Non-League lessons to shoot your business into the Premiership

By Lincoln City fan, David Russell

A few weeks ago, in the FA Cup 3rd Round, Lincoln City visited Ipswich Town. The football fans amongst you may know that The Imps (Lincoln) drew 2-2 on the day after being the better side through much of the game and leading with just 5 minutes to go.

Better still, in the replay, City beat the Championship side 1-0 with a goal in the last minute. It was a sell-out with 9000 Lincoln fans backing the team.

What does this have to do with business in general and our industry in particular? Well, it’s all about building something special and creating success through momentum.

As a born and bred Lincoln lad, who used to be at Sincil Bank (Lincoln’s ground) every other Saturday from the age of about 6 or 7, I travelled to Ipswich for the game and it turned out to be a fantastic experience.

I don’t get to see City that often these days and there have been some dark times over the past few years as the team dropped out of the Football League around 5 years ago. Declining support, a team that was under-performing and a feeling that nothing good was going to happen resulted in a fairly miserable outlook.

Then, last summer, something happened that has changed everything. The Club brought in a new management team – Danny and Nicky Cowley – brothers who had done well at another non-league team for a short time, but who were essentially at the start of their managerial careers.

Young, very enthusiastic and with some new ideas, the brothers have set about transforming Lincoln City both on and off the pitch and it’s been a remarkable few months. The Club Chairman said recently that he couldn’t believe how they have changed everything in such a short time.

Lincoln is now challenging for promotion and regularly getting attendances much greater than many teams in higher leagues.

Back to the Ipswich game, where Lincoln had close to 5000 supporters fill the ground. It was the highest number of supporters for an away team at Ipswich for 20+ years – and that from a non-league team.

The BBC covered the replay and so the Imps have now made a good deal of money from the Cup run and TV coverage – a very nice bonus for a Club that has been on a financial roll-a-coaster in the recent past.

At one point during an interview, one of the BBC pundits said: "There’s something really special happening at this Club.”

There is, but is it a miracle? Not really. City winning the Cup would have been a miracle. The transformation is mainly down to hard graft, imagination and the really important thing… building a momentum.

Danny and Nicky went in with a plan – a business plan really. In a short space of time they have enthused the players, the staff, the supporters, the media and, importantly, people who had never even been to a game before. The City is buzzing and that makes a real difference to day to day life in Lincoln. People are happy. A feel-good factor is worth its weight in gold.

So, what lessons can we take from this for business, because the thing is that the same success can be achieved in any business too – your business. It’s all about creating that crucial momentum.

The question is, do you have it in your own business at the moment?

Are you enthusiastic about what you are doing? Are your staff (the players) enthusiastic too? Are you engaging with your supporters (your customers and people who will generate you the business)?

Are you doing things in the business to make the phone ring and to bring people through the doors? Are your customer and professional databases constantly growing? Are you maintaining contact with the customers you have right now?

Do you change things…constantly, to see if you can make it better, more powerful, more efficient, more profitable?

Does everyone in the team know what they are doing, understand how their role fits in to the bigger picture, supports each other, has help to get better at what they do and gives 100% for the team, every day?

What Danny and Nicky have done in a short space of time at Lincoln is a collection of a lot of small things, all designed to create that essential momentum. How many small things can you do in your business that could make a difference?

Now, of course, the Lincoln success story may not last as things can change very quickly in the world of football, but whatever happens, there will be supporters, young and old, who will remember this period of success for many years to come.

I’m proud to say that I am from Lincoln and that I’m one of them!