Business is full of sports metaphors for one good reason: they make sense. The concepts behind creating a winning sports team and a winning business team are not as far apart as one might think. Concepts like understanding roles, working toward a common goal, and competition are realities on the field/court/rink and in the office. But baseball specifically, I feel, has a special correlation to business, whether it’s because it shares a place on the list of America’s defining characteristics and exports with capitalism, or that like some small businesses, baseball has grown since its humble beginnings to a large enterprise that has expanded internationally. In the spirit of celebrating their similarities, here are a few things small businesses can learn from baseball.
See the ball, hit the ball – Keep your goals simple. Sometimes the best goals are the simple goals. While hitting the baseball might be the hardest thing to do, the goal is simple: connect. Your business goals don’t need to be complex or the actual execution challenging for you to achieve success.
Slumping – Yeah, it sucks. Slumping is never good for business, but its always important to keep things in perspective. A bad month doesn’t equate to a bad season. Your body of work as a business is more important than any current slump you might be in. Also, remember that being in a slump happens to everyone, including your competition.
Rain delays – You get to the ballpark, you warm up, you get excited to play, and then it rains. More important than what the storm means for your business is how are you going to react. Adversity is going to happen in business (and in life) and the most important thing to do is to address it and move forward. Keeping your small business on track through adversity is the sign of good leadership, and should be commended. All small businesses face adversity, but not all are able to respond quickly, learn, and grow. You can make the most of almost any situation; baseball players find ways for rain delays to be fun for the fans that don’t go home.
Learning how to hit the curveball – The inability to learn how to hit the curveball is what ends careers for baseball players all over the country. Getting to the next level requires the ability to master this skill. When starting a business, the stages before profitability can be the hardest to survive. Learning how to get to the next level is crucial.
Stealing bases – As Robert Quillen put it, “You can’t steal second base while your foot is on first base,” that is to say, you can’t go anywhere without taking some sort of business risk. Sure you have the potential to be thrown out, but in the right situation, a proverbial stolen base might be just what your business needs.
High payroll doesn’t necessarily equal a championship – Of the eight teams that made the 2013 MLB postseason (not counting the losers of the wild card play in), three of them were in the top five payrolls, while three were in the bottom five payrolls. What does this mean for your business? Well, you might not be able to spend like the Yankees, but you can win with a good business team that operates with low overhead. It can be possible.
Extra innings – Sometimes, putting in extra work is needed, and sometimes, that’s what gets the win. Don’t ever be afraid to get your hands dirty and take the extra step. Your dedication will give you an edge over your competition.
For me, what brings baseball and small business together is passion. I think all entrepreneurs and most small business owners would describe themselves as passionate, and that isn’t a coincidence. You started something special because you love and believe in what you are doing. I love baseball because its a game that means so much more than winning and losing; competing on the diamond has taught me lessons in life, and in business. What are some of your favorite sports-business metaphors? Leave a comment below!
Image Credit: Chris Stroup, Flickr