Winning Strategies: What Can Print Shop Owners Learn from Major League Baseball?

Baseball is one of America’s leading sports and it is also a significant business. The 30 teams in Major League Baseball have an average value of $482 million, but one team, the New York Yankees, is worth an estimated $1.5 billion. In 2008, ticket sales and television revenue grew to $5.8 billion. That number is expected to fall this year due to the decline of discretionary spending by consumers.

You don’t have to be a fan to admire the financial success of the sport. What you can also admire is the understanding that baseball is a business of talent. Printing businesses can learn from baseball about how to acquire, focus, manage, and coach players on their own teams.

The Goal

Every baseball team begins the season with a stated goal. This goal is set by the ownership of the franchise and it is communicated to everyone in the organization.

Not every team has the same goal. The Oakland A’s have a stated goal to get into the playoffs, which take place after the regular 162 game season. Other teams, such as the New York Yankees, expect to win the World Series each year.

Teams that say they are “rebuilding” don’t always set specific goals. As a result, many of those teams don’t do as well as those teams that set and announce their goals.

The Scoreboard

As the 162 game season progresses, every stakeholder (players, management, coaching staff, fans, media) sees exactly how the team is doing against the stated goal. This is done through a report called “the standings.”

During the course of each game played, those same stakeholders can see what is happening by paying attention to “the scoreboard.” The scoreboard lists how every player is performing. This is the equivalent of an ongoing, visible performance evaluation.

Unfortunately, most printing businesses do not publicize their goals, internally or externally, because in most organizations goals do not exist. They also don’t often have an internal version of a scoreboard. Goals and scoreboards are proven to improve performance.

The General Manager’s Role

The title does not explain what this job is all about. The GM’s job is talent acquisition.

A baseball team is no different than most businesses; having the right people in the right spot is one of the most critical components of success. The key difference is that most printing businesses don’t take the time to focus on people except when there is a vacancy, a performance issue, or a disciplinary problem.

The GM is not afraid to trade a player to another team in exchange for a player or players that can help them win in the short term. The GM is also able to demote someone to the minor leagues if they need improvement in some aspect of hitting, pitching, or fielding.

What the Manager Does

The job of the manager is to use the players on the 25 man roster to win baseball games. The focus of the manager is on winning during the season and post season. This means he must use his resources to his advantage literally play by play, pitch by pitch, inning by inning, game by game, series by series.

The manager is the tactical leader on the playing field. A game of baseball is similar to a chessboard and the manager’s role is to move the players around the line-up card, the field, and the batting order to win as many games as possible, focusing on one game at a time.

In most small printing businesses, the manager is also the owner, while larger printers have a hired manager.

What the Coaches Do

A baseball team accepts the fact that the players on the team have talent. The role of the coach is to maximize the talent of each player in whatever role they play; as a fielder, hitter, or pitcher. A team has pitching, hitting, fielding, and base running coaches—all critical for player development on an ongoing basis.

Most businesses believe that the manager can also coach, and that is true in limited cases. Managers aren’t usually concerned with or trained in coaching methods. Managers are usually just focused on winning in the short term. However, most printing businesses cannot define what “winning” is.

What Can You Do

If a baseball team is built on talent, so is your printing business. How much time is spent in acquisition of potential staff members? How much time is spent setting achievable goals and communicating those goals? What kind of scoreboard and standings are available to the “players” on your team? Is winning defined? How much time is invested in coaching (or training) talented people to become better? What are you doing as the print shop owner to become better? Do you have a team or simply a group of people who work for the same printing organization?

You have to set your goals and measure your success if you want to have a winning team.

Mitch Evans is president of Mitch Evans Consulting, which is targeted to meet the consulting needs of the quick and small commercial printing industry. His areas of expertise are in strategic planning, valuation, mergers and acquisition, financial planning, new technology, and “1-2-1” coaching. Contact him at 561/351-6950 or