What Being a Professional Soccer Player Taught Me About Running a Company

by Andrew Rosenband, CEO and founder of Morgan Li and former MLS Chicago Fire soccer player

It’s no surprise that you’ll find sports success in the background of many of the world’s most successful CEOs. With a closer look, you can see that both depend on individuals who are very ambitious, focused and able. Both compete in environments where tiny margins make huge differences. As a professional soccer player, many lessons I learned on the field shaped me as a CEO.

Envision the goal

On the field, the best athletes are able to see the whole field as well as the blades of grass under their feet. There’s an overview of who is where, and what they’re doing. At the same time, I have perfect awareness of the smaller details – my feet, the movements of my opponent. As a CEO, I need to have a high-level constant understanding of what’s happening with Morgan Li as well as knowing the operational details. The best visionaries have a clear map of where all the parts of their organization are, how they fit, and the direction they need to go to make the vision achievable.

Compete to win

When our team is on the field, our goal is clear: win. In business, we have that same drive. My team is Morgan Li and our employees, inspired with that same competitive vision. We compete smart – with our eyes always on the result. Each business strategy is evaluated against that goal, whether it’s a profit increase over last quarter, or landing a top client. Drive and ambition set our goals, and competitive discipline keeps us on track.

Build your company like you build your roster

An outstanding soccer player is only as good as his or her teammates. To win, to succeed, it is crucial to surround yourself with a cohesive group. If our team wasn’t in sync on the field, we wouldn’t win.

Bear in mind – you don’t always need the most elite players in the sport to have the best team – you need the best team that can work well together. So many people miss that critical element. If your top players cannot work in sync, you will not have a team that communicates well, supports each other, and puts the goal first. A more interesting explanation is that the success of individual star performers is rarely the result of raw talent alone but also builds on the support structure around them. In other words, your organization may owe you as a star player, but you owe it for allowing you to be as good as you are. Same with running a business. It’s about finding the best people and creating an environment and culture that lets them grow and thrive to keep them motivated.

Learn from your losses

Losing a soccer game was always a bitter pill to swallow, I won’t lie. But- with every loss, there’s also an opportunity- to learn from what went wrong and make it better next time. After you lose, you analyze. Where do we need more practice? Are there unpredictable elements (rain, wind) on the pitch that we need to account for in the future?

This holds true in business. Why didn’t we land that account? Why are our profit margins down? Why are we having high employee turnover? Do we need more training or better hiring?

A loss or a setback forces us to introspection, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. We analyze where we had missteps, then we create a solution. We make our plans, we implement them, and we constantly check ourselves against the end goal.

At the end of the day, the most important factor is to take it all in stride, realize it’s a day-by-day effort and there is always room for fun. Always.

About Morgan Li: Morgan Li is a new breed of manufacturing, offering custom store fixture, hospitality and retail environment solutions with a nimble, efficient and innovative approach to keep up with the evolving and rapid landscape of its customer’s industries. Morgan Li’s capabilities include fabrication of custom metal, wood, acrylic and led materials for retail and hospitality environments. Morgan Li provides services and capabilities to leaders within the retail and hospitality industries. The company is beginning expanded growth efforts within the grocery, CPG and healthcare and professional space. In the retail space, Morgan Li provides fixture, display, and storage solutions from showrooms to tradeshow floors with custom or refurbished pieces. Since its founding in 2009, Morgan Li has seen 33% year-over-year in growth.

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