Sir Alex Ferguson

How To Run Your Business Like Alex Ferguson

Kurt Graver Business Development, Business Start-up Advice, Business Start-up Advice

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed his managerial blueprint in the Harvard Business Review. It is an amazing interview which confirms him as one of the greatest sporting managers/coaches in sport in history.

What is surprising is how many of the principles that Sir Alex followed can be used in business by business owners and their management teams.

1. Start With The Foundation

“Winning a game is only a short-term gain—you can lose the next game. Building a club brings stability and consistency.”

Build a sustainable business model that will last, short-term profits do not matter if you lose your gains soon afterwards.

2. Dare to Rebuild Your Team

“I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years, and then some change is needed. So we tried to visualise the team three or four years ahead and make decisions accordingly.”

The market is constantly changing, to make sure your business is keeping up with demand you need to plan ahead. The best way of doing this is an annual business plan.

3. Set High Standards – and hold everyone to them

“I had to lift the players’ expectations. They should never give in. I said that to them all the time: “If you give in once, you’ll give in twice.”

Set a standard for your business and set it across your business. Make sure every time a customer interacts with your business they will receive products and service according to this standard. Staff should be trained motivated to keep the standard.

4, Never, Ever Cede Control

“Before I came to United, I told myself I wasn’t going to allow anyone to be stronger than I was. Your personality has to be bigger than theirs. That is vital.”

There are many management styles and Sir Alex has chosen the authoritarian approach. Considering the success he has had with it who can doubt him. Management styles depend on individuals personalities, but one essential part of what Sir Alex says is that there should be no doubt who the leader is.

5. Match The Message To The Moment

“For a player—for any human being—there is nothing better than hearing “Well done.” Those are the two best words ever invented.”

Encourage staff by giving them praise when needed. A good leader recognises success and rewards their staff.

“At the same time, in the dressing room, you need to point out mistakes when players don’t meet expectations. That is when reprimands are important. I would do it right after the game. I wouldn’t wait until Monday. I’d do it, and it was finished. I was on to the next match. There is no point in criticising a player forever.”

Tell staff immediately that they have not met the required standard and reprimand them. It is important to move on from this, there is little point in dwelling on negative issues.

6. Prepare To Win

“I am a gambler—a risk-taker—and you can see that in how we played in the late stages of matches. If we were down at half-time the message was simple: Don’t panic. Just concentrate on getting the task done. If we were still down—say, 1–2—with 15 minutes to go, I was ready to take more risks. I was perfectly happy to lose 1–3 if it meant we’d given ourselves a good chance to draw or to win.”

I cannot completely advocate gambling everything in business to achieve success, business owners would be prepared to take calculated risks to get ahead of the competition.

7. Rely On The Power Of Observation

“I delegated the training to him, and it was the best thing I ever did……It didn’t take away my control. My presence and ability to supervise were always there, and what you can pick up by watching is incredibly valuable….I don’t think many people fully understand the value of observing. I came to see observation as a critical part of my management skills.”

Delegating allows a leader from the day to day tasks and provides them with the opportunity to look at the business from a different perspective thus giving them greater insight on its strengths and weaknesses. Delegating also helps employees as it provides them with career progression.


Sir Alex’s management philosophy transcends football and should be observed by aspiring entrepreneurs.

Make Your Business A Success

The key to a successful business can be found in our Business Success Formula. If you structure your business using the Business Success Formula as your blueprint you will decrease your chance of failure significantly.

We assess your business and implement our business success formula in our business assessment service The Business 360. It provides you with all the information to 10x your business in a matter of weeks. You can check it out here.

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