The pundits say the biggest problem England had in their World Cup match against Italy was their defence, namely a big hole on the left. Or as manager Roy Hodgson put it, 'We didn't defend that area well.' A great goal by Sturridge meant nothing because the English defence let Italy score twice.

One of the fascinating things about football is that there are not quite enough players in a team to commit fully to both defence and attack. Hodgson himself pointed out, 'We were playing very offensive wide-midfield players and I'm afraid we were going to get caught from time to time.' In a World Cup campaign that initially hinges on three matches, risks have to be taken. Attack may be the best form of defence. It is very different to the long slog of the league. 

Running a business is more like the weekly grind of 38 matches. Small businesses will be wise to follow the example of The Saints rather than England. The reason little Southampton held their own against the titans of the Premier League last season was that manager and former defender Pochettino made his priority building a solid defence and used that as the springboard for his attacking trio of Lallana, Lambert and Rodriguez.

So it is for business. Multi-millionaire publisher Felix Dennis once said, 'There is never a time in a company's history when cost control can be relegated to the back burner, but for a startup company, keeping costs low is a vital necessity.'

To run a successful business, you need a product, a market and sales. But all that revenue is meaningless if it seeps away in uncontrolled costs. You must spend time minimising the cost of labour, materials, shipping, storage and overheads. Like defensive football, it's boring but it is essential to success. Think of revenue as the goals you score and costs as your back four.

This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.


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