We started a series last week of the business lessons that we can learn from baseball. There is so much that we can learn from this sport. This week we’re going to talk about the importance of staying in the game. This is so true if you are working from home.
The last lesson taught us the importance of not letting one bad pitch, inning, or game ruin your season. This lesson is an extension of that — not giving up too soon, and also not getting comfortable in what appears to be an easy win.
Nine innings includes 54 outs, hundreds of pitches, and dozens of plays. Thinking at the bottom of the first that you don’t have a chance to come from behind is a mistake. One Little League team in our town overcame a 13-point deficit at the bottom of the sixth inning (they play six innings in Little League) to come back and win the game. At the pro level, just a few years ago the Colorado Rockies scored nine runs in the bottom of the 9th to win 12-9 over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Stories of business comebacks are no less rare or impressive. Target came back from near-obscurity to take on discount retailer Wal-Mart. Apple was almost belly-up when Steve Jobs returned to re-invigorate the company. Vans shoe company was limping along until it became the footwear of choice for a generation of skateboarders. Comebacks happen, even in the ninth inning — and beyond.
Of course, the reverse is true. For every comeback kid, there is a losing team. The story of the Rockies’ win could be turned upside-down and told as a cautionary tale of the Cardinals LOSING in the ninth inning. IBM, apparently entrenched as the “safe” choice for computers, couldn’t hold its own and is now a shadow of its previous self. Companies getting too comfortable in their role as market leader are a dime a dozen — and their stock might be trading for little more than that.
The lesson for small businesses is obvious: It ain’t over until it’s over. Whether you’re struggling mightily to stay afloat or you think your business is set on auto-pilot, take heed. Anything can happen, and that’s why the game has nine innings. If the outcome was certain, we could all pack up and go home at the bottom of the first.
Don’t become too discouraged by an apparent loss, and don’t become too comfortable with a certain win. A change of pitcher — or a change in the economy or market conditions — can work in your favor or against you. A new customer can change the whole game, as can a new competitor. You never know what the other team has up its sleeve.
Playing all nine is synonymous with doing your best, even when defeat — or victory — seems certain. It is the mindset of a winner, who knows that losing an inning, a game, or even a season doesn’t mean much when looking ahead to next year.