When Arthur Blank decided the time was ripe to launch a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team in Atlanta he went all in. They launched in 2017. In 2018, Blank’s team – Atlanta United – won the MLS Championship. Since when does a 2nd-year team in an established league win a championship? Since never.
How did they do it? Ruthless consistency. A clear alignment of ambition, decisions and actions.
It started with an ambition, “… to be the very best we could be,” says Blank. “(But) unless you can execute against that vision it’s just having hallucinations.” Exactly.
So what decisions and actions drove their success? First, they brought in a highly qualified team president two-and-a-half years before they even played a match. Then they spent a lot of time benchmarking the city that had the most successful launch of an MLS franchise – Seattle. The goal was to learn what they had done well and what they had not done well. In the interest of creating a stronger league, Seattle was open to sharing their experience.
Next, they decided to overinvest in the very best people they could get while conveying a strong expectation of performance. But this wasn’t just about throwing money around. Blank followed the advice of his team’s management who determined that the “best” people weren’t aging stars from Europe who were riding out the wave of their careers. The best were rising young stars, many from South America, who were hungry to make their mark and who if they did might get purchased by one of the large European clubs. Which would provide Atlanta United with more cash to sign more rising young stars.
Did I mention that they built a $60 million training facility?
When in 2017 the team achieved some early success Blank responded like he did in the early days at The Home Depot, a company he co-founded. He celebrated the successes. But he focused on what they weren’t doing well, what they needed to improve and how they could improve. It was all about fulfilling the ambition.
Learn from others. Get the best people you can. Provide the facilities and resources. Focus on continuous improvement.
Let’s be clear: Ruthlessly consistency doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be successful. But repeated inconsistency does guarantee that you won’t.
It’s a New Year, a fresh start, and a chance to make your mark. Be ruthlessly consistent.
Make it happen.
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