Birmingham FC’s Brady scores with tips for success

Karren
Brady measures staff motivation by looking at absenteeism, and absenteeism at
Birmingham City Football Club must be one of the lowest in the UK – less then a
quarter of a day per employee.

Brady,
managing director at Birmingham City, speaking at Personnel Today’s HR
Directors Club at Somerset House, admitted motivating employees can be tricky –
especially in football, where the pay gap between non-football staff and
footballers is wide.

At
Birmingham, the average pay for non-footballers is £23,000 a year – for
footballers it is £23,000 a month.

One
way the club increases motivation is by promoting internally – the club’s HR
director started there 10 years ago, aged 16 and has worked her way up.

“The
best thing I have learnt is to bring out skills in people that no one else
thought they had,” Brady said. “You shouldn’t sack people, but work with them
and develop them.”

The
club sends all staff on job swaps. It allows them to learn new skills and,
Brady said, “see that the grass isn’t greener”.

Brady
has been managing director of Birmingham City since 1993, when she was only 23.
She took over when the club was in liquidation, and has turned the its fortunes
around.

The
only female managing director of a Premier League club, Brady admits she knew
she was in a male dominated world when she was asked her vital statistics at a
press conference. But, she said, if you are focused on what to want to do, then
it is not a barrier. “I don’t see myself as a woman in a man’s world. I see
myself as a businesswoman given an opportunity with a great business,” she
said.

In
1993, the club’s wages bill was £180m, yet it only took in £400,000. Now the
wages bill is £20m, with a £40m turnover – £4m of which is profit.

“For
a small business, that’s good,” Brady said. “For a football club, that’s bloody
brilliant.”

She
said that in 1993 there was no leadership, no money, no computers, and
everything was subject to a contra deal. The club’s black bin bag supplier was
given an executive box in lieu of money. Wages were done by hand, with players
and the manager queuing up outside a stable door each week for their cheques.

Brady’s
philosophy of “hold onto the old ways so long as they are good” saw widespread
changes.

Community
projects such as ‘Kids for a Quid’ scheme, the family stand, and the Community
Classroom have bought the fans back to the ground.

And
with renewed trust in their brand, Birmingham has been able to launch a range
of services, including mortgages, insurance, loans, credit cards, petrol cards,
savings accounts, training services and even funerals.

The
key, Brady said, is training, discipline and hard work, both on and off the
pitch. Staff need also three things: determination, enthusiasm, and to be told
what their direct contribution to the business is.

Brady
admits that the biggest challenge for the club at the moment is staying in the
Premier League. They are sixth at the moment – only 18 months after entering
the league.

And
Brady said this success comes down to people – especially buying the right
players. This makes the manager the key player, she said: “Everyone else is
dispensable.”

But
Brady admits that the best piece of advice she had was from Arsenal
vice-chairman David Dein. “Never let your heart rule your head and don’t
believe the manager when he says ‘just one more player’,” he said.

Karren
Brady’s key success factors:


Leadership: you have to be “willing to face the music, even when you don’t know
the tune”


Ambition: a constant drive that keeps her going and the desire to see the club
stay in the Premiership and get into Europe


Determination: it took Birmingham City nine-and-a-half years to get into the
Premiership after Brady took over


Attitude: If you don’t like something, then change it. If you can’t change it,
then change your attitude


Direction: Brady tells new recruits that they only thing stopping them sitting
in her seat is them


Courage: An ability to make decisions breeds courage


Be positive: hanging on when everybody else has let go, “nothing can take the
place of persistence

By
Quentin Reade

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