Many small business owners have a personal knowledge of the customers on their list and those they actually do business with. Always on the look out for new customers, small business owners pitch ideas, send email, write blog posts, press releases or tweets, produce new products, and adapt our services to meet customers’ needs.
Then they play it back. Always trying to assess their game and make it better, business people watch swings, pitches and plays for clues about how they can improve. Most optimize what they did right and tweak (or get rid of) what bombed.
While similarities between sports and business are widely noted, now that fall baseball season is in full swing (‘scuze the pun) I’m watching the kids’ skills develop rapidly and wondering if it’s just improvement in coordination, strength, balance, speed…or something else; something business people could bottle and use.
Here’s what I landed on: A less competitive season than spring ball, fall is a time to both enjoy the game more and practice skills.
If small business had its season of “Fall Ball,” imagine the possibilities!
My son Willie is learning to swing, pitch and catch. He’s been playing since he was about eye level with the T in T-ball. Now that he’s eleven, the game is getting interesting (and fun to watch) because the kids are beginning to master skills and rules.
11-year-old boys know something that many small biz folks haven’t acknowledged: Who you are is good enough; since you can’t be the other guy, what really matters is how you develop your natural talents and skills.
Also, from my own observations (comparing my boys and their friends to my daughter and hers), boys react more easily and with less scrutiny to other kids’ behavior. Guys just accept each other and adjust accordingly (or not). Girls try to figure each other out, talk about each other and find common ground (or not), affecting change from the inside out. I could write a whole book about marketing and business from what I’ve learned from from my kids, but that’s another story for another day! 🙂
Learning to Practice
Back to baseball and marketing: Boys at the great age of eleven “get” baseball and are beginning to excel at their skills. (What a relief; if you’ve ever watched a T-ball game you know what I mean!) Honing skills means repeating drills until they are second nature. After years of practicing the same skills, not once has Willie ever come home from practice saying, “Yuck. Coach made me throw and catch…AGAIN!”
Practicing the same thing over and over again is deadly. If you practice the same pitch 1000 times, you’ll strike out more batters than if you practiced 1000 different pitches. Click to Tweet.
Pretty simple stuff, but oh-so-difficult for some to learn. Me included.
This weekend, I watched about six different pitchers in a little league game. One pitcher’s relentless, loony grin absolutely threw most of his hitters off balance…very effective! My son told me he shot his worst grimace back at him to get him to stop. No go; the pitcher struck him out. Somewhere along the way someone must have told that kid how disarming his “pitcher’s mound smile” was. And so it stuck.
Another pitcher was focused on preventing the guy on first from stealing second (a common occurance in this little league) and could never quite focus on the hitter. Coach kept calling, “Focus your defense on the batter,” but the pitcher couldn’t let it go. He’d had past success picking a runner off at 2nd; that was the defense he was playing.
They all had their own style and pitched their hearts out, mainly focusing on getting the ball in the strike zone. Nothing fancy.
Same with the hitters. Every batter “likes” a certain style pitch. It’s pretty obvious at this level of playing. One kid can’t resist the high ones. Another loves low balls. Yet another doesn’t like any of them and refuses to swing. And some swing at anything and everything that comes their way!
The great thing about sports is that they force kids to work with what God gave them and appreciate the gifts of others. When a kid is standing at home plate swinging, it hardly matters what any other kid can do, what he looks like, what kind of bat he has…
All he has to know is, he’s up. Time to kill the ball. And respect the pitcher if he sends him back to the dugout empty handed.
Sports chisels a mindset that directly aids a healthy and successful small businessperson.
Right about age eleven, self consciousness takes root and kids start to worry about that other stuff. For the next several years, it feels like all eyes are on them. Then toward the middle teens, they start looking around and discovering that there are others who are better than their best in certain areas. That’s a humbling pill for competitive kids to swallow.
Eventually, most people recognize that a child’s way of learning is the way you improve after all:
- You practice what you know.
- You do the same thing over and over again.
- You stop looking at the other guy’s pitch and throw a few more of your own.
- You genuinely try to learn from others.
At some point, you even surpass your inner 11-year-old and start to appreciate — even celebrate — another guy’s skills because you realize his success will never take anything away from your own. That comes with maturity.
Whatever your business, I’m sure you can apply “The Little League Method.” There’s a time to play defense in every game but when you get your chance to bat, it’s all you.
Enjoy your small business. Identify what you’re good at, and do it over and over again.
As a kid, did you learn something valuable in sports that you carry into your business? I would love to hear that story. Pop over to Facebook and share!