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The #1 Key to Going Pro in Business

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

By Luke Melms

This week the MLB draft is taking place. Many young men are being given the chance to go pro in baseball. Years of hard work are being well rewarded. Once contracts get signed, the journey through the minors awaits seeking to make the ultimate dream of playing in the big leagues come true.

Business doesn’t have a formal draft or clear path to making it to the big leagues per se. How can success be more assured in business you might ask? No different than baseball it takes consistent effort and patience for the investment of time to pay off.

The most valuable skill in business is the ability to build relationships. This skill will stand the test of time and any advancement of technology. It also develops a complementary skill with communication skills. Using LinkedIn, reaching out to alumni of the school you attended and connecting with local business professionals through a Chamber of Commerce or other business associations are just a few ways to get the ball rolling. While in the more immediate future it may not result in anything, long term building trust and rapport can open doors for endorsements or private business opportunities while playing or new career opportunities once playing eventually concludes.

Microwaving may be an option in the kitchen but doesn’t work in business. Relationships work like small ball. Playing station to station is how all relationships naturally progress. Personally, I have landed my last two jobs in large part because of relationships built over multiple years. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have to interview but had a lot going for me heading into those meetings.

This last week we received the email below from Chris Lubanski, the 5th overall pick in the 2003 draft by the Royals. He amassed over 100 HRs while being named to multiple All-Star teams on his ascent all the way to AAA. However, injuries put a damper on reaching his ultimate goal. He wrote…

I’m a former professional baseball player. I was drafted in the 1st round in 2003 and after a string of injuries decided to go back to school. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania last year and have been working in finance since then. I currently work for Wells Fargo as an analyst in Philadelphia. I know the challenges facing young players from transitioning from the field to the office. I would love to hear more about the site and what you see Baseball and Business becoming down the road.

Photo Credit: SBNation

To those of us who like Chris are on the other side of playing, we get the chance to be pros every day in a different way. Regardless if your playing days are behind you or are still in front of you, I challenge you to focus on further developing one business relationship that already exists while creating a new one from scratch.

Chris’ email to me is a great example of how easy it is to network. The private LinkedIn group has an introduction thread going which can be a great way to find your one person while introducing yourself to the rest of the 450+ guys in the group. I’ve included a button below which will take you directly to the post to read through the other comments and to post your own.

The reason the community exists is to make it easier to connect with like-minded people while growing your network and career. What you know is certainly important but who you know will always determine what new opportunities can potentially arise.

What’s Your Baseball and Business Story?

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

By Luke Melms

Maybe you are still chasing the dream. Maybe your days on a baseball field are behind you. Wherever you find yourself, the lessons you’ve learned from baseball can never be taken away from you.

Part of the purpose of this community is to be a platform to share stories of players who have already made decisions you may be facing when it comes to on the field and off the field life events.

Here’s a recent email we received from former St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguer and now IT Project Manager Steve Sabatino…

When I went away to college, I had one thing on my mind. Baseball. After I received Tommy John surgery I started to let my school work slip. If I couldn’t play baseball, what was the point of being in school? I got to a tipping point where I felt like I was failing across the board so I made the decision to dedicate myself to my classwork the way I’d dedicated myself to baseball. The feeling of “winning” was back.

Fast forward 3 years and I am about to come home for my first professional off-season. I knew that one day, my baseball career would be over. On top of that my parents were going through a divorce that had the house in limbo so I needed to fend for myself. I reached out to 50+ companies trying to sell myself as a temporary hire for our 6 month off-season. One company gave me a chance and worked my tail off not only to pay the bills but to compete with my team.

Fast forward another 3 years and I received the dreaded call. I’d been released by the St. Louis Cardinals. Fortunately, at this point I wasn’t at square one looking for an entry level job and starting a completely new career. I was able to just switch gears and focus 100% of my efforts on my professional career.

One thing I’ve learned is that in baseball we all have so much in common that it is truly a brotherhood. I’d love to share the details of my story from the good decisions to the bad to hopefully help impact the next guy coming out of the game. I’m excited to hear how others have made the transition. 

If you are interested in sharing your story through the Baseball and Business website, please click here to send a message through the website. All you need to do is share a brief story like Steve to start with. We will coordinate in building it out with more detail to be a published article on the Baseball and Business website in the future. All of the editing will be taken care of for you so don’t be shy if you aren’t the best proofreader in the world.

In Baseball and Business, Is Leadership Grabbed or Given?

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

By Luke Melms

Is the title of captain or leader better off being grabbed by whoever steps up or handed out as an official title? Most baseball teams don’t have a designated team captain while just about every football and basketball team have multiple team captains. I believe one of the best recent case studies for answering this question whether it be in baseball or business can be found by taking a quick look back at the 2014 World Series teams.

With the San Francisco Giants winning three World Series as of recent, it can be easy to forget how close the 2012 team came to not even winning a single postseason game. A 9-0 defeat in game two after also dropping the first game of the NLDS to the Cincinnati Reds put the Giants in a win out or go home scenario.

Only a little more than two months after being acquired in a midseason trade, Hunter Pence called the team together in the dugout to give a pregame speech for the ages heading into game three. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Giants coach Tim Flannery jotted down what he heard:

“Get in here, everyone get in here…look into each other eyes…now! Look into each others eyes, I want one more day with you, it’s the most fun, the best team I have ever been on, and no matter what happens we must not give in, we owe it to each other, play for each other, I need one more day with you guys, I need to see what Theriot will wear tomorrow, I want to play defense behind Vogelsong because he’s never been to the playoffs…play for each other not yourself, win each moment, win each inning, it’s all we have left.”

He didn’t hesitate to step up because of the short time around his new teammates and as a result helped the Giants grind out an extra innings win. The fun continued for more than just a day as they rattled off 10 more wins to take home a World Series title.

He isn’t just a rah-rah guy in the dugout though. He produces and goes beyond just getting the job done.

On the flip side of success coming into 2014, the Kansas City Royals hadn’t even reached the postseason since 1985. It’s fitting that the leader in the Royals clubhouse is a polar opposite of Hunter Pence. A homegrown talent drafted second overall, Alex Gordon could’ve done what many good players do when on losing teams by finding a way to get out of town.

Instead, he didn’t demand a trade or wait to become a free agent. He did the complete opposite signing a four year contract after the 2011 season despite never playing on a team that finished above fourth place in the AL Central and just finished 20 games under .500. He was set on being the leader of a young team in the middle of general manager Dayton Moore’s rebuilding plan to return the team back to the postseason which led to a World Series title in 2015.

Alex Gordon always has and always will lead more with his play than his mouth. He puts in extra time in the weight room, the cages, or whatever way he can find to become better as a baseball player.

The leaders on these teams are obvious and the title of captain isn’t needed to command the respect of the other guys in the clubhouse. Baseball isn’t like football or basketball. The third string quarterback for most teams usually doesn’t take a snap in a game over the course of an entire season and the last man off the bench in basketball normally only sees time when the game is out of hand.

All 25 that are on a baseball roster not only get on the field but do so in meaningful moments during the course of an entire season. While all players are assembled in teams, a group of 25 guys that play 162 games across North America in about 180 days is almost better described as a family.

Ned Yost learned how to foster leadership organically from coaching next to one of the best managers of all time in Bobby Cox. Upon being hired as manager of the Royals, Yost was asked about team captains and said,

“I’ve never done that, never even thought about doing it. You’re a product of your environment. Bobby never had one and I never even thought about having one. If Bobby named a captain the 12 years I was there, I’d probably be naming a captain.”

The Royals success under Yost is proving the old adage of if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it to still be true. The Atlanta Braves won a division title each of those 12 years Yost coached. The 14 straight division titles under Bobby Cox still stands as the MLB record.

Pence and Gordon’s leadership styles on the baseball field display two different types often seen in the business world.

Like Pence is to the Giants, a CEO is typically more extroverted establishing the corporate culture in addition to being the face of the company to the public.

While a CFO is just as important, most of their work is done behind the scenes and are often more well-known internally than to the masses. Alex Gordon is the perfect example of what a CFO looks like on a baseball field and is Kansas City’s secret success ingredient rather than a household name from coast to coast.

Both players’ career numbers likely won’t land either in the Baseball Hall of Fame when they decide to hang up their cleats. Leaving a legacy though is about depth rather than width. While these guys aren’t the faces of baseball, teammates, coaches, fans, front office, and local media will forever feel the positive effects of being around them.

Now I’m not suggesting titles be non-existent in everything. Titles are necessary in business but those are earned not randomly passed out. Leadership doesn’t require a title to lead though.

Whether you are reading this as a CEO or a recent college graduate, everyone holds a leadership role in life whether it is within a family, business, organization, or wherever you find yourself spending much of your time. It isn’t a matter of if rather when the ball will be hit to your spot on the field with the game on the line. Never forget you have what it takes to make the play when your team needs you most.

5 Reasons Every Company Needs Spring Training

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

By Luke Melms

What would it look like in business to have spring training? I believe there are five elements that if implemented well in business would create the same winning results it does in baseball. Let’s take a look at what concepts from spring training can transfer over to business.

  1. Promote Trying New Ideas In spring training, some pitchers work on throwing new pitches while position players may find themselves playing elsewhere than where home normally is on the diamond. Why? The exhibition games don’t dictate what will happen when the games start to count. Even in the regular season, success can’t happen without failure. Being tolerant of failure and learning from failure are two different things.Baseball’s way of acknowledging mistakes is by calling it what it is, an error. Even Gold Glove fielders don’t finish the season with a 1.000 fielding percentage. Within reason, what if more employees felt they had permission to fail knowing they wouldn’t be fired for making a single mistake?Fear of failure holds back the entire team whether it is the individual, department, or company as a whole. Google is an example of leading innovation through empowering their employees to share feedback, new ideas and giving them the ability to take calculated risks. When you are trying to competing to be the best in technology thinking small is not part of the game plan. Regardless of the industry, we can all take away the valuable lesson of putting ourselves out there and trying something new.
  2. Focus on Building Team Culture  Winning a World Series or becoming the top company in an industry doesn’t accidentally happen. Often an underlying factor that separates teams down the stretch is chemistry. Spring training affords the chance for returning players and new faces to get acclimated before the games actually count. It takes an entire team of 25 guys to win in baseball just as the efforts one or two people can’t make or break an entire team in business.One of the most talented people I am privileged to know in the business world has shared with me the three reminders he walks through each morning. “Guard the culture” is one of foundational principles he built his company on. He also routinely uses Peter Drucker’s well known quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”It takes more than just talent to build a winning organization. Imagine if more companies internally focused on the team dynamic of business. When the dog days of summer come around in baseball, some teams fade in the second half of the season while others finish strong. Paying a price to win is not going to go away in baseball or business. The cohesiveness of a team is what causes a team to thrive when challenges arise.
  3. Allow Fans a Chance to Mingle with the Players  Businesses are becoming more humanized in large part because of social media. Brands are becoming something people are wanting to feel an emotional connection with.What if more businesses saw their customers or clients the same way teams do with the fanatics that show up hours early to a game to tailgate and make their presence known when inside the stadium?Companies that are willing to put in the extra work to engage their audience are creating a large gap in the standings ahead of their competitors who are sticking strictly to traditional ways of push marketing.Saying thank you has never been more valuable with the rise of the social media. Whether it is in baseball or business, having a strong fan base is an integral piece of any great organization. Finding a way to build goodwill grows these roots deeper in addition to the possibility of have a multiplying effect through positive word of mouth.Spring training gives fans access to players that demonstrates the same type of attention consumers want from the companies they do business with. Baseball players sign autographs as their way of showing appreciation to fans.
  4. Showcase the Entire Organization  Spring training is the only time all minor and major league players within each organization are centralized before scattering across the country. Big league camp serves as a competition to make the opening day roster as well as helping some of the minor league guys get a taste of what it is like to play at the next level.Executives in any company are similar to the 25 man MLB roster from the standpoint that many know these names in the business circle. What about the sales force and everyone else behind the scenes making the company what it is?Companies want to retain talent just as major league teams never want to see their best talent go elsewhere when becoming a free agent. I believe businesses need to value their employees like Southwest Airlines does from top to bottom from day one to create a desire to never want to leave.Whether it is rewarding a player by sending them from minor league camp to big league camp or signing the franchise player to a long term contract, respect can be equally shown despite the difference in titles whether it is baseball or business.
  5. Uncover Hidden Talent   Interviews and resumes can only show so much just as hitting in the cage or throwing a bullpen can. Once the bright lights go on and the chalk is laid, a baseball team finds out what type of player is on their hands. Spring training gives the chance for overlooked guys on paper to display their ability to play despite what shortcomings may seem to be exist based on the measurable. Injuries and under performance are a guarantee over the next couple weeks which will lead to surprises on opening day rosters.Once the season wraps up, there are questions to evaluate as the line in the sand is obvious for everyone from the front office to coaches to players. Did the team have a winning season? Did the team make the playoffs? Did the team win the World Series? What was a player’s batting average? There is no place for office politics in baseball because results or a lack there of speak for themselves.The baseball and business season is already in full swing. Whether you own a company or work for one, today is another chance to help your team put runs on the board. How will you add value to the marketplace today?
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