What does it take to fall from grace? Just ask the Spanish football team.

After being unceremoniously ejected from the 2014 FIFA World Cup, fans of the defending champions were in shock.

spain world cup

Image from NY Daily News

Although it’s been a few days since Spain’s tika-taka maestros were knocked out, football pundits around the world are still trying to come to grips with what happened to football’s dominant force.

Some of the key failings of the Spanish team on and off the field can be attributed to rudimentary business missteps. Here’s what Spain did wrong and what we can learn from it.

Sticking with the Oldies

Critics have lamented on Spain’s over reliance on an older generation of players to make the difference. Many teams tend to choose older players to form the core of the team because of their experience and the fact that this might be the last chance for them to play for the national team in the World Cup. This might be considerate of the management and a way to show thanks for their loyalty, but as this experience has shown, it might not be the path to victory.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean you have to fire all your oldest employees, they can be a treasure of wisdom, knowledge, and experience. What can be done, however, is to bring in a fresh perspectives and introduce new methods. This is about assessing what is working and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to change things up a little – the element of surprise can work wonders both in football and business.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari made the shocking move of benching Ronaldinho and Kaka from the Brazilian squad, and this has appeared to work wonders for the team.

Not Focusing Enough on Defensive Strategies

Having an optimistic and positive outlook is key to any endeavour, including the world cup, but it’s equally necessary to be realistic about the challenges you are likely to face. As seen in the 2014 World Cup, Spain’s defence was seriously lacking. Apart from Casillas, Spain’s captain and goalkeeper, not being the ideal choice because of a lack of practice, the defenders in front of him could have done much to save Spain some embarrassment.

Against both the Netherlands and Chile, Spain failed to anticipate their formidable opponents, and this failing lead to their early demise.

This is an important lesson for any business. Although it’s important to have a forward-looking vision, it’s equally important to ensure you have defensive strategies in place. These could include damage control measures, as well as risk assessment scenarios. You must be able to predict every challenge your company will face and be prepared to meet it. One way in which you can sharpen your company’s defence is by providing customer service channels. This will ensure customers come to you first before going to the media with a complaint. Train your customer service team to be prepared for the most difficult situations and eliminate the risk of negative feedback.

No Consistency in their Style of Play

Another mistake that Spain’s coach Vicente del Bosque made was to rely on a strategy that worked for another team. Spanish side FC Barcelona had succeeded in the past by devising a strategy of play that aimed to assist the speedy striker Lionel Messi. Unfortunately, Spain did not have a Lionel Messi and their tika-taka style of play, renowned in previous editions of the tournament, failed to impress.

Del Bosque should have adapted to the new style of play and devised a strategy of his own.

Similarly, to succeed in business it’s critical to create your own strategy and business plan. It’s perfectly acceptable to research what’s working for other companies, but their strategies should not be copied wholesale. It might not work for your business. Determine what you want to achieve, what your market expects from you, and what will drive you towards success. Finally, share this vision with your employees so that everybody is on the same page.

Playing in Unfamiliar Territory

Before this tournament started pundits mentioned how challenging it would be for a European nation to win the World Cup in the South American continent. The climate being one of the biggest obstacles. Perhaps Spain’s 3-0 loss to Brazil at the Maracana during the Confederations Cup final was a premonition of things to come.

The only way to prepare yourself for unfamiliar territory is to throw yourself into the deep end. If you know the odds are against you for certain business deals or propositions, try to get an added advantage in one way or another.

For instance, if you had to do business with a foreign partner, make sure that you find a suitable translator or mediator to assist you in these meetings. Showing that you are willing to learn, respect people’s differences and make a point of planning ahead will really count in your favor.

Lack of Individual Brilliance

They say there is no ‘I’ in “T-E-A-M”, but a star player can really make a big difference. The team’s morale can be lifted by having a superstar player on the field. Unfortunately Spain’s Fernando Torres, David Villa and Gerard Pique just weren’t up to the challenge. They didn’t have the best of seasons at their respective clubs and this really makes a difference when you are facing up against enemies such as Neymar Jr, Luis Suarez, Von Persie and Lionel Messi.

Back in your office, certain individuals can have a similar effect on your team. If your star employer isn’t there to motivate and inspire the rest, some employees might slack off. As a boss, try to hire a few exceptional talents to boost the moral and general productivity of your workplace.

Failure to Manage

The social networks and media have been buzzing over Spain’s less than adequate coach, Del Bosque. One of his main problems being that two out of the three strikers selected by him were way past their prime. Unfortunately he has been relying on 2010’s tactics without keeping in mind that as defending championship the other countries would have studied them down to a T.

Bad management can be really damaging for a company with a perfect business plan and product. The sole responsibility to steer the company to success rests with the manager. Although this is a daunting task, there are numerous resources and training packages available for managers to reach their potential and influence their companies. Where there is a will, there is a way. On the flip-side, a company should also realize when the wrong management is dragging them down. By just changing one or two individuals the company can go from being stagnant to showing tremendous growth.

Don’t let your business fall into the same trap as Spain during their World Cup defence. Follow some of the above mentioned advice to make your company World Cup ready.