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10 Things the Game of Baseball Can Teach You About Running a Small Business

Updated on August 13, 2008

The game of baseball has much in common with business. Here are 10 things you can learn about business from the game of baseball:

1. You can't win the game by yourself. Even the best pitcher can't win if the fielders behind him aren't doing their part and if he doesn't get any run support. When the short stop fields a ground ball, he usually has to throw it to someone to get the out. If you're trying to succeed in business all alone, you won't make it. Share the work with your partners, if you have them, employees, family, or others. Look for opportunities to network with other business people. If your business doesn't have a built in team, create one through business associates or service clubs.

2. The game isn't over after one strike...or one out....or eight innings. Success is all about perseverance. Don't give up just because of one failure (or two, or three, or...). Babe Ruth was the home run king (so was Hank Aaron...and Barry Bonds), but he also struck out a lot. His ultimate success was just as much about picking up the bat over and over again as it was about talent and skill.

3. Showing up every day, ready to play, is the foundation of an extraordinary career. Cal Ripken Jr. played in a record 2,632 straight games over 16 seasons, from 1982 to 1998, earning him the nickname, "Iron Man ." His attendance record is amazing as it is (how many people do you know who never missed a day of work is 16 years?), but all that playing time gave him lots of practice, and many opportunities to excel. Just as you can't hit a home run if you never pick up the bat, Cal learned that you don't get good playing the game unless you play it - a lot. He started out strong by winning the American League's Rookie of the Year Award in 1982, but he earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame through perseverance. Show up. Work hard. It pays off.

4. Someone has to be in charge. Someone has to make the decision about whether to pull the starting pitcher in the sixth inning with two runners on base and one out - or let him face another batter or two. All the players are expected to give their individual best, but someone has to make the big picture decisions. The manager accepts advice from others (the pitching coach, the pitcher himself, the catcher, etc.), but ultimately he is the one who makes the decision and is responsible for it. If the decision is the wrong one, and if he makes enough of those wrong decisions, he is the one who will pay the price (i.e., lose his job). There is definitely a place and time for consensus decision-making, but as a business manager or owner, you are responsible for the decisions you make. Get good advice, but then make the decisions. Don 't wait until you lose the game and wish you had made some different decisions.

5. Even the best players take batting practice (except for pitchers in the American League, but don't go there...). No matter how successful you are and how well things are going with your business, you need to continue learning and improving your skills. Attend workshops, read books about and by successful business owners.

6. The fans can make a difference in the outcome of a game. If the fans are cheering the players on in the ninth inning, players are energized and their performance can be better. Ballplayers are not the only ones who perform better with encouragement and praise. I'm not saying you should necessarily cheer for your employees every day during the last hour of the workday as a strategy to get their best performance, but daily encouragement will make a difference.

7. Keep your eye on the ball. Focus matters. Fielders who take their eyes off the ball usually drop the ball. Batters who take their eye off the ball usually strike out. Stay focused on those income generating activities and you will generate income. If you lose your focus, you'll drop the ball.

8. There is a time to bunt and a time to hit away. Depending on the situation, a softer touch may be required to get the sale or close the deal. The hard sell is not always the best approach. You have to pay attention to all the conditions on the field and then choose the right play.

9. Sometimes you have to sacrifice for a greater good. Ballplayers know that there are times when a sacrifice hit (one in which the hitter gets out so a runner can be advanced or a run can be scored) is the right thing for the team. As a business owner, sometimes you have to sacrifice your immediate best interest for a greater good or a longer term goal. Compromising with an employee can gain loyalty in some situations. Giving up some of your profit so a customer can feel like he got a great deal can be a good thing.

10.Sometimes the game is slow and sometimes there is a lot of action, but you need to be ready to play every moment you are on the field. When my son first started playing t-ball at the age of 4, the parents loved watching the little guys in the outfield. Instead of paying attention to the game, they'd start chasing butterflies, looking for bugs in the grass, twirling, dancing, etc. The parents would all start hollering when they would take off their gloves or sit down out there. The lesson for business? If the game is being played, you need to be in the game. There are busy deadline times and times when things are slow. When things are slow, don't take your head out of the game. Focus on things you can do to get business flowing again. Revisit your marketing strategies. Get busy networking. Stay in the game.


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