Why Business is like... sporting talent

David Beckham knows how to make his mark, from his tattoos and haircuts to the celebrity wife and underwear ads. Oh, and the odd flash of brilliance - as in 2001, when he secured England's place in the World Cup by scoring the vital qualifying goal against Greece with a glorious free-kick in the game's final minute. A couple of years ago, he came top of Google's sports searches. And when America's LA Galaxy 'soccer' team needed a presence to boost their PR, the club went straight to Beckham - for a cool £128m.

by Jennifer Harris, director of JRBH Strategy & Management,www.jrbh.co.uk
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Contrast Beckham's fortunes across the pond with those of baseball player Bert Blyleven, a technically brilliant pitcher who began a 22-year career in 1970. Blyleven failed to reach baseball's coveted Hall of Fame despite reams of impressive stats. Unlike Beckham - and many less talented fellow pitchers - his slow and boring style simply didn't catch the eye.

In the boardroom, as in sport, it can be hard to get excited about a business idea that lacks flair, whatever its fundamentals. The tried-and-tested formula of the McDonald's franchise has proved one of the most reliable routes to becoming a millionaire over the past 20 years - and yet I'll bet that you're not about to quit your job and set one up.

Instead, there is a tendency to gravitate towards business opportunities that possess at least some panache or novelty value. But be careful that the seductive nature of a new idea does not cloud your commercial judgment. For every stylish and successful Manchester United or Barcelona, there's a side that forgoes flair to get the result. As many a victorious football manager has said at the end of a game: 'It might not have been beautiful, but it's the win that counts.'


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