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Lessons From the Boston Red Sox That Can Help Your Business in the New Year

December 12, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230255

With the 2013 calendar year coming to a close, entrepreneurs and small-business owners need to reflect on decisions made that drove positive results and the areas that need improvement heading into 2014.

When Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox won their third World Series since 2004 this year, it came as a bit of a surprise to many. After all, it was only one short year ago that the Red Sox finished last in their division, fired their manager and traded their top-paid players.

Just like a MLB general manager has to make tough decisions during the baseball offseason to improve their team, entrepreneurs and small-business owners need to honestly evaluate their triumphs and failures -- and adjust accordingly to position their business for success in the future.

Below are three lessons learned from the Boston Red Sox to help you set your business up for success in 2014:

1. Don’t avoid unpopular decisions.
When Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington traded some of his top players following the 2012 season to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the move generated doubts among the Red Sox fan base about the management’s competency and its intention for the franchise. At the end of the day, a baseball general manager keeps his job when he puts a winning team on the field. And in doing so, his decisions might not always please every fan.

As a business owner, your decisions might not always be the most popular among clients and staff. However, it is essential that you make the hard decisions that might not always be the popular vote.

As American comedian and actor Bill Cosby once declared, “I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”

Related: A-Rod Drama: 3 Tips for Managing Difficult Employees

2. Leadership is critical to your success.
When the Red Sox’s parted ways with manager Bobby Valentine at the end of the 2012 season and replaced him with John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays, it may have been the most important move that led to their success in 2013.

Although Valentine had plenty of experience managing in MLB, he lost the respect of his team and it was time for change. John Farrell’s leadership style helped eliminate the drama that had become common place in the Red Sox dugout and created an environment where the players wanted to win for him.

Behind every championship team is a leader who does exactly what is needed to motivate his team to victory. As a business owner, it is your job to continuously improve and adjust your leadership style and empower the people around you who will help drive success for your business.

Related: 4 Ways to Turn Your Employees Into an All-Star Team

3. Your greatest advantage is learning from your mistakes.
In 2011, the Red Sox blew a nine-game lead late in the regular season followed by reports of starting pitchers drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse. The work-place atmosphere and aura surrounding the organization needed a drastic 360-degree change. And, in the end, manager Terry Francona took the fall.

In 2012, the Red Sox finished a disappointing last place in their division and management had to evaluate their situation and make difficult decisions that included dumping the big salaries of all-star players Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez.

Failing in some regard will happen with any business venture. Drawing on the lessons learned from setbacks provides an opportunity to adjust your strategy, set new goals and measure your progress.

As Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said, "It's fine to celebrate success, but it's more important to heed the lessons of failure."

Related: Lessons in Business Leadership From the NBA Finals