The Language Bridge

The Common Denominator of German Football and Business

In Germany, business strategy and football strategy are one and the same

For the UK company wanting to export to Europe’s biggest market, there is much to learn from Germany’s football success. German football teams have always had their great, almost legendary individuals. Franz Beckenbauer, to name but one. But key to Germany’s football success is well-prepared tactics of the team as a whole.

The team plays to a system and each player knows exactly what the requisite pattern is. If necessary, that system can be, and will be modified during the game. Flexibility, intelligence, attention to technical detail in the pre-match homework, plus the will to succeed, all blend together impressively. This is no different to German business strategy.

Telling it how it is

German businessmen and women will go into a meeting well-briefed and well-organised having done their research on you. They won’t indulge in small talk and banter during the meeting but will use the time efficiently. Germans prefer meetings to be based on an exchange of clear signals, preferring to save time and money by being straight from the start.

In fact, you can expect business meetings to be like their football matches: systematic and inherently logical. Small details will matter, specific factual information about the product will be sought, potential issues and problems paid special attention from the outset.

The bigger picture

Much like on the football pitch, businessmen and women conducting meetings know their place within the overall structure and systems of their company, however large or small, and understand how a new British product might fit in or not. That doesn’t mean that they will be able to give you a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the spot, but rather that they will want to discuss everything with other figures in their company.

Your discussions at the meeting and ensuing contact will focus on substantial issues rather than, for example, on how best to dress up and market the product. This will take time and patience.

It is essential to prepare for the German business pitch methodically and with technical finesse. Adopting the German business mentality and etiquette is crucial to success. If you don’t pay attention to it, then it’s a case of missed penalties and, even worse, own goals.

On and off the field

"In sum, ‘On and Off the Field’ is a highly recommendable book. Not just for football fans, but also for readers interested in cultural studies in general. Hopefully, the dual Anglo-German perspective, which even shows in all the English contributions being written in English and all the German contributions in German, will be followed in future projects."       

Review by Hans Henrik Appel of On and Off the Field: Fußballkultur in England und Deutschland / Football Culture in England and Germany, Anthony Waine and Kristian Naglo (eds.), (Wiesbaden, 2014). In: Sport in History, July 2016





Posted: 28th June 2015


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