What the World of Business Can Learn from the World Cup

Bloomberg news columnist Matthew Lynn talks about the financial impact of the World Cup, and callers talk about what they've learned from the event.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

LYNN NEARY, host:

Well, after four weeks of emotional highs and lows, the World Cup Soccer circus is finally moving on. And the celebrations may be losing momentum - possibly more a case of weary bodies and fading spirit.

Many lessons were learned over the last 30 days, from the best face-paints all the way to varying levels of head-butting severity. But some lessons have more staying power than others, and even an impact on your wallet.

If you've learned any business lessons from the World Cup, let us know at 800-989-8255, or e-mail us at talk@npr.org.

Matthew Lynn is a London-based columnist for Bloomberg News. In today's column on Bloomberg.netcom, he listed the top six business lessons to be learned from the World Cup. He joins us now by phone from London. Welcome to the program.

Mr. MATTHEW LYNN (Columnist, Bloomberg News, London): Hi. Good evening.

NEARY: Well, Matthew, let's go through some of those lessons. The first is, experience often outwits youth. Now how did we see that played out?

Mr. LYNN: Well, you, one of the kind of big themes, I guess, if you were following the World Cup, was, as the tournament started, the French in particular, no one gave them a chance. Zinedine Zidane, who a few years ago was probably the best player in the world, had actually retired and had to be coaxed back by the French team to play for his country again, and of course they did brilliantly. They got all the way to the final. In fact, they did great in the final.

But even some of the Italian team weren't giving them much of a chance at the beginning. But they're pretty experienced. And you know, in business, as in soccer, there's kind of a cult of youth. People always want the younger person managing their money or managing their company, but it's not always true. Sometimes the older guys play better.

NEARY: And the second one, chaotic management will bring disaster, which of course I'm sure many people have experienced in the business world. How did we see that played out in soccer and what should business learn from that?

Mr. LYNN: Well, yeah, a particularly - a particularly a hard lesson for the English. We were really optimistic when the World Cup started, because we've got a pretty good club of players at the moment. A lot of people think, quite rightly in my opinion, that this is one of the best crop of soccer players we've had for a generation or so. But it really didn't happen for the English. I mean, the team was under the management of a rather odd Swedish guy with glasses, called Svengar Erikkson(ph). We didn't have any strikers there. We didn't have a formation settled. He was chopping and changing it all the time, and the team played pretty badly.

And you see that all the time in business. I mean, you see companies with great assets, you know, terrific products that really don't make the most of them. And it doesn't matter, the lesson is it doesn't matter how good your assets are. If you don't manage them well, you're not going to do well.

NEARY: So what's the tip we should take away from that?

Mr. LYNN: That one, (unintelligible) tips of all of these. I mean, on the last one we're just talking about, the old guys do better, I was thinking about Bosworth Hathaway and of course Warren Buffett, he's 75, but he's still - he still manages to outperform a lot of the young hedge fund managers. On the chaotic management Votaphone company, which I think owns have of Verizon in the U.S. as well, biggest mobile phone company in the world, it has terrific assets, should be doing really well (unintelligible) telecom integrates with the media, and so on, Votaphone, their shares are still about a third of what they were six years ago, because they can't seem to make up their mind what they're doing.

NEARY: Okay, one of my favorites is never write off old Europe. And tell us how that played out and what's the tip that we should learn from it?

Mr. LYNN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, at the start of the tournament it was Argentina. The Argentineans have always got a pretty good soccer team, but they were absolutely fantastic. They were playing terrific football. The Brazilians, the Brazilians are always good and a lot of people were thinking that they were the team that were going to win the tournament this year. But the African nations, I mean the African nations are getting better and better and better, and lot of people thought this might be the year where finally one of the new African nations manages to go all the way to the semi-finals or maybe even the final itself.

It didn't happen. By the time you got to the final it was France, Italy, Germany, and Portugal, the traditional footballing powers. And the tip that I drew from that, just never write off Europe and buy the Euro. You might think that the European economy is a bit of a dog with too high taxes and too much regulation, and to some extent it is, but Europe has been the center of global wealth and power for about 2,000 years now. And that's a long-term trend, (unintelligible) at your peril. So whatever difficulties it has, they'll fix them. They'll fix them at some point and they'll be back. Never write them off.

NEARY: Well, listen, Matthew, how good are your investment tips anyway? Who were you betting on seeing in the final?

Mr. LYNN: Oh, I was betting on an England/Germany - an England/Germany final. But that's something everybody does, in investment just like everything else. You let your emotion cloud your actual judgment. Because I think I wanted to see England in the finals, so I sort of believed - I sort of believed it would happen. But we all do that, of course.

The lesson from that is never - don't let your emotions or what you want to happen cloud your judgment. You've got to look at what's really likely to happen, and probably if I had been looking at that I'd have made a different prediction.

NEARY: All right, Matthew. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Mr. LYNN: My pleasure.

NEARY: Matthew Lynn of Bloomberg News.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary, in Washington.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: