Spring is here and that means baseball season is upon us (and here in Wisconsin we’re blessed with the top of the National League Milwaukee Brewers, adding to the fun). With baseball comes hotdogs, beer and … business advice (bear with me).
In the past, we’ve written about dealers who seek out former athletes for management and leadership roles, so why not take some business advice from them too? Jeremy Ostrander, CEO of AgriVision, Pacific Junction, Iowa, has this to say about employees who were one athletes: “When you look at their work ethic, their ability to endure tough times and operate as a team, they’re part of a bigger plan, bigger picture.”
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a commentary by Fay Vincent, who was commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989-1992, in which he shares how advice from some of baseballs best-of-the-best can translate to any business.
Swing at your pitch. Hall of famer Rogers Hornsby, who played second base for the St. Louis Cardinals (1915-26, 1933) once advised Ted Williams not to let anyone change his batting swing, saying “And kid, remember, do not swing at the pitcher’s pitch. Make sure you swing at your pitch.” As Vincent explains, the takeaway here is to “know what you want and don’t get distracted chasing anything else.”
Learn to pitch from the hitters. Warren Spahn, former Milwaukee Braves pitcher who won 363 games (most by any left-hander) says he learned how to pitch from hitters. He would sit in the stands to watch his opponents take batting practice and would pay attention to what the batters were saying to the practice pitcher. Vincent’s takeaway from Spahn, “In any endeavor, one learns best from clients, customers, patients and competitors.” Pay attention to what’s going on around you — whether that’s your customers’ or potential customers’ farms or what the other dealerships in your AOR are doing — and adapt if necessary.
Be a professional. Vincent says when asked how he wanted to be remembered Cal Ripken Jr. told him, “As a professional baseball player who went out every day to work and performed to the best of my ability in a fully professional manner.” Take out the words “baseball player” and Ripken’s words really are what each and every one of us should be striving for in our business. What he says is much like when athletes are told to leave it all on the field or court. And we can do the same in our business as well. Focus on your goals, and give it your all to achieve those goals in a professional manner.
Remember what your mother taught you. Frank Robinson, another Oriole, once teared up during a Hall of Fame interview after being asked about his mother. He relayed to Vincent, “One time, early in my career, I got thrown out of a game for sassing an umpire, and she called me that night to give me hell. She told me she did not raise me to fight with umpires and that she was embarrassed for me. She said she would come take me home if I did it again. She never had to worry.” It’s safe to assume that most of our mothers taught us to treat others with respect, to think before we act and if we don’t have anything nice to say to not say anything at all. Those are good rules for the playground, but also life and business. I know personally a healthy fear of what my mother would say has helped guide me along the way.
You can read Vincent’s full article here.