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Baseball and Business — They're More Alike Than You'd Think

It’s funny — 15 years after publishing my first book, people still ask me why I chose to use baseball as a metaphor and title for Keep Swinging, Hitting the Curveballs, andRounding Third and Heading for Home. You may be wondering what the possible connection is between the two. At first glance, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. But, upon further review, there are a lot more similarities than you may think, like:

  • Playing the long game

  • Dealing with adversity

  • Building for the future

Playing the Long Game

For one thing, in both baseball and business, it takes time and patience to be successful. Typical baseball games take at least 3 hours to complete, and an MLB season (not including playoffs) is 162 games long. Successful baseball teams understand that the season is like a marathon, not a sprint — which means it’s not how you start, but how you finish. The game is not over in the first or second inning, so a team has to go the distance to win.

In my career, I have seen so many businesses start out well and end up failing because they didn’t have the patience and discipline to execute a long-term, successful business plan. It’s great for a company to have a couple of good quarters, but it’s how they end the year and build for the future that really matters. In baseball and in business, playing the long game is the key.

Dealing with Adversity

It also occurs to me that in baseball and business, a key ingredient is the ability to deal with adversity, hang in there, and always keep swinging. In both cases, you have to be resilient enough to successfully move forward — no matter what the odds are. In both baseball and business, you have to realize you’ll have to deal with some unexpected curveballs that will come your way. A successful baseball team and business expects the unexpected and uses adversity as an opportunity to strengthen and motivate their organizations for future success.

Building for the Future

Lastly, any successful baseball team and business must build for the future, which means having a system in place to develop young talent. In baseball, that system is called the “farm club” — this system allows an MLB team to work with and train players over a longer period of time to achieve future success. It’s a slow methodical process that has worked successfully for MLB teams for many years.

The same process can also be applied to business, which my company successfully executed during the recession in 2007. At that time, we experienced some major turnover in our sales department and essentially had to rebuild the entire team. But, rather than hiring industry veterans, we made a conscious decision to create our own version of an employee “farm system” by hiring young professionals that would be a part of our sales team for the long haul. Of course, it was a risky decision. 

But, by investing our time and patience in those millennials, my business grew from $11m to $25m amidst the worst economy in 80 years. Building for the future is a successful strategy that works in both baseball and business! 

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