Baseball BusinessDoug Fisher – Boardroom Metrics

Five Business Lessons Learned From Baseball

“A bad day at the ball park is better than a good day elsewhere”

I love baseball! There are several passions in my stable but the
American past-time is very high on the list.

I watch games almost every day, read about the game, follow hundreds of players, executives and scouts on Twitter, and run a very serious fantasy league as well.

You get it.

Another passion is this… business.

Most of my life is invested in learning and experiencing every possible aspect of business excellence.  Then it hit me… baseball… business excellence… they are closely related!  Let’s have a look at some of the business lessons we can learn from from the great game of baseball:

  1. Do Not Tolerate C’s

My previous blog on rating employees covered the A-B-C technique.  C’s (poor performers) are not to be tolerated.  C’s perpetuate mediocrity and drag down A’s.  Professional baseball is also a performance-based business, just like yours.  We must be successful.  Baseball players have slumps and they also get red hot.  The great ones are steady… good most of the time with only occasional slow periods.  If a player cannot produce the expected results over a prolonged time, they will be off the team.  Baseball managers cannot tolerate consistent failure and neither should you.  No consistently successful organization tolerates C’s.  Just imagine what it would be like to explain your tolerance of C’s to probing reporters every night!

  1. Assess and Adjust Your Strategy

Imagine your baseball team is loaded with heavy power hitters.  You play for the three-run homer, just like Earl Weaver of the Orioles did so many years ago.  Stealing bases is mostly out of the question.  This is not small ball.  Suddenly, your top cleanup and number five hitters go down with long term injuries and their replacements are speed demons… small ball weapons.  You will adjust your strategy or you will lose.  The lineup will change.  Bunting will become an important part of batting practice.  The same is true in business.  You must have a well-thought business plan but market conditions may dictate your plan must change.  Perhaps a new competitor has a solution that is hurting you, or it could be a scandal that is making your entire industry questionable.  Whatever it is, you must adapt your strategy or you will pay a dear price.

  1. Positional Flexibility

My fantasy baseball team has sixteen players who play 24 positions.  Adam Duvall of the Reds is a good example.  He plays outfield but he has enough games at first base and third base to be eligible at all three positions.  So on a travel day when several teams are not playing, I can move him around my lineup and field a better team.  How is your positional flexibility in your business?  If something happened to your finance manager, who could fill that role?  How about your warehouse manager?  Every single position must have a backup you can use in a jam.  Imagine it’s the 17th inning, you’ve used up all your players and you have a pitcher in left field.  Could you shuffle your players around if your left fielder needed to take the mound?  Cross training results in positional flexibility and that results in more wins!  Yes – I’m in first place and I’m counting on my positional flexibility to keep me there <smile>.

  1. Quality Counts

Have you been to a major league game lately?  $45 per ticket for a family of four plus $20 parking and $18 per person for food and drink unless you care to indulge in $12 cups of beer which will quickly increase your expenditure.  Now… this sounds expensive where you sit.  Ask a Toronto Blue Jays fan during the last half of the 2015 season if they considered the cost of a game.  I think not!  The experience at the Rogers Center was so very extraordinary last fall that tickets were very tough to get and cost was not a factor.  Bingo!  Do you want to charge a higher price for your products and services?  Be extraordinary!  Remember your last trip to The Ritz-Carlton and how a friendly person brought you a bottle of water while you were checking in and greeted you by name.  Now do not rest until the customer experience at your company is so amazing that price is irrelevant.  Your only concern will be how to invest your profits!

  1. Decision Time

It’s the eighth inning.  The score is tied 0-0.  Your closer is warming in the pen, and your starter is only at 86 pitches and you must decide right now if you keep your ace starter in the game or bring in your ultra-reliable closer.  Now!  If your starter is pulled, he will be distraught as complete game shutouts are rare, a huge accomplishment, and important to future salary negotiations.  Your closer is 17 for 17 in save attempts and is warm.  If your ace blows the lead, the press and fans will be all over you.  If you yank your starter, even his teammates might wonder if you trust him… and them.  This is why you get the big bucks to manage the Blue Jays!  Business decisions are no different.  You establish precedent with your decisions.  You also assume or mitigate risk.  Did you involve the right people as advisors in making your last decision?  I refer you to our decision making podcast at  Oh, and send your favorite baseball manager this link!

Can you tell how precious baseball and business are to me?  I love both and I am amazed at how many similarities exist.  My suggestions are simple.  Get to as many ballgames as possible and have a great time at the ballpark.

While you’re there, consider how your team is shaping up with regard to (1) tolerating poor performers (2) strategy assessment and adjustment (3) positional flexibility (4) the customer experience and (5) decision making.  Have a great time making your business great too!

I hope this discussion on business lessons from baseball has you thinking.  Best…


“When you’re green, you’re growing’ when you’re ripe, you’re rotten”