5 Lessons From Baseball for Business Owners

On my 50th birthday, I thought about calling it 50 Baseball Lessons for Business Owners, but let’s just stick with 5 shall we?

5  Lessons From Baseball For Business Owners

I love baseball. You may have heard the cliché, “Baseball is life.”  Well, I believe that Baseball is Business.  And, according to Dr. Art Markman in his book Smart Thinking, analogies are powerful tools we can use to reveal new insights into old problems.  With that in mind, I want to share my thoughts on Baseball and Business.  Your mileage may vary.

  1. Baseball Has No Clock

Despite the addition of Pace Of Play Rules to the sport, professional baseball does not have a clock.   A baseball game ends when all twenty-seven outs have been recorded and there is a clear winner. No winner? Play another six outs.  No clear winner?  Keep going until someone wins. No matter how long it takes.

Baseball players don’t go home until the work is done!

Running a business is the same.  Sure we have deadlines, but most of the time these are arbitrary and self-imposed.  The real deadline is more like baseball.  You can not quit until the work is done (and sometimes not even then). Erroneously, many people focus on time-management strategies, but in reality, the “Get-Things-Done” strategies have the greatest impact.  It is easy to be “busy,” but unless you finish, the game never ends.

Business, like baseball, doesn’t end until the work is done.

  1. You Strike Out A Lot

Man, I hate to fail because failing sucks.  More than that failure is shameful!  Remember how your parents reacted when you flunked a test or failed to turn in a homework assignment?  (If you’ve never had that pleasant experience please switch to another blog – I don’t know you.)  I remember and I never wanted to fail again.  Of course, that didn’t stop me from screwing up, but holy cow, for a long time I avoided failure like the plague, which ironically only seemed to make it harder to succeed.

Then I observed how baseball players step up in front of thousands of fans… every night… and strike out.  Over, and over again.   I am quite sure they don’t want to fail, but it happens and they never stop trying!  

The best hitters fail 7 out of 10 times.  I’m in awe of the kind of internal fortitude that it take to face that kind of humiliation and keep coming back for more.  With this high-level of failure, it is difficult to imagine that these guys are the best, but they are and I believe it’s because they never stop trying.

It turns out business is more like baseball than school.  Maybe that’s why no one calls school “the real world” but people call baseball “life.”  Zig Ziggler famously said most sales happen after the 7th “no.”  Think about that.  Seven failures in a row before you get to success.  Sound familiar?

In Business, like in  Baseball, you will strike out a lot, but the success comes to those who keep going until they get a hit.

  1. Winners Face the Toughest Hitters First

Competitive baseball teams put their best hitters at the front of the order.  Pitchers don’t get to ease their way into the game, they start off facing their biggest challenges.  To be a winning pitcher, they must figure out how to get those guys out.

In my business, I have learned to tackle the hard problems first.  Avoiding them, is a lot like pitching around tough batters.  And the results are usually the same.  Pitchers who walk a lot of batters don’t stay in the game very long.  Entrepreneurs who don’t face their toughest problems early often wind up working for someone else.

If you want to stay in the game, face your most difficult problems first.

  1. Your Last Hitter May Be Your MVP

One thing I have observed about playoff baseball is how often Most Valuable Players come from the bottom of the lineup.  On my son’s team, we won our first little league championship when the last batter in our lineup hit a game winning homerun.  

Why does this happen?  Because when the competition is fierce, the strengths balance each other.  This means small changes loom large and it is your weaknesses, not your strengths, that make the difference.  This is how great teams distinguish themselves: by building upon their strengths, but also working on their weaknesses.

Too many teams do one or the other.  Either they ride their best players, putting everything on them.  Or they try to shore up their weaknesses while losing sight of their strengths.  To build a winning team you have to do both.  

In Baseball and business, good teams have great players. Exceptional teams improve all of their players. Build on strengths; work on weaknesses.

  1. Success Is A Chain Made Of Execution.

There are tons of sports analogies with business, but in my experience, no competitor ever comes crashing through my front door to tackle a developer.  No one blankets my sales team so they can’t receive a lead.  In short, no one is allowed to interfere directly with my team.  My team’s success depends almost wholly upon their ability to execute, effectively and efficiently,  in a way that allows the next team member to do their job when it is their turn.

That’s the number one reason I like baseball.  While it is extremely competitive, opposing teams are not allowed to interfere with each other.  If they do, it’s a penalty (yes there are a few exceptions).  Not only can opposing players not interfere with each other, players on the same team really can’t even help each other either.  There are no double teams in baseball, no pick-and-rolls.

Success in baseball comes from talented, well-trained players doing their job then passing the ball to the next player who does the same.  A successful play is a chain of well executed individual efforts.

What a beautiful metaphor for business.   Do your job.  Do it well.  Do it to the best of your ability.  And then, most importantly, finish so the next guy can do the same.  Set your teammates up for success.  We call this execution.

Teams are only successful if each person does his job.  Success is a chain built of execution.

 

I love baseball for a myriad of reasons and I hope my simple comparisons give you a new way of looking at your business.  

Do you have a different way of mapping a sport to your company? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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