There’s an interview with Alex Ferguson in the Harvard Business Review.
He says he trained his players for different scenarios.
He always felt the critical point of the match was the end game.
This was particularly true in the 1999 European Cup Final.
Bayern Munich scored after just six minutes.
Whatever Manchester United tried they couldn’t score.
They did everything they could to equalise, nothing worked.
It became inevitable that Bayern Munich would win by that single goal.
The match was winding down, the full ninety minutes were up, all that remained was injury time.
The German fans were letting off flares in celebration.
Bayern Munich’s colours had already been tied to the European Cup ready for the presentation.
Then, with seconds left, Manchester United won a corner.
Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel ran the length of the pitch and stood ready to attack the German goal.
Schmeichel was a huge man, this was something the defenders weren’t expecting, they were unsettled.
While they were unsettled the ball came across, Teddy Sheringham stuck his foot out and scored.
Now the score was one-all, and that’s where the game changed.
The Bayern Munich players couldn’t believe they’d have to play extra time, and their hearts sank.
But the Manchester United players had been reprieved.
They were on top of the world.
And Manchester United won a final corner.
While the Bayern Munich players were dejected the ball came across, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stuck his foot out and scored.
The referee blew the final whistle and Manchester United had won the European Cup, two-one.
German players fell to their knees and pounded the grass.
No one in the entire stadium could believe it.
The ceremony had to wait while the ribbons on the European Cup were changed.
Because Alex Ferguson had prepared his players for the end game.
We don’t do that, we behave like Bayern Munich.
We believe if we do everything right all along we will automatically win.
So we often lose at the very end just like them.
We produce outstanding, unusual, different, innovative creative work.
But it doesn’t get made.
It doesn’t get made because the client won’t buy it.
Because no one ever explained to the client why they need work that’s outstanding, unusual, different, innovative.
We expect the client to know that.
But the client doesn’t.
And the client doesn’t want to buy something risky that violates all the rules they’ve learned.
That’s why great account men are like Alex Ferguson.
They know it’s all in the end game.
If the client doesn’t buy the ads, the ads don’t get made.
No matter how good we think they are, no matter how much work went into them.
There’s no point in all that hard work if you lose the game in the last few minutes.