Everybody loves story about the Underdogs. If you consider that Leicester City’s EPL win this year  is another underdog Story, you are wrong.

Sports has always been fascinated by upsets whether its 1983 win of Indian Cricket team or Liverpool winning with 0-3 deficit in Champions League Finals in 2005. After-all, puny David beating Huge Goliath makes very good story to relate to.

Leicester’s win is much bigger than it appears though.

Here are few lessons for Start-Ups from Leicester City’s campaign .

  • Nothing beats the teamwork.
    • In era of individual brilliance amplified by media, teamwork still matters even if it sounds old school. It really needs all eleven players on the field to win the game. While you may lack skill or even resources like big/established teams, nobody can take away the ‘Sweat and Blood’ from you. Over time, you learn to work with what you have and  just ‘hustle’.
  • Keep it simple – Just WIN every opportunity. 
    • It does not matter how beautiful you play or how nice you are unless it results in a Win. While core purpose of any business is to meet needs of the customer, it still has to answer the employees as well as Shareholders. So, it should protect its margins since its key to its survival.Just wanting to win more than competition will make you devise ways to score in the marketplace. Win is a ‘Win’ even though it looks scrappy.
  • Excellence is ‘Long Term Story’ made every day.
    • Leicester City’s season went for almost 10 months. Every weekend, there was speculation that campaign would end in disaster as in last year when they narrowly avoided relegation, but it did not. It required amazing work on fitness by support teams or excellent player management by the coach. It dint happen overnight as it sounds. Leicester had to ‘hustle’ almost every weekend with narrow wins or just offer little extra than other team to score a win. To manage same level of excellence (even though it looked dirty or criticized often) over ten months is itself a feat. Best teams manage it on ‘Every Day’ basis without losing sight of the goal.
  • Self-belief is utmost important. 
    • Leicester city narrowly avoided relegation last season and almost nobody believed that they would be league leaders at the start of the season. They were working against the odds of 5000/1 at the start of season. It required huge amount of self-belief to even consider something like EPL champions. Idea is to start small – take ‘baby-steps’ every day in right direction. As Claudio Ranieri mentioned that they started with simple target of scoring 40 points and avoid relegation. Over time, you raise the bar as you grow in confidence in your ability to dream and execute.
    • Self-belief also comes of clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Leicester always knew that they did not have ‘star’ strikers and could counter attack better with their pace. They did not try to play ‘Manchester United-way’ or ‘Chelsea-way’. Play according to your strengths, and protect your weaknesses.
  • Last Few Yards are toughest.
    • Being a champion or industry leader is by no means easy thing. Leicester played last few matches without Jamie Vardy, their leading goal scorer. As you get closer to the end-result, it becomes more difficult as anxiety builds up and weight of expectations increase. Just have belief in your process and divert unnecessary attention if feasible. Distractions can be really costly in the end. Like , Claudio Ranieri always maintained that Tottenham Hotspur had better chances than Leicester to become Champions. Last few yards really tests you out whether you are really worthy of being the Champion. As they say in Marathon circles, ‘You do not stop when you are tired. You stop when you done !’ 
  • It is never ‘End of Story’ or ‘Sit back and relax’. 
    • Is this end of story of Leicester ? Obviously not. As Sir Alex Ferguson mentioned once after winning the Championship, that ‘We party today and train tomorrow morning for next one’.  Success is transient in nature. Whatever earned via blood and sweat quickly becomes your ‘past’ quickly as you look forward for next milestone. Story does not end here, as Leicester should be looking for Champions League and further.
  • Never forget that for every ‘desirable’ thing, there is competition. 
    • Whether its championship or niche market, you will always have competition catching up with you. Tottenham Hotspur was always close on the heels with Leicester. Competition would make it tougher on you with their financial muscle or experience. You should treat it as someone helping you to raise the bar. Welcome the competition, but never lose of sight of the goal.

As Claudio says ‘I am proud to have led this group of footballers – real men, humble people who gave everything to achieve a common dream’.

Is it not that worth living for any start-up addressing real world problems ?

*Image is of Jamie Vardy celebrating with his look-alike 🙂