Guest Article: What’s Your Plan to Win the World Series?

Love this true story about Theo Epstein. Imagine if we set our goals not on incremental growth but on our version of a WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP. Great read and along the same lines as this blog I wrote on the topic:

What’s your plan to win the World Series?

By  / July 12, 2018

My first job out of college was as a financial analyst at a large computer equipment company. Working at its headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, I got a firsthand look at the bureaucracy of a large corporation where great ideas that started out as rich in flavor as rocky road quickly were reduced to another form of vanilla. It was here that I coined the phrase, “Big companies demand excellence but promote mediocrity.” You rarely hear the statement, “Go big or go home” in a large corporation. Incremental improvement is favored because it involves less risk and doesn’t upset the natural order of things at the company.

Another example of this way of thinking was the Chicago Cubs baseball team, commonly known as “The Lovable Losers,” who always started out the year with enthusiasm and great expectations, only to collapse and end the year in the cellar. “Wait ’til next year” was the Cubs’ annual post-All- Star Game chant. The Cubs had patient ownership that was content with incremental improvement, and they hired managers who would hopefully “take them to the next level.”

The Cubs’ destiny changed in 2009 when the team was bought by the Ricketts family, who then hired Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations in 2011. Epstein inherited a team that had posted a 71-91 record, but here is where it gets interesting. He didn’t say to his team, “Let’s get to .500” or “Let’s try to make the playoffs.” Instead, he created a fiveyear goal to win the World Series and instructed his staff that, going forward, all plans and evaluations would be viewed with this goal in mind. Period.

The Cubs lost 101 games in 2012 and had two more losing seasons, but throughout this time, all recruiting, hiring, and player development decisions were made with the goal of winning the World Series. They let go popular players whom they believed couldn’t help them achieve that ultimate goal. They realized that, instead of hiring big-name free agents, they needed to develop their own players out of the minor leagues. They also took the best ideas from other clubs and morphed them into their own way of doing things. They then taught their unique approach to players and staff, making sure everybody bought into the culture. In 2015, the Cubs made it to the National League Championship Series and lost. In 2016, however, five seasons after hiring Theo Epstein, the Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year championship drought and won the World Series.

Let’s think about our own businesses through the lens of the pre-2012 Cubs. I know that I have on occasion set the bar too low to just get to the next level. When you are trying to turn around an operation, it is hard to get rid of anybody— employee or customer—if you think it is going to make you take a step backward. How often do we tolerate a perceived high performer who bucks the system because we can’t afford to lose the sales he or she brings? How about recruiting your competition’s best salesperson because they would bring a lot of business, while overlooking the fact that they also bring a lot of baggage and bad habits?

What if we changed our perspective and set our goal as “winning the World Series”? What if, when reviewing an employee’s performance, we asked ourselves, “Can this person play a part in helping us win our version of the World Series?” Try it out. Suddenly, that salesperson who hits below the Mendoza Line (under .200 in baseball) but is a great utility position player or just a “great guy” doesn’t make sense. Why? Because you can’t win the World Series with a bunch of utility position players or great guys. Hiring the competitor’s top salesperson doesn’t make sense if that person’s ego will disrupt your team that is focused on the goal of winning the World Series.

With a definitive goal that is the equivalent of winning the World Series in five years, you can grow your own talent. Maybe you stop selling those customers who represent a lot of volume but are a drain on your profits. Maybe you look at your legacy product lines, businesses, or locations through the lens of, “Will they help me win the World Series?” and realize they need to go away. If you are the leader of your business and you are looking to change the direction of your company, why not borrow a page out of Epstein’s playbook and set your sights on what you feel is your World Series goal?

Define the culture you want to have and set expectations accordingly.
• Divest employees who do not fit the culture, who are unable to help win your World Series.
• Hire only talent who are a good fit culturally, who want to win your World Series goal.

You then are approaching all your business and personnel decisions from the perspective of “Will this help me reach my World Series?” It’s still early in the season, so it’s not too late to improve your line up and create a winning team for 2018.

Here’s to Everyone Who Tells a Story About Their Company

Brochures. Websites. Introductory sales calls. Presentations to a broad industry audience. These opportunities are far too often used by sales reps, marketing departments, and company leaders to provide a picture about themselves, what they make or do, how big they are, how many pins in the map they have.

And not often enough do the messages make a statement to the customer, buyer, prospect, or world at large that resonates with an internal need, a desire to understand “what’s in it for them” and to see value and uniqueness they’re hungry for.

When you look at a group photograph you’re in–don’t you look for yourself first?  Don’t you want to see how you look?  We’re all interested in ourselves, our needs, and “looking” at a company, product, or service we’re considering is no different.


  • “How would my situation be different if I used this?”Coke
  • “What could I have or get from using this?”
  • “How has this helped other people like me be better or get an advantage?”


And yet so many companies still get this so wrong. We create brochures that quantify our size and locations, list out our products lines, but miss the opportunity to get the customer to see how their situation will be improved through their association with us.

So going forward, let’s start with the outside in. Let’s position our message, our pitch, our company from the customer’s point of view.  And not make it all about us.

If you want to see a perfect example of this, watch Steve Jobs’ talk below made in 1997 a couple of months after his return to Apple.  Textbook perfection on how to appeal to your audience.

Best of luck!

The Big Miss

The goals and targets:

  • Beating your competitor in the same market for the same customers under the same conditions.
  • Executing successfully against a strategic initiative.
  • Attracting great employees.
  • Hitting the top line and bottom line numbers.

Why do some “miss” on these while others hit it out of the park?

Beating the Competition in the Battle for Customers

Companies often plod ahead doing more of the same, and often just open more locations, make more acquisitions, sell for less, increase their service, go online, advertise and promote differently, distribute or manufacture a new product, or offer more purchase incentives. But in many cases the customer’s needs and wants were never placed at the center of the strategy.

Companies so frequently design their value proposition as a list of products, locations, and services that looks like a “line card” or brochure of how big and expansive they are.  Or they sell on price, quality, or service alone–and don’t fully address problems the customer is experiencing.

The Challenger Model can be the turning point here.  The Challenger Model drives companies to first develop insights in their target industry and bring those insights to their customers with sales reps who “challenge” their customers to consider new and better methods. These are methods the customers many not have ever heard of before.

Thus instead of the traditional process of asking customers “what keeps them up at night,” the Challenger Sales company “tells the customer what SHOULD be keeping them up at night–and how to solve it with their solution.”

But by far the most critical aspect winning against competitors is to know your customers better than they do, develop your value proposition around their needs, and place customer delight at the center of your focus.  This is particularly critical for large companies where often the distractions of acquisitions and mergers, technology overhauls, and other internally-oriented initiatives direct the focus and energy away from going out to find, develop, and keep a customer.

MISS #1: Allowing more focus and energy to be spent on your company than the customer.  You’ve always got to listen to the voice of the customer, place them at the center, and better yet–go stand in their shoes to help understand what they need, why they need it, and how to deliver it.  Learn how to fix problems customers didn’t even know they had.


Executing an Initiative

First, begin with “why?”  If you’ve never seen Simon Sinek’s “why” talk, or even if you have–watch it here now.  Then come back and keep reading.

What is your purpose, your cause, your belief….and why does it matter to and help your customers?  You’ve got to strike an emotional, then rational chord to achieve buy-in and acceptance.  And it starts with asking “why.”  What’s more, a company’s leaders have to communicate the same FOR IT’S TEAM MEMBERS helping execute the initiative.  What’s in it for them when the initiative is achieved?

Just because “it’s our top initiative” and “we’ve found it’s important to customers” aren’t enough.  You have to help employees see those same things for themselves, their own benefit and improvement.  You have to help employees see how achievement of the initiative will bring them personal gain, upward opportunity, or other benefits important to them.

Aligning compensation up and down the organization is one way to do this.  As a matter of fact, there are many that would tell us that it’s the ONLY way to truly align an organization to accomplish greatness.  But no matter how it’s done, you’ve got to start with “why.”

MISS #2: Expecting your initiative will be seen as your team’s initiative.  Help your employees see the personal benefit in achieving the initiative.  Compensate and reward teams for successfully executing the initiative.  If there isn’t a benefit for them…well–you get what you give.


Attracting the Best Employees

People don’t want a job.  They want a purpose, a challenge, ways to advance and add skills, and achieve their financial goals.

So then why do companies advertise for jobs this way?

“We’re looking for employees in the our new market.  Acme is a national leader with 127 locations servicing 23 states employing 10,000 people.  We carry the leading brands of widgets and were named #2 on the biggest company list in our industry in 2016.”

Where do I sign up?

Here once again is an idea from Sinek, this time on creating a realistic picture of the position you need filled so that you’ll attract the right people for the job.

Hiring managers…it’s about the employees—not the company.  Start with “why” and paint a compelling picture of what your company does from a “contribution to the world” standpoint.  Same as you’d do in sales—make it about the customer.

MISS #3: Focusing exclusively on “what” instead of “why” when attempting to attract new talent. Tell a truthful and inspiring story about your mission, your company’s vision and mission, and what’s in it for the candidate.


Hitting Top and Bottom Line Numbers

So here we are at the bottom line…the numbers.  If you thought I was going to write  here about how specifically to hit the numbers…I’m not.  The point I’m making is that 1) customer focus, 2) inspiring teams by connecting personal benefits and compensation to reaching initiatives, and 3) attracting the right people to your company by appealing to their needs for contribution will help build the strongest of foundations on which to build the rest of the strategy and execution plan…to help hit the numbers.






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