who've been in your ranks for years.

2. Choose an image for yourself and use it

Alex Ferguson is synonymous with Manchester United. A huge proportion of people reading this article might not even remember another manager leading the club. In nearly 27 years in charge, Ferguson built a reputation of being formidable, fearless and most importantly, not to be reckoned with. A trip to Old Trafford wasn't just a daunting prospect because of the players, but because of the manager who awaited you too.

Remember this when dealing with your competition. You may not want to instil fear in those challenging for your market share, but, if you do, be prepared for a long haul battle of  building an image for yourself and living up to it. King of Shaves' Will King hasn't maintained his market position by being timid.

3. Mind games work, if you've got the better mind

Alex Ferguson has never been far away from headlines. He is seemingly able to get away with controversies other managers wouldn't even consider. Abusing referees, swearing at reporters or not turning up for interviews doesn't sound like the actions of a man respected in his field, but Ferguson has made it work, because it's all part of the plan.

If you are going to walk close to lines of decency, or cross them altogether, make sure you have a plan too. Ferguson could never have got away with the things he did if they were uncalculated, random events. They were used to scare people he wanted scared, psych out people he wanted psyched and embarrass people he wanted in the limelight. Never forget the importance of a game plan when taking on the opposition

4. Stay on good terms with the most important people

Alex Ferguson may be one of the most controversial names in sport, but he isn't even the most controversial person at his club. The phrase "Love United, Hate Glazer" was first thrown around in 2005 and the club's owners haven't enjoyed a happy relationship with fans ever since. But has Ferguson ever said a bad word against his boss? You bet not.

The manager who doesn't seem to care what anyone think has always been very careful to keep the important people on side, and there's an important example there. Never forget the people you need right now or, more importantly, might need in the future. Keep them happy and they will be there for you when you need them most.

5. Know when to quit

After winning a 13th league title, and reclaiming the prize from a local rival in the process, could there be a better time to take a bow? Ferguson's children are grown up and soon Giggs, Scholes and Rio will all have to hang up their boots. The manager has had one last swing at the title, hit the target and is saying goodbye to waves of loyal fans.

The business lesson here is about knowing when to step back. It's not about giving up early as no one could accuse Ferguson of that, but it's about knowing the best time to move away.  If you've achieved everything you set out to do, and are losing the things that make your business special, maybe it's time to throw in the towel rather than hang around to see what happens next.

We use cookies to create the most secure and effective website possible for our customers. Full details can be found here