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What Sir Bobby Robson Taught Me About Building a Team

July 31, 2015

David Beharall
After 11 years in professional football David retired in 2006 to set up CandidSky. He currently holds the position of Managing Director.

Football fans around the world are remembering the great Sir Bobby Robson, six years on from his death. The former England manager passed away on July 31, 2009 after a long battle with cancer.

Like many others I reminisce about Sir Bobby’s time in charge of England in the 1990 World Cup and his many other achievements in football. I also have very fond memories of him as my manager during his time in charge of Newcastle United back in 2001.

During my football career I’ve had the pleasure of being managed by some of the giants of the game; Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit to name a few but Sir Bobby Robson was the only one that truly left a mark on me. He had exceptionally good man management skills and whenever you had a conversation with him you got the sense he genuinely cared about you.

My fondest memory is of a conversation with him during a coach trip to London for a game. Typically on a coach trip you’d have groups of players engaging in card games, watching movies or listening to music but for me I very often read books on business or technology. As you can imagine I got a little bit of stick from some of the other players but it was always in good humour and it actually helped me settle into the first team.

On this particular trip I drew the attention of Alan Shearer who was having a little bit of fun with me and asking me about my ‘business empire’ when Bobby Robson called me to the front of the coach. Normally when this happened it was to tell me I either was or wasn’t going to be playing the following day but on this occasion he caught me completely by surprise.

He sat me down and asked about my interest in business and seemed genuinely interested and curious. During the conversation we explored the many similarities between business and football.

At the time I was 21 years of age and I’d been at the club since the age of 9 so this particular conversation was fascinating but I kind of took it for granted. In football a lot of extraordinary things happen and you kind of get used to them. I’d met the Queen, was part of an FA Cup final squad and played first team football for my home town club so why would a 30 minute conversation stand out? At the time it didn’t.

However about 3 years ago I found myself reading an article in a newspaper that stressed the importance of developing people in business and suddenly the conversation with Bobby Robson came flooding back.

It was a particular part of the conversation in which he stressed “David, business is similar to football if you think about it, you need great strategy and tactics but it’s the continuous development of great people and the team that ensures long term success”

The advice may be simple but it’s not so simple to implement, it takes time and patience to find great people and time and patience to build a team. To continuously develop a team also takes a huge amount of effort and focus.

These past few years we’ve all worked hard to put this advice into practice at CandidSky and the results speak for themselves. We’ve achieved outstanding results for our clients, we’ve been nominated for awards and the business has remained financially strong as we move into new premises.

We remain committed to the principle that the development of our team and the success it brings our clients are not ends in themselves nor are they mutually exclusive. It’s a continuous focus on development day in day out because that’s what creates impact and results for our clients.

The key part of the advice from Sir Bobby that really resonates with me is the importance of putting people at the heart of things. That’s something I saw with Sir Bobby, he always had time for his team, he was always on the training pitch developing people.

He extended his time off the pitch to medical staff, the kit team, the cooks, the players families and everyone else involved in the football club, he considered them all part of the team.

I’ll leave you with this short video in which he gives an emotional speech as he receives the Lifetime Achievement award in 2007 – I think it demonstrates this point perfectly.

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