Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

I’m really excited about the start of the Major League Baseball season this week! Part of the reason is that our offices in San Diego overlook Petco Park, the home of our beloved Padres.  We’ve got an unfettered overhead view the field, so it’s not uncommon for our employees to stick around their desks and venture out to the balcony to watch a game during the summer months.

In seasons past, I watched the game for pure enjoyment from my bird’s eye seat, but it slowly came to me that the game itself and the execution of it have a lot of similarities to running a successful business. Strange as that may appear at first glance, there’s actually a great deal of common traits between a winning club and a winning company. Here are just some of the ways that baseball is like a business.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. If you watch a game closely, you’ll notice that everyone is talking in code. As the catcher flashes the sign to tell the pitcher what to throw, infielders and outfielders use mouth and hand signals to put each other in the best defensive position for that particular hitter, all the while the third base coach is gesturing toward the runners on base on whether to attempt a steal. The amount of "chatter" going on is constant and involves everyone on the field, but is efficient and centered on specific purpose. Good companies and their executives do exactly the same to make sure the entire team is on the same page and working toward a common goal.

It’s the little things that add up. While the home run is always a celebrated event, they are a relatively uncommon occurrence. The best sluggers in the world will only knock one out 15 percent of the time he’s up to the plate. Instead, the more dominant teams mix in a good deal of "small ball," a steady, disciplined style of play that focuses on getting runners on base through a barrage of well-placed, but less exciting, base hits to win games . So while companies want to score big when the opportunity arises, many realize that it’s the ones that put out a steady supply of quality goods and services year after year that will prevail.

Bench strength can make all the difference. No World Series Champion goes an entire baseball season without adversity, such as one of their star players going down with an injury. Managers of teams with a strong and deep roster can adjust to these moments by substituting back up players for starters to give folks a day or two of needed rest to regroup and recharge; all without losing a step. That takes an executive’s keen eye for seeing the potential in a reserve player and cultivating them to take on several different roles at a moment’s notice. Companies can do the same if managers take time to mentor individuals on the various aspects of the business. Skill sets are broadened and an employee’s value to an organization increases quickly. It can make the difference in meeting or missing deadlines when the primary person responsible for a certain initiative gets sick, summoned for jury duty or called away from their duties for some other unforeseen circumstance.

The common thread between any business and the game of baseball is the need to bring in good people who work well together and can adjust regardless of what’s thrown at them. The best ones will discover that keeping everyone up to date on the mission and situation at hand while focused on the gradual progression toward achieving success will keep customers coming back and ensure their long-term viability. At any rate, I’ll be sure to catch more ball games this year. I think it would bode well for my company to do so.