Business lessons from the Rugby World Cup 2015

The All Blacks offload well and have a 20-strong support staff behind them (Source: Getty)
Rugby is a thug’s game, played by gentlemen”. So goes the adage, but it’s not the only tough game in town. England’s premature exit from the World Cup has demonstrated how uncompromising rugby can be, but the world of business is just as rough. Smaller companies and startups must be prepared to take a few knocks on their way past bigger competitors, to make it over the line to commercial success.


Preparation is the key. Few people know this better than Nigel Owens, arguably the best referee in the world of rugby. He sees the pre-match meeting as central to the smooth running of his games. Owens meets with his assistants and the team coaches to ensure that all are clear about the rules of engagement prior to kick-off. This way, there are no excuses out on the field. As Owens himself says: “this is not soccer”.
And it is no different in business. If staff are following different rules, managing them becomes difficult and very time consuming. Putting clear policies in place – from social media use to expenses – is a crucial step for any boss.


It is perhaps no surprise that World Cup favourites New Zealand have completed a large number of offloads in the competition so far. And businesses would do well to model themselves on former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams. By passing the ball back before a tackle has been completed, offloading allows players to avoid any obstacles to their scoring, and keep the ball in play. In the same way, business owners should streamline their processes to find the path of least resistance. Eradicating inefficient processes and bottlenecks will free up time for more important tasks.


New Zealand’s travelling party includes 20 expert support staff to monitor and advise the playing squad. England’s set-up was even larger, with players and management numbering up to 60 personnel.
Like national rugby teams, small businesses are also in need of support, but aren’t able to access it so easily. SMEs face a number of challenges, from battling larger competitors, to dealing with cash-flow problems and late payments. And the things that can help them, like alternative finance options, mentoring schemes and specialist advice on exporting, are often difficult to find. So the government’s pledge to create a small business commissioner to provide advice, handle complaints and refer firms to the appropriate ombusman or regulator, will be warmly welcomed.


Video refereeing has revolutionised rugby. The use of technology means fewer transgressions go unseen. Modern referees can make quicker, more accurate calls – and deliver fairer results – than ever before. Technology has been equally revolutionary in business. Often, businesses don’t always have a strong grasp on exactly how and when staff are spending company money, or how finances are moving to and from suppliers.
Replacing paper trails with centralised technology is important to foster a transparent business culture. And it’s not just about gathering data. It’s also vital to make use of the insights that data offers, and improve processes further.

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