In anticipation for the kick-off for the Champions League Finals between Atletico and Real Madrid on Saturday, we took a look into the histories of the two clubs, their modus operandi, and lessons that small to medium businesses can learn from each, to achieve success and accelerate their growth.
“No Atletico player would make it in Real Madrid’s team. Real are better in all positions,” said Real Madrid’s normally mild mannered Welsh man Gareth Bale.
His comments caused outrage, particularly amongst Atletico fans. But it cannot be denied that on a player by player basis, Real are superior, they are the destination of preference for the most talented players around the world. For almost a century, their fans have been enthralled by players revered the world over such as Puskas, Zidane and Ronaldo. This has meant trophies – and lots of them. They have won 32 La Liga titles and 10 champion leagues (formerly the European Cup), whereas Atletico lags far behind with 10 La Liga trophies and no champions leagues.
Up until May of 2013, Atletico went on a barren run without a win against their cross city rivals that spanned over 14 years. After which, we have witnessed something of a revolution. Two years ago Real Madrid beat Atletico in Lisbon to take home the champions league trophy. However, since then they have played ten times, Atletico have lost only once. A statistic made all the more impressive when you consider that Real boasts of a budget estimated to be between four and five times that of Atletico. This leaves us with some excellent tips on what we can learn from Atletico’s success story and how businesses can achieve success, despite a tight budget.
This Saturday the two teams duel again for the same trophy in Milan’s San Siro. So why is it that a team mockingly labelled Patético de Madrid have in recent times have been able to compete with Europe’s elite for a sustained period of time? What can we learn from their success in the context of business and enterprise?
Like many large companies, at times Real can be its own worst enemy. Winning is not enough. The club’s tradition of success means the fans demand the team play with an often unattainable level of artistry.
Atletico’s objectives are different. Fan’s notions of success have been given a lesson in pragmatism because of the clubs less illustrious history compared to their neighbours. While certainly not a small club, their resources are austere in comparison to Real Madrid.
Therefore, for Atletico winning is all that matters. They play with an old-fashioned guile and intensity, more aggression than flare. Football purists may find their uncompromising style unnerving, but for Atletico it provides an important means to a beautiful end, winning. As manager Diego Simeone put it,
“The intelligent supporter is the one who does not obsess over whether the team plays well, but rather that the team wants to win.”
They get the job done using any means at their disposal. Similarly, for a lot of small companies, survival is initially all that matters. Small firms turn to bootstrapping when they don’t have access to large amounts of capital, they work with what they already have rather looking externally. Just as Real Madrid can buy a Bale or Ronaldo to overcome a dip in performance, larger companies overcome knowledge gaps by purchasing other companies: Apple buying Beats so it can quickly enter the music streaming industry is a perfect example of this.
This is not an option for smaller operations so they extract the maximum from every available source, employees will often be tasked with doing things not immediately relevant to their job description. They find creative solutions to existing problems and leverage the maximum out of existing resources, asking a friends who have useful talents for a favour or saving money by setting up in a spare room.
Have a Brilliant leader
Atletico didn’t exactly lack talented players before Simione. Players such as Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan and Falcao would walk into the current side, however, they were not nearly as successful as they are now.
The man accredited with this upturn in fortune is their flamboyant and charismatic manager, Diego Simeone. His intense confrontational style is evident in the squad fabric.
Simeone has assembled a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. Through his own belief he has instilled in them that if they train hard enough and believe in themselves, anything is possible.
Such a mentality is vital for up-and-coming companies. Elon Musk’s maverick work ethic and obsession to detail has shaken up the motor industry with his battery powered vehicles, indeed they are growing so fast that their biggest challenge is keeping up with demand.
Steve Jobs was famous for making his engineering and design teams believe that the impossible was in fact possible, so integral was it to ethic of Jobs that they termed it “his reality distortion field”.
Great managers always adapt as they learn, tinkering with their product if needed. Simeone realised this during his time at Catania; “At first I always wanted to attack. With time I learnt the best ways to think how to win is in your defensive balance.”
As a small player, setbacks are inevitable. It’s how you react that’s important. Following Simeones first La Liga win in 2015 it was inevitable other clubs would try to poach some of his best players. Diego Costa, club top scorer and a player, was bought by Chelsea. A year later, Turkish all action midfielder Arda Turan, was bought by Barcelona.
In response, Atletico signed Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Antoine Griezman and Fernando Torres. Madrid born, Torres began his career at Atletico before going on to become one of the game’s most feared strikers. To replace Arda Turan, Frenchman and speedster Antoine Griezman was recruited. He has been a revelation, providing goals, frenetic speed and an abundance of skill to complement the team’s physical nature. Bought as a winger, he has been transformed into a striker, reflecting the versatility instilled in this team by Simeone.
Smart signings, coupled with an ability to adapt and recover quickly meant that Atletico were not a mere flash in the pan, arguably becoming even more difficult to defeat, something Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will all attest to.
According to Bloomberg 8 out of 10 small businesses fail. Young companies often start out with copious amounts of optimism, a slew of bright ideas and exuberance. Over time however this optimism dies as managers get bogged down by high work load, lack of resources, better resourced competitors and the feeling of being rejected time and time again.
If you are to survive it’s important to be brave and stay positive, to be agile and always learn from your mistakes. Successful managers should spend time analysing competitor threats and snuff them out in the hardened fashion similar to Atletico.
Your customers are your everything
One reoccurring trait of successful companies is that you never ever lose sight of your customers and that you adapt to their needs and never forget that they are the ones who will ultimately decide your success or failure.
The Vicente Calderon doesn’t hold a level of grandeur that one associates with the Bernabeu. The majority of Atletico fans come from a blue collar working class fan base, the stadium lies in the industrial neighbourhood of Argonzuela, just 3 kilometres from the Bernabeu, which is located in the affluent business district of Chomartin.
Part of the Atletico success story then is how the identity of Atleticos fans have been embroidered into the fabric of the team. Simeone’s personality assimilates with that of the club’s fans, the Argentinian’s fiery, temperamental style helps portray the club as underdogs attempting the impossible – something their fans can relate to.
Atletico’s success doesn’t just relate to business, but indeed any apparently insurmountable obstacles we may face in life. They show that if we can combine our different strengths as one, be fearless in the face of adversity and always pay attention to detail while never forgetting the bigger picture, we will overcome the odds. For Atletico, they can overcome the odds this Saturday night when they battle once more with Real Madrid. If they win, they can call themselves the greatest team in Europe, not a bad achievement for Los Patético de Madrid!
About Brian Murray
Brian is an Internal Sales Executive at KantanMT. He is one of the newest members of the KantanMT team having spent the summer in Northern California. Brian has a bachelor’s degree in Business and Management from DIT.
To set up a demo or contact Brian directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.