Third Inning – Business and Baseball: You Have to Swing to Get a Hit

During my 18 years, I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball. ~ Mickey Mantle 1970

Right Handed Baseball BatterIt was little Joey’s first season in the Little League Majors. At ten years old, he was facing pitchers two years older and 20 pounds heavier than he was, and it showed. But being a smart, though not big, kid, he figured he’d play it safe. He knew that even though they were much more experienced than he was, many of the pitchers couldn’t throw consistent strikes. If he just stood there and didn’t swing, maybe he’d get lucky and get walked.

His first time up to bat, it worked. After three balls and two strikes, the pitcher threw a fourth ball for a walk. Joey was on base, and he even managed to score a run when the kid behind him hit a home run.

His strategy worked so well, he decided to try it again the next time he was up. This time, he made it to a full count again, but the sixth pitch was a called strike. He was out, and walked, not to first base, but back to the dugout. Still, he was one for two – batting .500 – at least for getting on base.

The next inning was about the same – he stood there as three straight strikes went right by him. He was out again. Still, scoring one run in his first Major League game wasn’t too bad — was it?

After the game, the coach went over everyone’s batting average. Joey was a little surprised when the coach read his name aloud and said, “Zero.” Zero? How could you have a “zero” batting average? Hadn’t he scored a run? His coach saw the confusion and hurt on his face, and after the treats had been handed out, he pulled the little boy aside. “Coach,” said Joey. “I don’t understand. How do I have zero?” (Even though you get on base, a walk is not counted as an “at bat” so doesn’t count in computing batting averages… only hits. Today the statistic, “On Base Percentage” includes walks – you have to get on base to score. See MONEYBALL)

The coach put his arm around Joey’s small shoulders and leaned in close. “Son, you have to swing to get a hit.”

You have to swing to get a hit. Those words reverberated in Joey’s brain. Maybe it wasn’t enough to get on base just because the pitcher threw balls. Maybe he did have to take a risk to get in the game – to be successful.

Baseball BatterYou know how the story ends – the next game, Joey went in there swinging. Over the course of the season, he hit some, he got out some, he missed some. But he never forgot his coach’s wise words: You’ve got to swing to get a hit.

Whether your business is a small business, a home business, or larger, this is some of the best business advice you will find. Even when you don’t swing, you might score every once in a while because your competition is so bad that customers will choose anything else. But to really make something happen and win… to really be successful in business, you’ve got to get a hit. And to get a hit, you have to swing. It’s really as simple as that.

My dad taught me to switch-hit. He and my grandfather, who was left-handed, pitched to me every day after school in the back yard. I batted lefty against my dad and righty against my granddad. ~ Mickey Mantle

Don’t forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball. ~ Woodie Held

Life will always throw you curves, just keep fouling them off… the right pitch will come, but when it does, be prepared to run the bases. ~ Rick Maksian


Second Inning Business and Baseball: Play All Nine Innings

Baseball Game

 

You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain.
Leo Durocher, in New York Times, 16 May 1965

Our last business lesson taught us the importance of not letting one bad pitch, catch, inning, call, or game ruin an entire season. This lesson is an extension of that — “Don’t give up too soon… don’t get comfortable in what appears to be an easy win” – we’ve all seen too many games won and lost in the 9th inning.

A nine-inning ball game includes 54 outs, several hundred pitches, and dozens of plays (at least one for each of those outs). If your team gives up several runs in the first, don’t automatically think you don’t have a chance to come from behind and win it… this is a mistake. One Little League team in our town overcame a 13-run deficit in the last of the sixth inning (they play six innings in Little League) to come back and win the game. At the pro level, just a few years ago the Colorado Rockies scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth for a “walk-off” 12-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Stories of business comebacks are no less rare and no less impressive. Target came back from near-obscurity to take on discount retailer Wal-Mart. Apple was almost belly-up when Steve Jobs returned to re-invigorate the company. Vans Shoe Company was limping along until it became the footwear of choice for a generation of skateboarders. Comebacks happen, even in the ninth inning — and beyond.

Of course, the reverse is true. For every comeback, there is a losing team. The story of the Rockies’ win could be turned upside-down and told as a cautionary tale of the Cardinals LOSING in the ninth inning. IBM, apparently entrenched as the “safe” choice for computers, couldn’t hold its own, and is now a shadow of its previous self. Companies getting too comfortable in their role as market leader are a dime a dozen — and their stock might be trading for little more than that.

The lesson for small businesses is obvious as the great, ten time World Series Winner, Yogi Berra reminds us, “It ain’t over until it’s over.” Whether you’re struggling mightily to stay afloat or you think your business is set on auto-pilot, take heed. Anything can happen… that’s why the game has nine innings. If the outcome was certain, we could all pack up and go home at the bottom of the first.

Don’t become too discouraged by an apparent loss, and don’t become too comfortable with a certain win. A change of pitcher — or a change in the economy or market conditions — can work in your favor or against you. A new customer can change the whole game, as can a new competitor. You never know what the other team has up its sleeve.

Playing all nine is synonymous with doing your best, even when defeat — or victory — seems certain. It is the mindset of a winner, who knows… losing an inning, a game, or even a season doesn’t mean much when looking ahead to next year.

Fredrick B. Wilcox
said it best,
“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”


First Inning Business and Baseball Lesson: It’s a Long Season

No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference. ~ Tommy Lasorda

The Major League Baseball season stretches from April to September, and includes 162 regular season games. And that doesn’t include pre-season spring training scrimmages or October playoff match-ups. With each game lasting an approximate 2.5 hours, that’s a lot of time on the diamond!

What happens in the first inning of the first game in the spring training pre-season has little bearing on who the pennant winner will be. The season lasts a long, long time. By the time the season wraps up, the average batter has been in the box over 500 times. Sometimes they get a hit, but more often, they get out. But that first time up to bat doesn’t set the tone for their season — unless they let it.

Baseball PitcherFor the entrepreneur and small business communicator, business is the same way. While any one “pitch,” customer interaction, or promotion may seem of the utmost importance — and it is, at that moment — but in the overall scheme of things, it is only one piece of a larger mosaic. Yes, great players play hard every pitch, but they also know how to pace themselves and shake off a missed strike and move ahead.

And in business, you need that perspective too. Yes, you want to hit a home run each and every time you are at bat, and you want to make a play every time the game comes your way, but chances are you are going to flub a few easy pop-ups, and miss a few easy strikes. That’s just the nature of the game.

Sometimes, your perfectly crafted sales page does not convert. Sometimes, an unhappy customer remains unhappy no matter how hard you try to fix the situation. Sometimes, a great product doesn’t sell well. Sometimes you can figure out why, while other times you just have to let it go and move forward, realizing that you will have hundreds of other interactions and opportunities to make your business a winning one.

Baseball BatterTo put things in perspective, the best hitters in baseball typically have a batting average of around .300. That means every ten times they get up to bat, they fail to get on base seven times. And these are the best of the best! Even the venerable Babe Ruth had a lifetime batting average of only .342 – for every 1,000 times he came to the plate, he only hit 342 times. The other 658 times, he either walked or was OUT. But yet, he was one of the greatest players of all time.

As a team, most baseball clubs are striving for a winning season — meaning they win more than they lose, indeed, most teams that make the playoffs every October have records only slightly better than .500 – they lost almost half their games! That should be your goal, too — to win more than you lose. And when you do lose — clients, accounts, mailing list subscribers — dust off your cleats, learn your business lessons from the experience, and try again. That’s how you will succeed year after year.

Business Skills to Learn from Baseball

Major League Baseball GameAmerica’s favorite pastime isn’t great just for enjoyment and relaxation purposes; it’s also the source of many life and business lessons. After all, some of our culture’s most popular sayings (“You can’t win ’em all”; “Hit it out of the park”; and Yogi Berra’s famous, “If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them”) are just a few examples that come from the diamond.

Saul Steinberg reminds us that, “Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”

Filled with memorable characters and fantastic rags-to-riches stories, baseball is more than just a sport for millions of people. Over the next several posts, I’ll pull some of my favorite business lessons from America’s magnificent activity. Whether you’ve spent hours in the dugout or in the stands, or if you don’t know an RBI from HBO, you’ll find a lot of great inspiration, maybe a smile or two, and some business skills and personal business practices to help you succeed.

Have You Tried Online Meetings?

Years ago, when I was still in the corporate world, our training group was experimenting – quite successfully – with Online Training. Since then, the technology has been refined, and as it has matured, the costs have come way down to the point that a group of our local churches has been using it for meetings to discuss new ideas and how to best exploit them. Remember, churches and other faith based groups use pretty much all volunteer help, so it is very difficult to get a group of us from all over the area to take a lot of time away from our work and families for something for which we are not paid – especially in this economy. So online meetings are a VERY good choice for us, and serve us quite well.

We use GoToMeeting, but there are several other good alternatives. At our internet meeting, the leader of the group was easily able to share his desktop to show us a PowerPoint presentation outlining his perspectives and proposals, and then easily switch to showing us various web sites and how they are used to enhance the worship experience at his church. And the group of us, from all over the geographic region, participate from our homes. For instance, for me, I can have dinner with my family and then join the discussion – saving a one hour plus trip to the meeting. And, actually, being at my own computer allows me to “time share” with other things I have to do.

As a Small Office Communicator, if you have to put gather a group for training, information, or other situations, you may very well find web meetings good. The biggest gain is usually saving travel time since web meetings can happen from wherever participants are… across the hall or around the world – if they can get to the internet, they can get to your internet meeting.

And, of course, you’ll want to create great looking presentations, and I certainly recommend Dr. Dave Paradi’s book, Guide to PowerPoint, along with his web site, Think Outside the Slide.

Double Discount from Restockit.com

We Small Office Communicators are constantly on the lookout for ways to save money.  My friends at Restockit.com are offering Double Discount Days: 5% OFF + Free Shipping on Orders Over $75!  But you have to hurry, because this offer only lasts until October 2 @ 11:59 p.m. EST, so stock up quickly.

Web Hosting for the Small Office Communicator

As a Small Office Communicator, one of the things I need, since I have several web sites, is a good web hosting service.  I’ve tried several over the years, and the one I’m with now is one that I have found excellent and really works well, both from site deliverability – they’re always up – and they’re always fast.  Also, on the few times I have had to deal with their customer service and tech support, they have been more than outstanding.  I have used both their online chat, and their phone support, and people in both areas knowledgeable and helpful – what they want most is to get my problem resolved.  With their reasonable pricing, they have been a good combination for me, and I recommend them highly.

What’s really good is that they allow me to offer you a $9.94 discount off your hosting account.  Just use the coupon code 994socnet275 when you sign up.



A Good Office Supplies Source for the Small Office

Play ButtonSince I am a “Small Office Communicator,” I’m always looking out for ways to get done the things I need to get done, and at the same time, save money.  It helps me keep my prices competitive.

For instance… I use an older Brother HL 1440 printer in my office.  It has given me great service, and all I have had to do is replace the toner cartridge a few times, and the imaging unit once.  I don’t know how many prints I have run through it, but it is a lot.  I use their High Capacity toner cartridges.  I have found that when the printer’s sensors tell me that the toner is getting low, I can fool it for quite a while and get a lot more prints from each cartridge by covering the “sensor windows” (one at each end) on the toner cartridge – just a piece of opaque tape works fine.  Of course, you now must keep a careful eye on print quality as you’ve just disabled the “Low Toner” warnings.  When the print quality starts dropping, first thing to do is take out the toner cartridge and shake it back and forth several times.  This usually redistributes the toner and keeps print quality good for a while longer.

But when shaking no longer improves print quality, it’s time for a new one, and I’ve found ReStockit pretty good for service and price.  By all means take a look when you are looking for office supplies from a reliable vendor with good prices.


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Think First! – The Right Steps to Effective Communications

Today companies, large and small, present ideas in many ways. Sometimes they do it well, sometimes not. One of the easiest ways to make sure ideas are well presented and well received is to organize goals and thoughts BEFORE attempting to create a presentation.

One of my more popular articles, “Think First! – The Right Steps to Effective Communications” outlines the three critical areas that need to be well thought out as the first steps in creating communications that achieve their goals most effectively and most easily.

Enjoy!



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