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AFC Bournemouth - Business Lessons from Eddie Howe's Footballing Fairytale

For most of my life my football team has been well, rubbish really. It didn’t matter. I loved them anyway.

I got used to explaining to people that Bournemouth was a small team and that while we believed in playing the game the right way, we were financially challenged and were by necessity, a selling club, so we may never really expect to achieve much.

AFCB-Stadium-May-19

Unfairly relegated due to off-the-pitch poverty, AFCB Bournemouth found itself in the bottom tier of the football league and worse, the club had so many points deducted at the start of the next season that it felt like the Football Association was deliberately trying to put the club out of business and consign it to football history.

This was a low point. But boy, did it all turn around. Survival followed by promotion and a trip to the Millennium Stadium for a play-off final was a great family day out that took us back to the Third tier of the football league – the place where we felt the club ‘belonged’.

What happened next was beyond our wildest dreams – ending with two further promotions in three years – the last to the Premier League at the end of this season.

True, the club had a chairman who put his hand in his pocket to keep the club in business in its darkest hour and more recently, a financial backer in a rich Russian but success wasn’t achieved by splurging cash. Having a backer simply meant we didn’t have to sell our best players any more. The majority of the players who were in the third tier will next year start in the first.

Manager Eddie Howe was a completely unproven 31 year old when he started and is still only 37 years old at the time of writing.

So what was it that turned this small club with a young, unproven manager into the smallest team ever to make it into the Premier League?

Eddie Howe’s leadership was undoubtedly a huge factor. Eddie Howe may have been inexperienced when he took over but he possesses some excellent managerial traits that any business owner looking for success can replicate.

  • He works very, very hard – he’s first in every day and regularly does 12-hour days.
  • He plans each week meticulously and is always prepared.
  • He is constantly looking for ways to inspire his players.
  • He understands the jobs his employees do intimately and plans specific training drills based on performance issues he identifies from games and he always focuses on outcomes.
  • blue man 9thHe coaches the players individually after each game – personally editing video footage and playing back to them what he likes and dislikes about each of their individual performances so he can be “truthful and honest” with each.
  • It’s more than a job – Eddie Howe LOVES this football club – this is a mission.
  • He has very high standards and is clear and concise in his instructions and relentless in his high expectations of his players.
  • He studies performance statistics (like number of passes in a game) and uses these key performance indicators to learn how results are achieved.
  • He focuses on lots of 1% improvements to make a big difference and he looks for every small competitive advantage.
  • He knows that a football club is much more than just a business, it’s a part of the community and he manages the club as such.

Eddie Howe was the recipient of the inaugural ‘Manager of the Decade’ award this year. Unlike many managers, he is not arrogant, doesn’t blame the referee for his team’s losses and he doesn’t play mind games. He seems to stay relentlessly focused on the next game whatever the situation and I have never once heard him boast or crow in any way.

He is a humble, hard-working, much respected man who has built a brilliant team around him and when pressed for the secret of his success, he predictably credits everybody else he works with.

I have much to learn from Eddie Howe and if anybody else can share any of his management secrets, I’d just love to hear them. Let me know…

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