How Great Hires Transform Organizations: Rapid Turnaround Lessons Learned

By: Leon Shivamber


“We all have a responsibility to try and make this world better, whether it’s through our work, the causes we champion, the way that we treat people, or the values we impart to the next generation.”

Daniel Lubetzky
Leadership and Team as essential parts of Transformation Success
Leadership and Team as essential parts of Transformation Success

You want to build a world-class business. 

But you find yourself in the middle of the pack at best or at the bottom of the competition. 

What do you do to get back on track?

You need a transformation; the fastest way to make that happen is with great hires. 

Let me give you a great example using a case study of the fantastic public transformation underway at Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami (Inter Miami Football Club)

In business, certain moments become turning points, heralding a new era. 

The world of Soccer witnessed such a moment when Lionel Messi, a name synonymous with unparalleled skill and passion, made his move to Inter Miami. 

But this wasn’t just a transfer of a star player; it was a masterstroke in strategic hiring. 

As the ripples of this decision spread, business leaders worldwide sat up and took notice. 

The Messi Effect on Inter Miami is more than just a sports story; it’s a lesson in transformation, strategy, and the power of the right talent. 

For business executives and HR leaders, the story of Inter Miami’s meteoric rise offers invaluable lessons on the importance of securing the right talent.

Dive into this tale of Soccer, strategy, and success, and discover how the right moves can catapult any organization to new heights.

Purpose-Driven Ownership: The Beckham Vision

David Beckham, an iconic figure in the world of Soccer, has always been more than just a talented player on the field. 

He packed his journey from Manchester United to Real Madrid and then to LA Galaxy with passion, dedication, and a vision that transcends the boundaries of the pitch. But Beckham’s ambition didn’t stop at playing; it extended to ownership and the dream of transforming North American Soccer.

A Visionary’s Dream

Beckham’s vision was clear: to build a world-class soccer team that would compete at the highest levels and ignite a passion for the sport in North America. 

In this region, Soccer traditionally took a backseat to other major sports. 

Beckham’s dream was to create a legacy, a movement that would change the landscape of Soccer in the US and Canada.

The Birth of Inter Miami CF

In 2020, this dream materialized with the launch of Inter Miami CF, a Major League Soccer (MLS) team co-owned by Beckham. 

Playing temporarily in a borrowed field in Fort Lauderdale, the team was a testament to Beckham’s commitment to bringing top-tier Soccer to the region. 

But for Beckham, Inter Miami was more than just a team; it was a mission. He envisioned a club deeply rooted in the community, inspiring the next generation of soccer enthusiasts and players.

Making The Right Moves: Time For A Transformation

The 2023 season started as a disaster.

Despite the glitz of Beckham’s ownership, on-field performance was abysmal. 

At the midpoint break, Inter Miami was dead last in their conference.

Fans derided the team as the laughingstock of the league.

Beckham was deeply frustrated. 

He had sacrificed so much to bring top-tier Soccer to Miami. To see his dream faltering was devastating.

Sleepless nights led to sober realization – it was time for a transformation.

Inter Miami fired their coach and started a dramatic shakeup. 

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.

Warren Bennis

Beckham knew that to elevate the club’s status and performance, he needed a star player and a strategic leader. 

Over the years, Beckham laid the groundwork to bring one of the world’s greatest footballers, Lionel Messi, to his club. 

This move wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision but a calculated process that Beckham had been orchestrating for years.

But the conditions never lined up. How could a losing team attract one of the best players in Soccer?

Beckham needed a strategic leader that would be a catalyst for the transformation.

Enter Gerardo Martino, a seasoned coach with a proven track record. 

Beckham’s decision to hire Martino was a masterstroke, as he was not only familiar with Messi’s style of play, having coached him at Barcelona, but also shared a deep mutual respect with the player.

Gerardo Martino supervising a training of the transformed Inter Miami team
Gerardo Martino supervising a training of the transformed Inter Miami team

The Gerardo Martino Catalyst: Setting the Stage for Transformation

Gerardo (Tata) Martino’s role in Inter Miami’s transformation mirrors that significance when considering foundational architectural pillars. His appointment wasn’t just about bringing in a seasoned coach and laying the groundwork for a future legacy.

  • A Tapestry of Achievements: Martino’s career resembles a mosaic of successes, each tile representing a milestone:
    • Tata led Paraguay to the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. 
    • He has the record for having played 505 games for Newell’s Old Boys, a team he later returned to coach to several cup wins.
    • His stint at FC Barcelona, where Messi recommended him, is like the centerpiece of this mosaic, drawing attention and adding credibility.
    • He led Atlanta United, a MLS team, to a cup victory in his second season.
    • Each achievement added a hue to his illustrious palette. 
  • The Maestro’s Touch: Just as a conductor’s nuanced gestures can elevate an orchestra’s performance, Martino’s strategic decisions and game insights similarly affect the soccer field. Martino’s teams have the same distinguishable traits: they play attack-minded football, are creative, and the style demands quick passing. His ability to read the game, make timely decisions, and inspire players is reminiscent of a maestro guiding his orchestra to a standing ovation.
  • Relationship Dynamics: In cinema, certain director-actor pairs create magic on screen. Think of the collaborations between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. In Soccer, the Martino-Messi duo has a similar resonance. Their shared history and mutual respect amplify their combined impact, making their reunion at Inter Miami an inevitable blockbuster.
CINvMIA 2023-08-23 - Lionel Messi, Tata Martino (PXL 20230824 010525464)

The Power of Relationships in Recruitment

Relationships are pivotal in the intricate recruitment dance, acting as the rhythm guiding the steps. Martino’s bond with Messi wasn’t just about past collaborations; it was a testament to trust, respect and shared visions.

  • Shared Histories: Just as old friends can pick up a conversation after years apart, Martino and Messi’s shared history at FC Barcelona provided a foundation of mutual understanding. This rapport, built over the years, facilitated seamless communication and strategy execution on the field.
  • The Messi Magnet: Messi’s recommendation of Martino for the Barcelona job years ago wasn’t just a nod to his skills but a testament to their deep-rooted professional respect. This mutual admiration set the stage for their reunion at Inter Miami, acting as a beacon for other talents to join the ensemble.
  • Creating a World-Class Ensemble: In music, a trio of perfectly synchronized instruments can create harmonies that resonate deeply with audiences. Under Martino’s guidance, the trio of Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba did just that for Inter Miami, crafting match-winning strategies and elevating the team’s performance.

Inter Miami, with Martino, was more attractive to Messi. 

There begins the major momentum shift and a virtuous cycle of talent additions.

Inter Miami, with Martino and Messi, was more appealing to Busquets and Alba, who had all played together. 

An Inter Miami with Martino and the world-class foundational trio would be attractive magnets to a host of rising stars.

That’s just the beginning!

Hiring The Best On A Constrained Budget: The Interplay of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards

One challenge Inter Miami had, like all other transformations, was the affordability of world-class talent.

How would they attract Martino, Messi, Busquets, Alba, and other world-class talents when the competition for Messi alone was higher than the entire Inter Miami payroll?

Beckham knew what transformation pros always count on—intrinsic rewards trump extrinsic rewards.

Compensation-motivated hires are rarely sustainable/optimal.

What do we mean by intrinsic rewards?

In every grand enterprise, the best players are not just motivated by monetary rewards. 

The allure of a higher purpose, the thrill of chasing glory, and the satisfaction of personal growth play pivotal roles.

  • Chasing Glory: For players of Messi’s caliber, every match is more than just a game; it’s a chapter in their legacy. The intrinsic reward of etching their name in Soccer Fame often outweighs any financial incentive.
  • Granting Autonomy: Players need autonomy on the field just as a seasoned artist requires the freedom to paint their masterpiece. Martino’s trust in Messi’s decisions during crucial moments is a testament to this principle.
  • The Pursuit of Mastery: In the world of arts, a dancer’s relentless pursuit of perfection, the countless hours spent honing their craft, mirrors the dedication players like Messi bring to Soccer. This drive for mastery, perfecting every pass and every shot, is an intrinsic reward.
  • Purpose: Consider the allure of playing a pivotal role in transforming North American Soccer. Throw in a location that the family would love. Mix in the ability to mentor the next generation of stars and the possibility of building a world-class team capable of winning championships. These are attractive intrinsic rewards for Messi. 

Would these be enough to overcome a large compensation gap?

Messi Inter Miami’s compensation was far from what the competition was willing to offer. However, partnerships with Adidas and Apple focused on the pursuit of growing North American Soccer interest worldwide could close some of the compensation gaps but offer significantly higher purpose (the most critical intrinsic reward). 

Ultimately, Messi’s Intrinsic Rewards more than made up for the compensation gap.

Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.

Henry David Thoreau
Inter Miami welcomes Messi to the Transformation
Inter Miami welcomes Messi to the Transformation

Humility in Leadership: The Messi Paradigm

In the vast landscapes of leadership, humility stands tall as a timeless virtue. 

Messi’s transition to captaincy at Inter Miami offers profound insights into this often-overlooked trait.

  • Leading by Example: True leaders, whether in boardrooms or soccer fields, lead by example. Messi’s dedication, discipline, and commitment set the tone for the team, inspiring younger players to strive for excellence.
  • The Power of Listening: Effective leadership isn’t just about giving orders but listening, understanding, and empathizing. Messi’s ability to listen to his teammates, value their feedback, and adapt strategies on the fly underscores the importance of this trait.
  • Elevating Others: Great leaders elevate those around them. Messi’s humility shines through in his efforts to spotlight his teammates, celebrate their achievements, and foster a culture of mutual respect and admiration.

As Messi joined the team, Andre Yedlin, the Team Captain, decided to hand over the Captain’s band to Messi to recognize his experience and leadership.

Several weeks later, when Miami won the Leagues Cup, a feat no one would have bet on, Messi invited Yedlin to hoist the cup jointly to show respect for his teammate.

The Domino Effect: The Chain Reaction of Strategic Hires

Imagine setting up a line of dominoes. With a gentle nudge, one piece sets off a cascade, each influencing the next in a mesmerizing sequence. This momentum is the power of the domino effect in strategic hires.

  • The Messi Magnetism: Just as a magnet attracts iron filings, Messi’s presence at Inter Miami acted as a beacon, drawing in other world-class talents. His reputation, skill, and charisma made the club a hotspot for talent, much like a renowned university becoming a hub for scholars.
  • Synergy in Strategy: In nature, certain plants grow better when paired together, benefiting from mutual protection and nutrients. Similarly, the combined strengths of Messi, Busquets, and Alba, all under Martino’s guidance, created a synergy that propelled Inter Miami to new heights.
  • From Underdogs to Champions: Every Cinderella story resonates because of the journey, from rags-to-riches tales to epic movie comebacks. Inter Miami’s transformation from an underperforming team to a champion is a testament to the power of suitable hires at the right time.
Inter Miami Transformation to Leagues Cup Champion
Inter Miami Transformation to Leagues Cup Champion

The Financial Upside: Riding the Messi Wave

In the high-stakes world of sports, strategic decisions can have monumental financial implications. 

Inter Miami’s journey offers a masterclass in leveraging brand value for economic growth.

  • Valuation Surge: Just as prime real estate in a booming market can see exponential appreciation, strategic hires in the sports world can lead to similar valuation surges. Inter Miami’s journey from a $500 million valuation to a staggering $1.5 billion in just a few months is a testament to this.
  • The Social Media Gold Rush: In today’s digital age, social media followership is a barometer of popularity and influence. Messi’s arrival catalyzed a meteoric rise in Inter Miami’s Instagram followership, from 900,000 to 14.3 million in just two and a half months, unlocking new avenues for fan engagement and brand partnerships.
  • The Long-Term Play: Strategic hires offer long-term benefits beyond immediate financial gains. Increased ticket sales, merchandise revenues, and global brand partnerships are just the tip of the iceberg. The value lies in the legacy, the stories, and the history these decisions create.
  • Transforming North American Soccer: Beckham’s influence on North American Soccer is undeniable. With Inter Miami, he brought in international talents, fostered local youth development, and created a soccer culture that resonated with fans. His purpose-driven approach to ownership emphasized the importance of community engagement, youth development, and creating a winning mentality both on and off the field.

Since Messi has joined Inter Miami, they have not lost to another team.

They won the Leagues Cup in its first year, a competition that included all the major soccer teams in Canada, Mexico, and the USA.

They are playing later this month in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup finals, which includes all the US Soccer teams.

They have been playing in sold-out stadiums, at home and away.

Adidas Messi shirts are backlogged, with unfilled sales over six months out.

Apple TV has signed up record subscriptions to its MLS online feed.

They will undoubtedly have some tricky spots and lose some games. Still, the transformation of Inter Miami has been an exemplar among speedy, successful cases.

Messi shirt - part of the transformation underway
Messi shirt – part of the transformation underway

Lessons for Business Leaders: The Playbook for Success

In the vast business galaxy, each star (or organization) shines with its unique light. But some stars, due to their mass and energy, have a gravitational pull that influences entire systems. 

The story of Inter Miami offers such universal gravitas.

Here are the most important lessons for those considering undertaking a transformation:

  1. Visionary Leadership: David Beckham’s clear vision for Inter Miami and his passion and dedication laid the foundation for the club’s transformation. A leader’s vision can act as a guiding light, directing the entire organization.
  2. The Power of Strategic Hiring: The right talent can be a game-changer. Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami wasn’t just about acquiring a star player; it was a strategic decision that had ripple effects throughout the organization and beyond.
  3. The Importance of Relationships: The bond between Gerardo Martino and Messi, built on mutual respect and shared history, played a pivotal role in the club’s success. In business, fostering strong relationships can lead to synergies that amplify results.
  4. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Rewards: While compensation is essential, intrinsic rewards like a higher purpose, the thrill of achievement, and personal growth can be even more motivating. Beckham leveraged this understanding to attract world-class talent to Inter Miami.
  5. Humility in Leadership: Messi’s humility, demonstrated through actions like sharing the Captain’s band with Andre Yedlin, underscores the importance of leading by example and elevating those around you.
  6. Reputation Matters: A solid reputation can act as a beacon, drawing in talent, investors, and opportunities. Messi’s global appeal amplified Inter Miami’s brand, increasing followership and partnerships.
  7. The Universality of Strategy: The principles of strategic hiring and team synergy are universal and applicable across sectors. Aligning the right pieces can create magic in sports, business, or any other endeavor.


Inter Miami’s journey, catalyzed by Messi and Martino’s strategic acquisitions, is a testament to the transformative power of visionary leadership. 

It’s a story that transcends Soccer, offering invaluable insights for leaders in all fields. 

Whether you’re at the helm of a startup, a seasoned executive in a multinational corporation, or an enthusiast looking to understand the dynamics of strategic decisions, the Messi Effect provides a playbook for success.

This is the sign you have been looking for - time for a transformation
This is the sign you have been looking for – time for a transformation

Now What?

Does the Messi Effect inspire you? 

It’s time to make your strategic moves. 

Whether in business or personal endeavors, remember the power of visionary leadership, the importance of the right talent, and the magic of synergy. 

Take a leaf from Inter Miami’s playbook and set the stage for your transformative journey. 

Please share this article with fellow leaders and enthusiasts. 

If you want to explore the Power of Purpose in your business then you really need to talk to Adam Schorr and check out his firm Rule No. 1 – inspiring stuff.

If you need to find transformational leaders, connect with August Leadership. They are one of the fastest-growing firms helping clients find exceptional talent. Asad and Farah Haider built the firm around the principles of collaborative, entrepreneurial partners filled with purpose, autonomy, and ever in the pursuit of mastery. Watching them deliver some of the most diverse and superbly fitting candidates with breakneck speed to their clients has been a joy. 

I would be happy to make introductions.

Finally, let’s champion the spirit of strategic transformation in all areas of life!

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