The Original Boys of Summer Part II

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Although March 20th was the official start of spring for most of us, it is really April when we see and feel springtime. For some of our northern friends, April means snow will start melting and it will be time to store the fishing huts that were taken off the lake in March. For baseball fans, April means it is time to get another season under way. By the time most of you receive this, Opening Day will have come and gone, and if you are like me, you start your day looking over the box scores from the previous day. Sports teach us a lot of lessons, and for those of us obsessed with sports, it is a good thing because some lessons would never be learned if it weren’t for sports.

Of all the sports, Major League Baseball is my favorite and has been since I was a child. Looking back on my childhood, most lessons I learned were somehow associated with sports, imparticular, baseball.

In the March edition of National Oil & Lube News we went through the first five innings of the 10 business lessons you can learn from baseball. The inspiration for this series came while my wife and I were sitting in the stands during Spring Training 2015 in Surprise, Arizona, supporting our beloved Texas Rangers.

While watching the new coaches with a new roster of players, I was reminded of an article I had read a few years ago in Business Insider by Bianca Male. In the article, Male interviewed baseball management experts Jeff Angus and Brian Goff to find out how the sport can teach business leaders to win. Angus said in his book, “Management by Baseball,” “Baseball is the perfect test lab for zero-sum competition; for every win there has to be a loss. Virtually every event that makes a difference in the outcome is captured.” Not a baseball fan? Maybe this season you should be.

The 6th Inning

Decision-making: Passivity guarantees failure

You can’t just let decisions and changes happen. Baseball managers make hundreds of decisions during each game.

“Some of these decisions end up being decisions to do nothing, but they are still worked through and analyzed and thrown against brain and gut,” Angus told Male. “A baseball manager who is waiting for the perfect solution to come to mind isn’t managing, because while the manager is cogitating, the situation is evolving and the conditions for success are changing. Letting fate and one’s competitors make the decision in business guarantees a 100-loss season.”

One of my mentors is fond of saying “In a perfect world,” and then goes on to let us know about an ideal situation. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and I could count on one hand how many perfect days I’ve had while overseeing a chain of quick lubes. It just doesn’t happen that way. If it did, managing a shop would be easy. The ability to make decisions while continuing to operate is a must-have skill of successful owners and managers. It is while making these on-the-fly decisions we often become distracted in what the overall goal is. Sometimes we make a quick decision based on current conditions that will affect the long-term goal. I have encouraged many managers and owners to write down three overall goals for their shop and post those goals in every employee area of the shop. I also encourage that the No. 1 goal is a customer-first mission statement, so when anyone is in doubt as to what the right decision is, he or she will filter that decision through the overall goals list.

The 7th Inning (time to stretch and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”)

Management: A more-with-less attitude won’t help you win

I am not sure how many times I have watched a baseball game change direction during the seventh inning, but it seems to happen a lot. (Must be a part of the strategy. Remember the fifth inning in the March article about strategy?) As the 2010 Business Insider article said, it’s hard to succeed without real talent. If you try to do more with less, you’re probably just going to end up with less.

“No baseball operation would ever operate under the delusion that they could win more games (more) by replacing Babe Ruth with a nice minimum-wage scrub (less),” Angus said.

Angus feels the majority of business leaders, “tend to view the talent as fungible, replaceable assets to be dealt. How you should look at it instead: Talent + training + management flexibility = success.”

This theory may be the hardest but the most critical point in management. You must have talented people with the proper training and a management philosophy that will allow flexibility. One of the questions I get asked is how to write a policy and procedure guide, and while I understand the need for putting a policy in writing, it can be crippling to an operation because it can take some flexibility out of the operation. Properly trained, talented people need a work environment that has flexibility to achieve their full potential.

Staying with the baseball theme, it is now the bottom of the seventh and time for some more good advice.

Goff defined management as: understand how to best utilize each of your team members and their talents. Each of your team members has a specific skill set and will help your business succeed in different areas. And sometimes, a business will do better when certain jobs are tailored to the talents of the individual.

Goff said it’s crucial for every business leader to see each of their employees as a unique kind of resource, not just interchangeable parts.

“A good manager must stop and actually think about how to adjust plans and roles to best utilize the abilities of people and not just how to plug one person into another person’s slot,” Goff told Male.

The 8th Inning

Leadership: A leader must foster a culture of sharing valuable information. This is for the owner of the shop and for upper management in multi-shops.

If you want to create a transparent, innovative corporate culture, you’re going to have to lead by example.

“A culture of sharing valuable information within the organization will not happen without the leader buying in and advocating such an environment,” Goff said. “Fostering the spread and use of information requires that a coach or manager actively foster and facilitate an environment in line with this objective. Players must be able to see that the manager values and expects truthful revelation of information.”

The same rule applies to your company. In my opinion, the most critical aspect to a company is the company culture and whether you like it or not, culture is established by the owner and trickles down through the management. In my 20-something years of management in our industry, I have never seen an employee work harder or care more than the owner or manager of the shop. In simple terms, if you want your employees to achieve a 100 percent effort, then the owner and management has to achieve 110 percent. It is just how company culture works. When the owner is customer-motivated, so are the employees. The opposite is also true, when an owner is shop-first minded, then the employees always consider themselves before the customers’ desires. Leadership has to come from the top down.

The 9th Inning

Success: Plan how you can win today and tomorrow

In an interview with Tom Peters, Angus summed up an overall mantra for success that every business leader should keep in mind.

“In baseball, you have to try to win today, this season, while at the same time building for the future and building the chance for future success,” he said. “That could mean the buildup of resources, whether it’s human capital, internal knowledge, fresh blood or strategic planning.”

A leader should never mortgage the future for the present, or the present for the future — the secret to success is making decisions that are positive for both.

Running a shop is hard work. Being successful is even harder. I hope as you begin your spring season you’ll be able to catch a few baseball games and see for yourself what lessons can be learned. It may be time to have a shop meeting at the local ballpark. After the game, talk to your team about what they learned watching the game and how they can take those lessons back to the shop.

I can hear the announcer saying, “Play ball!”

If you’d like to read the article by Bianca Male in full, visit: read.bi/223W9RE

RAGAN HOLT is the quick lube advisor for National Oil & Lube News. He is available for consulting and training in the quick oil and lube industry. He can be contacted at: ragan.holt@noln.net

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