3 May 2016

In an arena dominated by bold characters, big egos and ‘special ones’, it is especially inspiring to see ‘Mr Nice’ leading a team into a fairy-tale win.

claudio ranieri

Taken from LCFC on Instagram

I am, of course, talking about Leicester City and Claudio Ranieri, who last night became the Premier League champions – just a season since coming extremely close to being relegated from the league.

Not only has the manager brought a Premiership title to a team who were 5000-1 to win, he’s brought football back to its roots. Back to community, to teamwork and to playing together.

Leicester City are not about earning big bucks, not about who gets the biggest sponsorship deal nor about who has the biggest ego. It’s about working together, for a man the team respects, to achieve something extraordinary.

When you look at the way the press describe Ranieri, it’s fascinating to see the difference in language between other famous managers who are seen as stern, flamboyant, egotistical. Ranieri is, instead, branded as welcoming, patient, acting with grace and with a ‘trademark courtesy’. It’s a management lesson within itself.

His style echoes each lesson that I have learned throughout my entrepreneurial journey – great leaders are not those who shout the loudest; they listen, they care and they lead from the front.

Whilst I am a firm believer in goal-setting and finding a point on the horizon at which to aim, Ranieri breaks that down further, seeming to take the pressure off by setting each goal as a milestone along the path, rather than setting the seemingly unrealistic goal of winning the title.

He told the media: “I’m a pragmatic man – I just wanted to win match after match. Never did I think too much about where it would take us… Every game they fight for each other and I love to see this in my players.”

It is these players who have been key this season; you can’t win the league with just a great manager. That’s why it’s great to hear that the club’s Thai owners have promised not to sell their most valuable players. The vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha told the Guardian: “We are not a team who produces players to be developed later by other teams. All players want to stay and keep on fighting together to see how far they can go. So selling players is not on our agenda.”

This focus on training, recruitment and loyalty is rare in a game dominated by big wage cheques. The Thai owners don’t offer the huge salaries of the Ronaldos or Rooneys, instead the investment in performance monitoring and recruitment ensures that the club wants for nothing when it comes to developing talent.

It’s a fascinating approach and one that I see reflected here at UKFast. It’s reassuring for us, having made a £4.5m investment in training and development, after I learned that money can only motivate a team for so long; people crave development and growth.

I often write about the parallels between business and sport, and this is a prime example. It’s incredibly inspiring, it’s much like when we first entered the market – facing up against the huge global brands that dominated the market, just like Leicester faced against Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, to name a few. If you’re a startup or an SME, who’s to say that you can’t win your league? What’s stopping you from becoming champions?

It seems to be the same story reflected across the majority of successes – be that business, sport, entertainment, education: get the right team in place, the right management style and the right culture for you, and the world is your oyster!

Here’s to seeing the foxes outfox the competition once again and scoop the Champions’ League next season!

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