Croatia is a very small country. It is a country of about 4.2 million people (think of Greater Ikeja in Lagos). Yet, it has booked a ticket to the Final of the World Cup. Its players and flag would grace almanacs across nations where football remains a religion and sports. What they have accomplished is mind-blowing. In the world of technology, it was like the young Google in late 1990s going after Yahoo on search. The difference here is that sports is an ephemeral endeavor with no gross margin. But make no mistake: there is nothing that endures in any generation like when legends make histories in sports. When I visited Greece for a conference, many knew Nigeria because of sports and specifically Nigeria’s 1994 World Cup squad.
The fascinating achievement of Croatia should teach us a big lesson in business: building and nurturing teams matter. Except Ivan Perišic (Inter) and Mario Mandžukic (Juventus), I did not know of any other player in the Croatian national squad before this competition. These men came to play, and with commitment and dedication, they have reached the zenith of their professions. The coaches brought them together and executed a mission.
From companies to nations, those that answer great missions typically shape everything. But sometimes they do pay severe personal penalties. At different levels, a Call to Mission requires extremely committed people. Even in your business, you must have that capacity to find and recruit people that can help you execute a great mission. You must prepare them. Equip them. And push them to come and get glory.
Go back to your business. Check how you can build a team with what you have. There may not be Ronaldo or Messi. But you have people. It works for nations across sectors and industries. America continues its mission of technological advancement. China is doing just that also. Croatia has shown that even in sports, a nation can pick 11 men from a population of 4.2 million to win at least a silver medal when some with excess of 100 million barely qualify. Simply, if people commit to something, they have a chance to achieve.
Croatia will play France on Sunday for the Gold; they would look good on the medal stage. They have done well and would possibly expand the number of countries that have won the World Cup. France had experienced that glory before; Croatia will want to complete this Mission. It would be good they do it, though I have predicted that France will win this.