When the World Cup had its first competition in Uruguay in 1930, each team was wholly made up of the nationalities they were representing. Not counting the huge wave of immigrants into the United States at this time as anything other than US citizens, businesses had a very similar make-up. Taking a critical look at the World Cup and global business, it is easy to see that both progressed at nearly parallel speeds throughout the past 84 years since the start of the World Cup. The paths in which both have morphed into a conglomeration of nations coming together for a common goal are in fact nearly identical. Looking back is usually a good indication of where business is going, but in this case, I believe tuning in to this year’s World Cup might provide just as clear of a picture in regard to global business.

Team structure

Two of the biggest parallels between today’s World Cup and global business are team structure/members and strategy. As previously mentioned, the team members representing each nation used to play in that nation and for that nation. Every time a member of a national team stepped on the pitch, they were representing their home country. Fast forward 84 years, and we have a coach for the United States from Germany (Jürgen Klinsmann) and players across the 32 teams representing a multitude of clubs not in their home nations.

The same is true in global business. On any given day at HMA, we could start off working with our colleagues and clients in Germany and France and end the day in China or Singapore. While juggling cultural differences and working with individuals across a variety of timezones is exhausting at times, taking a step back to appreciate the bigger picture is what makes it all worthwhile. The increase in our ability to visualize, strategize and realize goals for our clients is enormous, much like the increase in skill level amongst the players in the World Cup. In essence, by joining forces, we are improving ourselves, our companies and our teams.

Strategy

In regard to strategy, the game used to be very simple. You stepped on the field and played for 90 minutes. One man refereed and his decisions were final. Today, players and coaches watch and analyze film, adjust line ups and scout other teams. Cutting-edge technology is even in place for judging whether or not the ball completely crosses the goal line. And the main referee out of a total of four carries line paint that disappears for use on spacing of free kicks. As you can see, the strategy of the game itself has advanced.

Again, the same is true in global business. It used to be if you had a product or service, you went out and sold it. That was that. Now, we have means of critically analyzing our clients’ competitors on a global scale, and we too adjust the line up depending on who and/or what we’re up against. We have apps and systems in place to measure our success. The strategy here has advanced just as much as in the World Cup.

People

I’ve saved my favorite parallel for last. It is this: people around the world have become more invested in both the World Cup and global business, emotionally and in terms of time. People are taking more time to learn, embrace and immerse themselves in the game, the game of soccer (futból) and the game of global business. In both cases, we are in a true arena of competition where the outcomes are unknown. On any given day, we can end up in a draw, loss or win. The great part of this is no matter the outcome, each individual will come back for the next round twice as ready to do it all over again. In global business and the World Cup alike, players truly know the meaning of the love of the game.