Play Ball: Messages to Entrepreneurs from an All-Time Great

Sunday night is Opening Day. It’s the Cubs against the Cardinals. It ought to be a pretty good game. Regardless, for me, it’s more than just a pause in the Final Four.

I love baseball. I like the strategy of the game. I like the history. (Baseball’s first professional team was founded in Cincinnati in 1869.) I’ve been to a fair number of the major league parks. I have favorite and not so favorite teams…and I’m a total Yogi Berra fan.

Yogi is a Midwesterner, just like us. Sure, he played most of his 19-year baseball career with the Yankees, but he never forgot where he was from, and he never lost touch with his St. Louis roots.

Yogi was a great player, a 15- time All Star and 10-time World Series champion. He is celebrated for calling and catching the first and only no hitter in World Series history (1956 with Don Larsen pitching).

Yogi was also a great businessperson and funny.

One of our major themes here at Rev1 is “what if.” This being Opening Day weekend and all, I was imagining “what if” Yogi, who will turn 90 years old on May 12, dropped in on our Concept Academy or what if he decided to stroll the halls of Rev1 Labs?

What messages might Yogi have for Columbus entrepreneurs?

  •  “If people aren’t going to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?”

This is what Concept Academy is all about. Talking to potential customers. Understanding the problems they have. Finding out if an entrepreneur’s ideas lead to a solution people want to buy…before the entrepreneur builds a field of dreams.

  •  “How can you hit and think at the same time?”

Yogi made the first pinch hit home run in World Series history. He couldn’t have planned that if he tried.

Entrepreneurs never know what kind of ball will come their way. They need to do their thinking ahead of time to figure out what action they might take, depending on which scenarios might occur. This holds true whether an entrepreneur is anticipating a customer objection, the questions a potential investor might ask, or how to react to a pricing changes from a competitor.

  • “I always thought a record would stand until it was broken.”

Entrepreneurship is all about breaking records. It’s a game of firsts. It’s all about what a startup accomplishes today and what competitors may accomplish tomorrow. Technology is and always will be a fast game. No matter how amazing a startup’s achievements are, someone will be better. Solid customer relationships and an understanding of the market help entrepreneurs weather through.

  •  “It gets late early out there.”

There aren’t many extra innings for entrepreneurs. There’s never enough money or time when you’re trying to achieve the firsts of starting a business—first market validation, first customer, first prototype, and first investment capital. The way to survive and thrive in this reality is to narrow up, prioritize. Ensure that you don’t spend money or time chasing a prototype that customers won’t pay money for.

  •  “We made too many wrong mistakes.”

Every startup and every entrepreneur will make mistakes. The trick is to not make the same ones that someone else made. Talk to other entrepreneurs. Seek the counsel of trusted advisors. Take advantage of experienced professional service providers, like the ones in First Connect, who see startups as a promising source of new clients and are eager to help entrepreneurs succeed.

  • “Take it with a grin [sic] of salt.”

Entrepreneurship is fun. Entrepreneurs are among the most optimistic of folks. Don’t take my word for it. Contact us. Or stop by the shared space and offices at 1275 Kinnear Road. Visit the Rev1 Labs incubator.

There’s nothing like building a business from scratch—except maybe 10 World Series wins.

And one more thing, entrepreneurs can do well by doing as Yogi did.

Yogi was an amazing Individual contributor. He’s the first in his league and one of the few catchers who won MVP—and he won it three times. He was a team player, playing on more pennant winning (14) and World Champion (10) teams than any other player in history.

And he became a great manager, managing the Yankees to the pennant in 1964 and was admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Entrepreneurs who set records learn to transition from being one person wearing every hat, to delegating and working effectively with a startup management team, to directing and leading the company as it matures.