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Using Baseball’s Model of keeping Metrics to Run Your Company

Published in the NPSOA Magazine

baseball's model of keeping metrics

The baseball season has started and one great thing that sets Major League Baseball apart from other team sports is that there is nowhere to hide when it comes to performance and its measurement. Every pitch made is announced and recorded, including its speed, break, location and fate. When the ball is hit, attention turns to defensive players on the field to see how well or poorly they field pop-ups, ground balls and line drives. Successes and mistakes are visible to all present at the ballpark, those watching on television and those listening on the radio. When a batter is at the plate, every pitch is watched, analyzed and second guessed by announcers, coaches and fans.

Metrics, including balls and strikes, batting averages, walks, strikeouts and errors, are all visible on the stadium scoreboard and announced to fans. They show up in box scores online almost immediately and the next day in newspapers. Of course, baseball pundits offer their endless two cents as well, online, in print, on TV and radio, before, during and after each game on the post-game show.

For our printing or sign businesses, by almost the mid-year mark, we should be able to take a data-informed look at how our printing or sign company is performing – how the year is going so far and where it’s likely to end up? What do your metrics look like and especially as compared to your business plan? As with baseball teams this early in the season, it’s not time to panic or give up on the year. There is still plenty of time to turn things around if necessary, but thought-provoking questions are being asked: Will it be a bad year? Why? Will things be turned around? Is it too late? Why weren’t our objectives met? Were they the right objectives? What problems surfaced that the company was unprepared for? How many lost opportunities were there?

Like a baseball team that loses a game it could have won, the list of questions is endless when it comes to playing the blame game. It’s the nature of those in charge to focus almost exclusively on what didn’t happen as opposed to the good things that did. Not enough owners celebrate their successes or their own performance. Print/Sign owners assume, perhaps incorrectly, if revenue and profits are up, that the leader is doing his or her job. But there are other factors at play, and business success is not always just about making more money.

A Harvard Business Review article several years ago provides an excellent primer that owners might want to refer to at critical times of the year. Titled “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror,” here are some questions worth taking time to ponder: What is the vision of the company? How can the vision be described in such a way that everyone in the organization can understand and repeat it when asked? How often do I, as the leader, communicate this vision for my business? What are my three to five priorities to achieve the vision? Have I communicated these key priorities throughout the company? If asked, could my employees articulate the vision and the priorities? Does how I spend my time match my key priorities? Is how my direct reports spend their time matching the key priorities of the business? Am I coaching my direct reports and giving them challenging assignments? Am I a bottleneck in the decision-making for my company? Am I decisive enough? When I’m under pressure, what signals do I send to my employees? Are the signals I send helpful or do they undermine the success of the business? If I had to redesign my business with a clean piece of paper, what would it look like?

Take a stab at answering those questions – write down the answers and see if you see what you need to continue or stay the course, what you need to change and what you need to stop doing.

Da Vinci said, “Every now and then, go away. To remain constantly at work will diminish your judgment. Go some distance away, because work will be in perspective and a lack of harmony more readily seen.” My recommendation is to take a short trip, away from the busyness of the day-to-day demands of your printing business, and review what’s working, what’s not and why not. The year is far from over. There is still time to get back on track if you’ve veered off. Luckily there are more innings left in the year.

What metrics besides sales are you keeping and tracking against benchmarks? What metrics do you share with your staff? You can’t keep your employees in the dark as to how business is going as most times they will think the worst.

Mitch Evans is a management consultant and trusted advisor who works with graphic company owners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. Mitch is a managing director at Graphic Arts Advisors LLC which specializes in Mergers & Acquisitions (valuations, buying and selling, mergers and non-bankruptcy orderly wind-downs). Mitch is also a partner with Mike Kind in The Next Level Group which facilitates formal top executive peer groups for leadership, business growth, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at or call 561-351-6950.


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