Richard Feuz started working at Servette FC in 2016. Since 2020 he is leading the club as CEO. In this interview he speaks about success, leadership and the recent projects of Servette.
How is Servette doing at the moment?
After having made a satisfactory “mercato” this summer in all points of view, including breaking the club’s sales record, and having played almost the half of the championship, we are second on the table, still undefeated at home this season, and we have an amazing dynamic despite having still one of the smallest budgets of the league.
At the business level and even facing Covid, Servette has been growing day by day in the three years since I took over the management of the club, proving that our marketing and commercial approach is successful and working.
Are there any big projects you are working on?
Our main project is to bring back Servette FC to the top of the league regularly, because in my opinion it’s where it has been and deserve to be. That’s why, we are working so hard and with so much dedication.
One of the important focuses on which we are working on is trying to leverage our local fan base and make it growth with a strong identity and get them on board with the club vision since last three seasons.
This go through a targeted marketing, attractive merchandising, fun and varied activities on gameday, etc.
During the two years of the pandemic, we also put a strong emphasis on the digitalization of our platforms, in order to make our fans and partners feel always close to the club, despite the physical distance. This allowed us to adapt and still achieve significant commercial growth through these digital platforms, despite this difficult period.
All of this will definitely help us to strengthen our identity in the city and make feels fans and partners they are part of it, because we need them to get back to the top.
Also, the format of the league in Switzerland is changing to a new one next season. It would be for the club a new challenge to keep growing our fan base and make it more attractive for them to always keep improving their live experience.
Another big project we are still working on daily is our women team and its academy. We launched it in 2017, by merging with another Geneva’s team which at the time was in the bottom of the Swiss second division. I have been the Project Manager at the time and since then I am the Sporting Director.
From that moment on, we have put a lot of energy and time into this project which is very important to us for two reasons. Firstly, through women’s football and our visibility in Geneva and Switzerland, we must be a driving force for the development of women’s rights and equality. Secondly, Servette FC is a competitive football club, and we want to set up winning projects with every team we have in competition.
After five seasons of existence, the team was champion of the second division during its first season of existence, and since then has finished at the first of the regular Swiss “Super League” three times in a row, qualifying as a result of it for the three last UEFA Women’s Champions editions.
This season and until now, the team is once again performing very well, having won all of its games at the halfway point of the championship and leading the championship by several points.
Do you think Servette is working successfully currently?
I humbly think I can answer yes!
Indeed, at the sporting level, we’ve been working for three years to restructure our way of working, doing largely with the people who were already in place, in order to make the club pass a course and to be able to aim again at the top of the classification.
On the operational and administrative side, we have also restructured a lot since 2020 and can count on very competent staff, which helps to develop our club more and more every day.
Also, I think that the economic stability that we have been able to achieve in the last few years is also a reflection of the good functioning of the club. We have managed these two years of pandemic, always staying within green numbers and that is also for us a great achievement.
For these reasons I am very positive about the future of the club, although it will be important for all of us to challenge ourselves every day and continue to work very hard, because it’s what deserve this organization.
When is a football club successful, how would you define success?
Success will only come with what I call “The Three P’s” : always Perserve, always have great Perspective and always have a great Purpose in a project.
If these three P’s are combined with intensive work, a vision, strong values, a lot of discipline and of course a strong team spirit, I am convinced that an organisation or a project can only have success and a great future.
That’s why during those three years, we’ve been working so hard setting up club’s values and pillars such as Morality, Rules, Structure, Team Spirit and Winning Mentality.
We did it because we think without them, we wouldn’t achieve anything important.
That is for us the first step of a winning project, because sporting success on the pitch is only a consequence of it.
What makes a club successful, what are the most important factors?
Vision, Consistency, financial balance, long-term plan, separation of powers among the leaders, clear tasks for everyone in the club, trust, stability, and respect.
You are a very young leader. What is your idea of leadership?
Leadership is showing the way to your team through hard work and reachable goals. It’s also creating an atmosphere for the team with values such as trust, listening, kindness and building a learning mindset. If you manage to galvanize and inspire your team, they will feel motivated, and you can climb any mountain with them. It’s important to always remember that success comes from teamwork and alone you can’t achieve very much.
A young leader has always to be eager to learn, discover and acquire knowledge and skills from others. I think it is with these traits, he could tend to inspire his staff to help them to reach greater heights of efficiency at work.
Also, I don’t think is about the age nor trying to be the boss but is about to be the captain of the ship anytime and do everything is necessary to achieve the goals of the team, trying to challenge yourself and the status quo daily.
That’s why is important to have a great team around you because they are the one who challenge you and you can learn every day from them. I believe in the idea of growing trough feedback because it works for everyone at any time in life.
Finally, the demonstration of success around your team and group is the key. A leader must know how to share successes and achievements with the rest of his squad. Otherwise, all the rest of the process is useless.
Do you see a change of the working environment in football? Like it is changing generally, with remote work, less strict hierarchy, more flexibility, etc.
I don’t think there has been a revolution as a result of this pandemic, but it’s clear that this period has forced us to rethink things and change our habits.
I think that’s one of the good things about having to learn to work differently. Remote work has been a challenge to set up in an industry where human contact and presence seemed to be mandatory, even three years ago.
I think it has helped, if not forced, management to have much more organized and structured work lines to allow employees to work from home in a comfortable way. Once organized, I think that this flexibility is a plus for employees, especially those who have families or live far from their place of work.
I don’t think you should confuse hierarchy with trust in your teams. If there is confidence and each employee is motivated by his tasks at work and clearly knows his mission and objectives, there are all the ingredients for him to be productive and happy to work for the company, at the office or from home.
Football clubs often have the problem that the “importance” of staff in sports and non-sports is not balanced. What’s your take on that?
For me, it is impossible to separate the development of one from the other. Servette FC was still in the third division in 2015 and in the second division in 2019.
If today it plays in the top positions of the league and aims at the European spots, it is because we have been very careful to develop all the departments of the club at the same time, it’s in my opinion a crucial point.
Although it is important to remember that the reason of being of a football club is the players and the technical staff, it is unreal in my point of view to pretend to build a serious and ambitious club without an important administrative and operational department too.
All photos: SERVETTE FC