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What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Yankees

by Neil Phillips on November 9, 2009

2009 World Champion YankeesI’ll admit it.  I’ve been a Yankee fan for over fifty years.  It all started for me when I was nine years old in 1961.  Mantle, Maris and the 61 Yankees made memories that can’t be denied.  I also was inundated with Frank Miller editorial cartoons in the Des Moines Register that boldly claimed an “official” World Series had to have the Yankees.

Whether you love or loath those Yankees, they are once again the World Series champions this year.  It’s their 27th title—17 more than the next best Cardinals.  They have made 40 appearances in the Championship series—22 more than the next best Dodgers.  Success like that speaks volumes for entrepreneurs.  There are three important lessons to mention today.

1. Consistent Persistence.  Excellence doesn’t occur from random behaviors.  Excellence is a repeated behavior.  It is finding the principles and activities that work and repeating them for the same results.  Does it work ALL of the time?  No, but over time persistence will produce consistent results.  Customers come back because you have become dependable at doing the things they love.  You won’t always connect, but the successes will come.  My favorite explanation of this is from Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, When you’ve played this game for ten years and gone to bat seven-thousand times and gotten two-thousand hits do you know what that really means? It means you’ve gone zero for five-thousand.”

2.  Losses Gotta Hurt.  If they don’t hurt, nothing stops you from being willing to lose.  When you know that you can’t win them all, it become easy to shrug off the losses and pretty soon you become “casual” about losing.  A major part of the Yankee’s success is that they can’t do that.  Their home base is centered under a media microscope and they know it.  The Yankees, from GM Brian Cashman on down, know that they can’t become casual about losing or ALL of their customers will know it.  Have you ever had 8 million of your closest neighbors mad at you?  Losing should hurt enough that you don’t want to do it.  If you listen to interviews of the Yankee personnel, you know they don’t want to lose.  You will hear phrases like, “we owe the fans for sticking with us,” or “it’s been 8 years since we’ve had the title and the fans deserve better.”

3.  The Game in Your Head.  I’m struck time and time again by how much of the game of baseball is mental.  You would think that for professional athletes, much of what they do would be built on muscle memory.  That’s not the case.  They can describe what they were thinking at virtually any instance during the game.  Joe Girardi is an avid chess player and is willing to talk about it.  Just like you can’t play a complex game solely on your instinct, you can’t run a business based on your gut reactions.  As one of the most famous Yankees of all time, Yogi Berra, said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”

What can you do to become the Yankees in your niche?  Can you find the parallels in your business and make sure that you are creating the winning patterns? 

AuthorArrowAbout the Author: Neil Phillips is a founding partner of Team Connections and Director of the DSWA Coach Excellence program.  Get more from Neil on his Direct Selling Notebook , the DSWA Coaching Center and Twitter.

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