Federer Inc. : a Case in Innovation

By Alec Corthay

There is no need to repeat what has been said about Roger Federer’s stunning come-back on the ATP Tour: three major titles (including a Grand Slam) and three consecutive wins against Nadal in 2017. The Swiss’s magic elicits wonder. How can this be possible?

A point in Roger’s journey back to the top, after a forced 6-month injury break, has yet come unnoticed: that a come-back at 35 is no one-man show, and that is does not happen by accident.

Federer Inc. is a very effective company

Beyond the man, have you ever considered the organization needed to support such a performance? I call it Federer Inc.

“Roger” credits his team for his successes, and he means it. Federer Inc. is a very effective company: it has a “product” and a CEO (champion). It runs production in project-mode (tournaments). Other “departments” include: maintenance (practice); human resources (massaging); marketing; a “back-office” supporting Roger’s executive lifestyle, plus four kids on the road. I am not sure about the role of Mirka, Roger’s wife, but it is at the core of Federer Inc.

Morover, Federer Inc. has recently moved upwards in terms of performance. From January 2017, it has been a case in innovation. Innovation at Federer Inc. deals with design and delivery.

The (recent) impact of design at Federer Inc.

Roger is saying it: he is better now than 10 years ago, when he was an unchallenged number 1. This speaks tons about ongoing improvement, about learning, and about a disciplined life-style.

Yet, it also suggests a deeper change, one of design. This obviously points a few changes in Roger’s game (more topspin backhands, more half-volleys, served by a remarkable foot game, etc.).

Roger is playing by design, with the game that matches his DNA. He may be more himself now than ever.

Let us listen to the man: “I am more optimistic, more aggressive”. Indeed, the player’s attitude has changed.

Roger is playing by design, with the game that matches his DNA. He may be more himself now than ever.

Why does Federer Inc. deliver so well?

Federer Inc. not only plays by design, but also delivers. Which may be the trickiest thing about innovation.

“I have never missed a practice, and this will never happen”, Roger remarked a few years ago at the Australian Open, when he was interviewed by L’Equipe, the French equivalent of Sports Illustrated. The player had been on a long flight the day before, why would he not rest?

“In order for me to be competitive here (in Australia), Federer pointed out, I need my team, including my coaches. For them to be with me is a sacrifice away from home and other priorities. We are committed to a plan, one that we agreed upon together, and I will not break it.” This, I believe, reveals a secret about Federer Inc. : the company delivers because it is run on agreements. An agreement is a promise to deliver off court, and obviously on court.

Win-win is what Federer Inc. is after with its suppliers (sparring partners)

The central role of agreements at Federer Inc. is striking if you consider its “supply chain”, namely Roger’s sparring partners. Selecting the right ones, usually young professionals, is seen as a priority. Win-win is what Federer Inc. is after with its suppliers. “Say we have a two-weeks program, Roger comments. We must all have a good time, and leave with take aways. I enjoy sharing, and they can see how a professional practices.”

That attitude explains why Federer Inc. is so aligned when delivering innovation. Every part fits together. Everybody sticks to the plan. Every delivery (game) echoes an agreed-upon design.

Federer Inc. is aligned because everybody sticks to the agreed-upon plan.

This is why Roger delivers in money-time. Nothing distracts him from the “now”. With mind and body aligned, Roger is known for delivering under pressure. Listen to what Rod Laver had to say about this core issue. What was the main reason behind his two Grand Slam seasons, a journalist asked? “It was the ability to focus on the now”, the Australian legend explained. A single focus on what the present offers: this, among all things, witnesses to a stable, faithfull and reliable entourage.

As long as it runs on agreements and stays aligned, Federer Inc. shall experience no delivery breakdowns.

Fans beware: Roger will continue to deliver (on court) !

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