What can you learn from football? A Business metaphor

Business metaphor

During the World Cup, everyone loves football a little bit more. Many are captivated by it. Many companies are also responding to this world event. They try to seduce the football fan with all kinds of creative sales promotions. They have to because customers are flocking in front of the tube instead of spending money. But apart from that, football is a good business metaphor for running a business with staff.

Provided I don’t understand football; I do know how to do business with a team. In this blog, you can read the comparisons between football and entrepreneurship with staff and without a crew. It helps you start and expand your business.

Table of contents


The goalkeeper must keep all balls out of the goal. “Logical,” Johan Cruijff would undoubtedly say. After all, you win by having more goals than your opponent. However, that is no different from entrepreneurship. The common business logic here is to make sure more money comes in than goes out. A bit simplistically stated, but it basically boils down to that. As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for making a profit. Not your accountant, your finance department, nor the bank you borrowed from is to blame when you lose (money). You need to make sure you always have a positive cash flow.


Always make sure you have enough money to pay the bills for the coming month. After all, the goalie must also anticipate what is to come. It is quite a specialistic role to perform. 


The main task of the backs, like the goalkeeper, is to prevent goals. They do that by defending well, stop or take over the ball and then play the midfield as best as possible. That means the ball has to go forward. The backs have to ensure that all other players can play the football forward. That means they have to get organized.

Provide a foundation in your company that you can always fall back on. Everyone must know and be able to play their position. The detail here is that no one should hold the ball for too long, but pass it on. 

The business metaphor here is that you need builders and tacklers who push the products or services forward. Make sure it is produced and delivered according to standards. So, standardization. Whether you work alone – as an independent professional – or with personnel and hiring self-employed professionals, you need to have your business processes in order.


Make sure you standardize your processes of creating, delivering, administering, and invoicing your customers. Otherwise, you will perish on your success! Many entrepreneurs underestimate this managerial role.


In the midfield, the midfielders have a double task. They have to act quickly, receive the ball from the backs, and deliver it tailor-made to the front of the field. On the other hand, sometimes, they have to help defend and sometimes prepare others to strike. The midfielder must be permanently playable. It requires planning and walking ability. 

In entrepreneurship, you can compare this business metaphor with the support department. A crucial department. For example, they are the backers of the marketing and sales department. The seller, pitcher, or sales team can score optimally by passing the ball at the right time.


As an entrepreneur, make sure that things are arranged around you. So, make sure that you are always in the position to receive the ball. In other words: is your sales going on while you are practicing your part in your business?

Strikers or wingers

The striker’s job is to score! The best way to do this is to run free, be smarter than your opponent, and mislead the goalkeeper. You are only successful if you know how to convert a shooting opportunity into a goal. It requires a performance orientation and creativity. Because here, too, it is about anticipating and launching an attack. 

The similarity with doing business is that you need a good pitch. A sales or elevator pitch that triggers and scores you points. For this, you need good (sales) arguments that fit into the goal of the customer. The entrepreneur ensures that the sales team in his company can convert any scoring opportunity into a goal. 

The self-employed professional will also have to stand out during his absence and radiate and satisfy the (potential) client. 


Make sure you know the demands of your customer as well as possible. It will automatically help you counter any against arguments that they have and score a point.


The football coach is there to make the team perform at all times. That is to say, as a team. Not only all positions in the group must be clear, but also their tasks. Besides, each player must also be flexible enough to respond to the game’s opportunities and threats. Because no matter how well you have determined your setup in advance, each game is different. 

The coach’s primary weapon is his strategic insight. Translated into the business metaphor of entrepreneurship: the entrepreneur keeps an eye on the entire company, all roles, and the game’s changes. As an entrepreneur, you have to continuously respond to the opportunities and threats that the company faces.


Create a SWOT confrontation matrix. A difficult task for many entrepreneurs and, therefore, rarely executed, but oh-so-useful and very easy with this online Confrontation Tool.


Now you might think that the entrepreneur is most comparable to the role of the coach in football. My point is that as an entrepreneur, you could play any position on the football field. It is evident that you have to have all roles “covered.” But no doubt you feel more at home in one position than in another. How well have you covered all positions? Just check with yourself. Are you more the productive midfielder, but do you score (too) little, so the goalkeeper cannot handle it? In other words, is money leaking from your company? 

Or are you the creative striker who sees many opportunities, may even get to score, but has not organized his backs well enough? In the end, leading your company to lose money. It applies just as much to the entrepreneur with staff as without staff. There is a good chance that you, as an entrepreneur, are more likely to be on the playing field than assume the role of a coach.


A business coach or entrepreneurship trainer who occasionally gives you tips and advice from the sidelines will significantly help your game.

Just like football, entrepreneurship is a top sport, and every top athlete has a coach.

Dr. Martijn Driessen

Read more on successful entrepreneurship.