retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There are two firm rules here at MNB. First, we believe there are business lessons in everything happening around us and, second, both Kevin and I are endlessly devoted to the New York Mets.

This is a great week for us. The Mets are the National League East champions, and their unexpected ascent offers a business lesson. It's a win-win situation. Pass the champagne.

During the past decade, the New York Mets typically spent September losing meaningless games to end another terrible season; when the games were meaningful, fans would simply wait for the inevitable collapse. That leaves loyal fans uttering the line spoken by fans of every losing team - wait 'til next year! - and searching for some reason for optimism. Yes, I know there are other terrible teams, but the Mets are special - the owners, after all, found themselves embroiled in the Bernie Madoff scandal, leaving the franchise so financially compromised that they could barely make payroll at times.

This season was not supposed to be any different, especially because the Washington Nationals, a team in the Mets division, was widely expected to be the best team in baseball. Virtually every pre-season prediction called for the Nationals to do very, very well and the Mets to be, well, the Mets.

But the rule in baseball is that the games must still be played and that pre-season predictions count for nothing. Thanks to incredible circumstances that defy easy explanation, the Mets started off with a bang, played solidly for most of the season and then, thanks to savvy transactions made before the trading deadline and some often extraordinary starting pitching, played extremely well for the past two months.

This weekend, the New York Mets officially eliminated the Washington Nationals from the playoffs. Just like that, the Mets - our Mets - have to be taken seriously as the postseason begins.

In baseball or business, we need remember that we make our reputation every day and through every customer. What we did yesterday never matters. Every element of our business must work to maximum effectiveness daily or we start fading.

Predictions and reputations are meaningless; performance is all that matters. It’s doesn’t matter if you are running a small team, a single-store operation or overseeing a multi-billion dollar corporation. The same rule holds true.

In business we cannot take anything for granted because complacency or arrogance never, ever lead to anything good.

(It’s important to add that we could also glean countless lessons for how the Nationals have responded to their unexpected demise. "Team turmoil" is an understatement, since the tensions resulted last weekend in relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon grabbing teammate Bryce Harper by the neck in the dugout during a game. It is a picture that many of you have seen, and it is a picture that defines the Nationals' season.

I have two observations about this. First, it provides a sad and yet important lesson in the need for zero tolerance for workplace violence. Second, it illustrates the problems of absent management: Matt Williams, the team manager, was in the dugout, but sent Papelbon back on the field for the next inning. He either wasn't paying attention or decided it didn't matter, and I'm not sure which is worse. I expect him to be fired once the season is over, but he probably should have been fired immediately after the game.)

Kevin is fond of quoting Robert B. Parker, one of his favorite authors, as saying that “baseball is the most important thing that doesn’t matter." I agree. As we all learned from Field of Dreams, baseball is the essence of our society and history in ways that few things are.

"The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again."

Baseball gives us countless lessons in skills, preparation, mental toughness and simply the need to play all the games, no matter your history or past performance. It’s a lesson that shouldn’t be wasted.

As for us, we await the first round of the playoffs, and that wonderful moment when the New York Mets take the field. Play ball.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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