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  • Writer's pictureMichael Williams

From Hollywood to the Racecourse Ground: Business Lessons from Ryan Reynolds & Rob McElhenney's Wrexham AFC Takeover

The unlikely yet wildly successful leadership of Wrexham AFC by Hollywood A-listers Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney is a source of inspiration to everyone...whether you are a football fan or not.

Wrexham FC 2023/24 team promoted to League 1

Like many of you, I have been enjoying watching the Wrexham AFC journey and the power moves of the unlikely leadership duo that is Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. For me, it once again highlights just how closely linked business and sports are.

Reynolds and McElhenney have a somewhat unorthodox approach to running a football club, but there are many valuable key lessons that can be drawn from their approach that businesses of all sizes can benefit from.

Let’s take a look!

Lesson 1: Embrace Authenticity and Passion

Ryan Reynold and Rob McElhenney

Reynolds and McElhenney haven't hidden their lack of prior football knowledge and experience. Instead, they've leveraged their genuine love for the sport and their personal wealth, skills and attributes (i.e. their comedic personalities, their ability to entertain and production company experience) to fuel the successful execution of their vision. This authenticity resonates with fans and builds trust, a key principle applicable to any business.

Lesson 2: The Power of Storytelling

Wrexham AFC celebrating a goal

The ”Welcome to Wrexham" FX documentary series that gives a transparent look at the journey of building this club / business isn't just entertainment; it's a brilliant marketing tool. By showcasing the club, the town, and the fans, a massive global audience has been attracted to Wrexham. Businesses can learn from this by crafting compelling narratives that connect with their target demographics.

Lesson 3: Value Your Community and Loyal Customer Base

Wrexham AFC fans

From the beginning, Reynolds and McElhenney have prioritised the Wrexham community. They've invested in the Racecourse Ground, the club's historic stadium, and supported local businesses. This focus on community engagement fosters loyalty and a strong support system, something crucial for any business to thrive.

Lesson 4: Create and Share a Clear Vision 

Wrexham AFC team celebrating

The vision to take the Football Club from the National League to the Premier League, which is 4 tiers higher, is an incredible one which they knew from the outset would be an enormously challenging journey, one which could only be done in a number of steps (smaller journeys). From day 1, Reynolds and McElhenney have been fully transparent about their ambitions for the club. This is a perfect example of having a clear vision, sharing it and ensuring that everyone that is impacted by it buys into it. A crucial process for any business that needs to achieve their vision.

Lesson 5: Engage Expert Advisors & Partners To Turn the Vision into Reality

Wrexham AFC owners and advisors

Reynolds and McElhenney knew that to be successful they would need to have their own trusted advisors and representatives physically in place at Wrexham, and Humphrey Ker (McElhenney’s TV programme scriptwriter) was the first engaged. Subsequently, Ker identified Shaun Harvey (Director) on an interim basis who in turn found Fleur Robinson (CEO) and Phil Parkinson (Team Manager). This focus on putting key people into place to bring in the right balance of knowledge, experience, skills and innovation into the business, whilst also building a strong core support system to execute the plan, is a not only a wise move but crucial for any business to thrive. It’s people that achieve great things.

Lesson 6: Be Prepared to Replan 

Ryan Reynold and Rob McElhenney in football stands

The owners always knew that delivering their vision for Wrexham AFC was going to be a massive challenge, and despite a good plan and significant investment, they were prepared for inevitable setbacks and some major lows to bounce back and replan from. The owners and management team cooly and patiently handled the overly complicated and protracted purchase of the Racecourse Ground to secure it back under safe ownership, and disruption and extra expense (£200k) of having to re-lay the pitch that had only been done recently at a cost of £100k. Their support also helped pick up and motivate the team on and off the pitch, and the community when Wrexham lost key games and narrowly missed out on promotion. Being prepared to change plans to maintain progress of business objectives and achieve the vision on course is vital for any business.    

Lesson 7: Embrace Innovation and Calculated Risks

The duo haven't been afraid to try new things. They secured a lucrative kit sponsorship deal with TikTok, a first for a non-league club. This demonstrates their willingness to explore innovative partnerships that can bring in new revenue streams. However, they haven't been reckless. Their initial investment was calculated, and they've grown the club's value significantly.

Lesson 8: Celebrate Success, But Keep Your Eye on the Goal

Wrexham AFC manager and owners celebrating National League Championship win

Just recently, Wrexham achieved back-to-back promotions, a historic feat. Reynolds and McElhenney revelled in the moment, but haven't lost sight of their ambition – reaching the Premier League. Businesses should learn to celebrate milestones while maintaining a focus on long-term goals.

The Fantastic Journey Continues

The Wrexham story is far from over, but the lessons it offers are clear. Prioritising authenticity, community, and calculated risks towards a shared vision, and engaging the best people will win the day. However, by also being prepared and ready to replan to achieve your goal and use storytelling to connect with a wider audience, businesses of all types can find success...Hollywood connections or not.


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