Leicester City’s Premier League success: What entrepreneurs can learn

5000/1 to win the title, the Foxes proved hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. What can you learn from their extraordinary season?

Tipped as relegation candidates at the start of this year’s Premier League season, Leicester City have a completed a truly Roy of the Rovers-esque feat by winning the country’s top division for the first time in their 132-year history.

With their media-friendly manager Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes have defied critics and through a combination of hard work, great team spirit and individual brilliance have become the talking point of world football. Unlike previous champions, Leicester have been meticulous in balancing their books – spending far less than ‘traditional’ top four clubs all while grabbing some great bargains along the way.

Are you an entrepreneur ready to create your own success story? Or a small business battling against the large corporations? Well then read our guide about what you can learn from Leicester City’s inspiring season…

Good PR is priceless

Having arrived at the King Power stadium with a fragmented managerial reputation, Claudio Ranieri won over the hearts of the British public and press with his gentle yet charismatic persona. Humble throughout the entire campaign, the Italian’s good natured humour was at odds with other managers previously in his position. With other managers so often prone to underhand mind games and bitter comments, Ranieri was an antidote to that, exuding a touch of class in this season’s title race – at a time when many cynics believe modern day football is no place for a gentleman.

True to form, Ranieri was in Italy visiting his mother for her 96th birthday the day Leicester clinched their historic title. While the rest of the squad was not without negative exposure, Ranieri’s unassuming personality made Leicester a team that everyone could buy into, and even, fall in love with! Potential business owners need only take note of the importance and benefits of a great reputation with the public and press. Read our guides on PR here.

Give staff the opportunity to flourish

As the old adage goes ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ and Leicester have certainly proved that. Owing to his ‘tinkerman’ reputation, Ranieri rarely changed his starting line-up and competed the season with a dressing room full of players with little title-challenging experience between them.

In stark contrast to the bloated squads of other supposed title challengers, Leicester’s team featured many players who were written off at their previous clubs and never given the opportunity to shine or even perform on a consistent basis. Players such as Danny Drinkwater, Robert Huth, Danny Simpson and Marc Albrighton had all previously been deemed surplus to requirements at ‘bigger’ clubs, yet now look down the league table on their former employers. If Leicester City’s Premier League success can teach entrepreneurs anything, it’s that putting genuine faith and trust in your staff is a recipe for success. Read our guide on staff here.

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Look for value

With the Premier League table dominated by big spenders such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City in recent years, you’d be forgiven for thinking that only teams bankrolled by prodigal owners stood a reasonable chance of title success. However, with a keen eye for bargains, Leicester City were able to spend far less than any of their competitors and three times less than Tottenham Hotspur – the team that ran them closest to the title!

With the cost of their squad totalling a meagre £54.4m, (in context Manchester City spent that amount on just one player!) Leicester City are proof that expensive assets are no guarantee of success and that you should always be on the lookout for value. Read our guides on budgeting here and attracting the best talent here.

Reward staff and create the right culture

Whether it’s the boardroom or the dressing room, sometimes creating the right incentives is all you need to ensure staff stay at the top of their game.

Having gotten to late-October without keeping a clean sheet, Ranieri promised his players free pizza if they managed to complete a 90 minutes without conceding a goal. After a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, the Italian stuck to his word and took the players out for a lunchtime treat.

Becoming one of the soundbites of the season, Ranieri would also mimic the sound of a bell (“Dilly Ding Dilly Dong”), when he felt players weren’t paying attention in training. As a goodwill gesture at Christmas, Ranieri bought the entire squad a miniature bell each as a light-hearted token of his appreciation of their hard work. The measures of appreciation did not go unnoticed however, as Leicester maintained one of the best defensive records in the league with pundits regularly citing them as the hardest working team in the league.

While many might assume free pizzas and miniature bells would seem an underwhelming gift for multi-million pound footballers, Ranieri’s thoughtful and rewarding nature helped create an excellent team bond with the players rallying around each other when the going got tough.

A message for all employers, rewarding staff (no matter how small) can help create a great company culture and winning formula. Read our guide on rewarding staff here and creating the right culture here.

Look forward not backward

While Leicester City’s season is rightfully billed a ‘fairy-tale’, it wasn’t always rosy in the garden. In the summer of 2015, the club endured several high profile disasters as a team trip to Thailand led to the sacking of three players for wildly inappropriate behaviour. Their former manager Nigel Pearson was also sacked in the summer just months after labelling a journalist an “ostrich” before storming out of a press conference.

Star striker Jamie Vardy, in many ways the poster boy of Leicester’s season, was also put on an educational course after video footage emerged of him racially abusing someone in a casino was leaked.

While not excusing the behaviour, Leicester’s ability to transform their image and the measures they implemented to ensure such behaviour would not be tolerated again is yet another good example for businesses to follow. Here’s what you can learn from failure and setbacks.


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