One of the most exciting parts of business is building a culture with a team. Taking part in events, and some of those turn into traditions.
Before I acquired LM Foods, I was lucky to be part of a great little Memphis based company, Monogram Foods for over 8 years. When I started there were no more than 12 people in the company (today they have over 1,300!).
Every year I decided to write an annual Baseball Opening Day “Missive.” I will admit they were obnoxious and probably annoyed more than a handful of people. I would try to convert southerners to not only become a baseball fan (try that in the South!), but also to become a YANKEE fan.
For the appropriate context, Yankees are not a baseball team to southerners, they are a Species, and many would prefer that they were the endangered type! Bless their heart…..
I felt bad for my fellow Memphians. You see, they did not have their own baseball team. And this didn’t bother them. But it should have.
Sure, they can get in the car and drive 3+ hours to claim the St. Louis Cards as their home team, but what a pain, and built in factor not to fall in love with baseball.
PS: If you ever want to REALLY experience life, I recommend signing a 1 year lease no more than 10 blocks away from 2 stadiums: Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. Life will be forever changed, to the good.
Enter the solution to a modern day sports/city/complex crisis……the Yankee is in the house!
I needed to at least TRY to enlighten them to the greatness of the game AND the greatness of the worlds best sport franchises despite their geographical challenges and built in sports biases. I cared too much for my brothers and sisters in Memphis and in the plant locations to let these things continue. So I tried. For 8 years I put my best case forward.
For the record, if the goal was to convert one person from a passive fan to more active, AND to adopt the Yankees, I was an outright failure! Can’t win them all, especially in baseball.
The Opening Day Missive gave a platform to unsuspecting talent in far away places outside of our headquarters. One that comes to mind is my dear friend in Accounting in one of our plants, affectionately known as “brother Dave.” Dave is a pro. He’s also a character. A technical whiz in a lumberjacks body. He’s also a sniper behind the bushes waiting for my annual Opening Day Missive so he could destroy me and leave his buddy bleeding in the streets. He did it well.
As it turns out, and much to the risk of my fragile ego, more people looked forward to Brother Dave’s counter argument and dismantling of everything Yankees than they did to the missive itself. The rant became the avenue for bloodshed in the airwaves. His replies were painful to read, but hysterical. Hysterical to everyone. Except me.
Small things define cultures in business. Many times they don’t cost a ton of money. It could be a cook-out celebrating great results, or even a simple recognition publicly for a small victory. As long as they are authentic and not overly scripted, traditions matter.
Old School? Maybe. But it matters. Just like Baseball.
On a slow Sunday morning, I was curious to see how many times I wrote about America’s past time on Hustle or Bust. Out of the 173 posts as of this date, 11 of them sprinkle in Baseball (below are the links). Hustle is not confined too business, it cuts through all of life. In fact, it probably originated in sports.
Yankees & A-Rod: I Didn’t Charge The Yanks for this Advice
And perhaps the deepest, most important one?
An email I sent to my former team (with their heartfelt thoughts attached as well) on one of the country’s defining days. What does that have to do with baseball? Simple. Baseball is what brought the country back together, when it needed it the most.
What is important about opening day is revealed in the Remembrances post. Any opportunity to bring people together on a human level is one worth capturing.
Happy Opening Day. Where everyone starts in first place and anything can happen on the long road ahead.
Best of luck to your team!