There’s a lesson in our World Cup defeat for business owners.

So England are out of the World Cup and the nation’s dreams of victory will have to wait at least another four years. I’m sure the postmortems will go on for weeks and the debate about Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal will be the source of many an excuse. The simple truth is that we weren’t good enough when it mattered.

I’m no great expert on football tactics but the BBC pundits at least are in agreement that too many players were struggling to play out of their usual positions. The point they made consistently was that the plan wasn’t working but the manager wasn’t willing to change. I see this all too frequently in business. Business owners complain that their businesses have been badly hit by the recession or the aggressive expansion plans of the big boys, notably Tesco. They blame someone or something else. This is fair to a point but when things aren’t working we need to be prepared to try a new tactic. We need to be good enough at meeting our customers’ needs to retain their loyalty especially when the going is tough.

This can sometimes mean the need for a radical rethink. We can’t keep on doing the same things and expect the result to be different. We need to look at the way we do business to see if it is still meeting the needs of enough of our customers. We might need to look at our trading hours, at the way we deliver our services or at the services or products that we offer. We might need to do some research or some creative thinking. We need to be learning all the time. Learning about our customers, our market, our competitors and our opportunities.

It is said that when the going gets tough the tough get going. There was a point when I thought England were going to do that this afternoon but it was a flash in the pan. To survive in the next few years many small businesses are going to need to be tough and stay tough. That way we’ll have something to celebrate even if it’s not England winning the World Cup!

There's always 2014!

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