What Businesses Can Learn From Baseball

Though they may seem worlds apart, a baseball team and a business share many of the same principles. Despite their differences, the formula for success remains the same. In both arenas, efficient teamwork and sound strategy are what separate the winners from the losers. Here are five valuable lessons that businesspeople can learn from the national pastime.

Scout the right playersThe success or failure of both a business and a baseball team hinges on the strength of its players. Business managers should use similar criteria to baseball scouts when selecting new team members, according to Brad Rhea, who spent five years playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league teams before starting his own tire business, Champtires.com.

"You obviously want to establish a group of people who work for your company and are hungry to compete every day," he says. "If you don't have people who work hard and want to improve every day, your business will never grow."

Develop your teamOnce you've assembled a dream team, it's important to allow your employees to develop and grow, just as promising rookies are given adequate time after the draft to hone and perfect their skills before playing in the major leagues.

Motivation is critical to improving your team's performance. Rhea says good managers in baseball know how to bring out the best in their players - they're able to figure out what motivates people individually and as a team.

"When you appreciate your manager, it's fun, and the team usually pulls around that and wants to win. Good managers in business have to make their employees want to win for the company," he says.

Use stats to track performanceBaseball managers focus heavily on performance records and statistics. From major milestones to minor events, stats are recorded and analyzed, down to the finest details. Analyzing stats and scores provides an indication not only of where you are, but where you are headed. By tracking performance details, you can also identify the strengths and weaknesses of your company and address them accordingly.

Think long-termThe regular baseball season is hectic, with dozens of games being played over the course of a few short weeks. In this environment, success is less about individual victories as it is about overall consistency. This is equally true for business.

"Consistency is what keeps you ahead in both baseball and business," Rhea says. "It's more of a marathon than a sprint. Your goal as a baseball player is to end with good numbers, which is something that takes a whole season."

Risk and strategyIn business, as in baseball, "big-picture" strategies are imperative to long-term success. Sometimes, the best strategy might mean making short-term sacrifices in order to prosper in the long run.

"If you think about bunting a runner over to second base, you're sacrificing an out to advance your position to score. Sometimes in business you have to give up something to advance," Rhea says.

Rhea says he decided to expand to the Chicago market because it's a strong consumer market, and he could get good inventory there. However, he gave up his personal pay for a while to fund the expansion, pay for rent, hire employees and buy equipment and inventory. Likewise, monitoring your company's performance and developing a long-term strategy will help to you discern which risk to take and which to avoid.