by Tom Casey Jr.

With spring comes America’s favorite pastime: baseball. Baseball is an ideal combination of strategy and sport. It can also provide a great pattern for successful business management and organization.

Like any great baseball team, your team must have highly talented players at every position in order to “win.” A baseball team has nine positions, each with its own specialty. How many does your firm have? More importantly, how many do you actually need?

One critical element of a baseball team’s success is its on-field chemistry. How well you gel is very important. This is important to keep in mind when you’re hiring to build your team.

Essentially, we all need to have a scouting report for our own team. This scouting report should tell us what we have, what we need, and what we want. It should help us define what an ideal player would look like at every position on our team. You need to know what you’re looking for to be able to rapidly recognize it when you see it.

Always Look for Talent

Scouting reports shouldn’t just be for vacancies, but should be vital to capitalizing on upgrading any position at any time. The most successful teams constantly search for the best players to improve their team, even when they don’t have a pressing need. Excellence is no part-time thing.

Pro teams all have specialty coaches for each group of position players. These “supervisory” people are generally seasoned veterans who can help the current players avoid mistakes, as well as accelerate their development. A high-quality coaching staff — your management staff — is absolutely necessary for a winning team.

No championship club ever lacked a great skipper. The manager’s job is to orchestrate the players and coaches for the most effective opposition to a league full of competitors. The skipper’s role sets the tone and personality of the team. The skipper is ultimately responsible for evaluating and implementing the talent of his players so they can be as productive as possible.

The Measure of Success

Like it or not, the measure of any skipper’s success is found in the win-loss column. In business, it’s the bottom line that matters most. This pressure necessitates that the manager is in a constant state of readiness and preparedness. Preparing players to succeed on the field through frequent guidance and feedback with the coaching staff, and determining line-ups that win games are must do’s for the manager.

A team with the right skipper can be successful and win consistently, sometimes despite the fact their team may not be the most talented. Business, like baseball, is a game of subtleties. It’s the little things that make the difference. It could be the difference between leaving the pitcher in one batter too long versus going to the bullpen in a timely fashion. It could be noticing the slightest change in a player before it’s a distraction to the rest of the team. It could be knowing the other teams’ tendencies so well that you can make the right substitution at the critical juncture. It could be cutting losses and making a change to keep improving.

Make Customers Your Fans

All these pieces should come together for a singular purpose: the fans. If you don’t put a winner on the field you will not attract fans (customers). On the other hand, if you consistently produce you will sell out games.

Attending a game must be a positive experience to keep a baseball team’s fan base growing. It’s the same for customers doing business with your company. You must present good value. You must attract marquee players to improve your team. Your team must be visible and accessible so the fans can make a positive emotional connection. Where is your team without fans?

The main distinction between HVAC companies and a baseball team is that our season never ends. We don’t have the luxury of an off-season. We need to stay focused 365 days/year on playing the game profitably. As owners/managers, we have to keep our players focused and renewed so they are always working with fresh arms and legs, day in and day out. It’s no easy task, but, like great baseball managers, it’s our role.

Spring is here. Let’s “Play Ball!” and create winning teams at our companies.

Tom Casey Jr. is general manager of Climate Engineering, Milford, CT. The company was Contracting Business magazine’s 2001 Residential Contractor of the Year. Casey can be reached at 203/878-6368, ext. 313.