Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

What Baseball Teaches Us About Business

Ah, the first day of spring is upon us.  It doesn’t quite feel that way here in New Hampshire where it is about 19 degrees with lots of ice and snow on the ground (and more ice reportedly on the way).

Nevertheless, Brian Oberkirch got me in the springtime mood with his post today that shows the lessons that baseball teaches those of us in business.  So go read his post and then come back here to read my additions. 

Brian’s list is excellent and I agree almost uniformly with everything he wrote.  I do have 10 of my own to contribute, though:

  • It’s Not All About Superstars.  You need a solid team from top to bottom.  Having one superstar and a bunch of also-rans won’t get you as far as a team full of solid performers.  Remember that especially if you have a top performer who doesn’t play well with the rest of the team.
  • It’s Not All About Money.  Billy Beane and Moneyball anyone?  In business that means you don’t need lots of VC funding to compete with the big boys.  You need a great idea, passion, a solid team, and excellent execution.
  • Pitching Matters in the Playoffs.  Once you reach the post-season, you can’t expect to bash your way through games.  The competition is tougher and it will likely come down to pitching.  Your business has some component that rises above the others in its significance.  Make sure you invest properly in it, whether it is technology, sales, customer service, etc. 
  • Free Agency Rules.  Players want to go where they are well-compensated, appreciated, and can win.  You need to create the same environment for your employees.
  • It’s a 162 Game Season.  You need to try to win every game, but you won’t.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and play the next game.
  • You Need to Know How to Bunt.  Even my beloved Red Sox who in recent history have avoided the bunt like the plague occasionally need to employ it to win games.  It’s not sexy, but it is necessary.  Remember all that hard, boring stuff in your business and don’t ignore it.  If you can’t bunt, make sure you have a specialist on your team that enjoys it.
  • It’s Not Just About Tickets Anymore.  Major League Baseball teams couldn’t survive on individual ticket revenue alone.  That’s why there’s club seating, outfield advertising, stadium naming rights, merchandise deals, TV deals, etc.  Don’t forget you might be able to find non-traditional revenue streams, too.
  • The Brushback Pitch.  Most of the time players accept the brushback pitch with a glare and move on.  But sometimes they fight back.  Fighting is costly, so you need to pick your battles wisely.  Sometimes you’re better off filing the information away for later use.
  • Six, Two and Even.  The “other” Joe Morgan — he who managed the Boston Red Sox in the late 80’s and early 90’s and was known as Walpole Joe throughout New England — famously said “six, two and even” a lot, usually to reporters.  Nobody ever knew what it meant, but it kept ’em guessing.  A little mystery is healthy for any business.
  • Keep It in the Clubhouse.  Baseball managers try to keep the private business of the team private.  When reporters start sniffing around about internal disagreement, many managers will say “we’re going to keep that in the clubhouse” or some variation of that.  Businesses would be wise to do the same and not let dirty laundry or simple dissent come out in public.  It’s family business and should stay that way.

Thanks, Brian, for putting me in the mood for spring.  Opening Day is just 12 days, 1 hour, 12 minutes, and 5 seconds away as I write this…

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