The Tampa Bay Rays were once the worst franchise in baseball. They always finished last in their division, the AL East, very few fans would come to their games, and they didn’t make a lot of money. They were the joke of baseball. To make matters worse, any chance of becoming a winner and turning around their sorry franchise was next to impossible because they played in the same division as the two most powerful teams in baseball, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. How do you compete against two teams that have some of the most loyal and rabid fans in all of baseball? How do you compete against two teams that generate nearly double and triple the money that you do? How do you compete against two teams that can afford to pay two underachieving pitchers $16.5 million per year and still have a boatload of money to go out and acquire any other player (or players) they desire? Easy, through effective leadership that was willing to analyze every aspect of the team’s operations and bring Wall Street strategies to the organization. It is all covered in The Extra 2%. If you love baseball and business, The Extra 2% is a great read. Even if you aren’t interested, here are some points I took from the book that we all can apply to our libraries:
1) You need the right leader in place (with the right leadership style):
The first owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays was Vince Naimoli. Naimoli was an extremely successful businessman and instrumental in bringing baseball to St. Petersburg, Florida. According to the book, he was known as a fixer, one of those guys that acquired failing businesses, turning them around during their time of crisis, and selling them for a nice profit. He did this by using a very coercive leadership style. As you might remember from this post, coercive leadership is great during emergencies and when organizations are falling apart, but it isn’t an effective leadership style long-term. When Stuart Sternberg bought the team, he put effective leaders in place, such as manager Joe Maddon, guys that knew the right kind of leadership styles to use and when to use them.
2) For that extra edge, wipe out your weaknesses:
When you have so many factors stacked against you, if you become at least average in your weak areas, you can gain that extra 2% edge that might make the difference between success and failure. This is what the Tampa Bay Rays believe. They do this across many areas, whether they are using the most cutting-edge statistical analysis to evaluate players, bringing in sports psychologists to work with players, or spending time doing drills on how to improve bad base running. Many of these areas the Rays focus on are areas that other teams in baseball ignore.
3) If you use creative marketing, they will come:
One of the first things that Steinberg’s leadership team did was drop the “Devil” from the “Tampa Bay Devil Rays” to become the “Tampa Bay Rays”, complete with new colors and uniforms. This was a great move as this allowed the organization a fresh start and a way to distance themselves from Naimoli’s Devil Rays. The Rays’ also started to schedule big-name performers for postgame concerts in order to attract more fans to games. Inspired by the popularity of SNL’s “More Cowbell” skit featuring Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken, Steinberg had the idea during the Rays’ 2009 postseason run to distribute cowbells at games. They completely caught on and became synonymous with the Rays. Other quirky and creative ideas the Rays introduced to bring in fans included “Senior Prom of Senior Citizens” night and a “Friday Nightclub” complete with postgame dance music and indoor fireworks!
I really could relate to the Tampa Bay Rays as I read this book. After all, they are facing some fierce competition, kind of like libraries! What do you think? Are there some other lessons we can learn from baseball’s worst to first franchise?