Focus on Your Strengths

Over the last couple of posts I’ve been discussing the importance of building a good team, with different kinds of players with different skills.  I heard a story this week that I thought made the point from the other side of this picture; i.e., why you shouldn’t try to do everything and why you should focus on your strengths.

First, a little context for my readers who are outside of the U.S. and not familiar with baseball – “the American Pastime”.  In baseball, players maintain a “batting average”.  The average is calculated by taking the number of hits they get versus the number of times they come to bat (multiplied by 1000).  Therefore a player that gets one hit in every five at bats is a 200 hitter.  In the modern game people who bat over 300 (3 hits in 10 at bats) are seen as good hitters, with the best hitters hitting 330 to 350 or thereabouts.  So, with that in mind, let me tell you about Ted Williams, the last Major League Baseball player to hit for over 400 for the season (406 in 1941).

But before I do, (once again for the non-baseball knowledgeable amongst you) let me try to explain the ‘strike zone’.  When a pitch is thrown (by the pitcher) the result can be a ‘hit’, a ‘strike’, a ‘ball’ or a ‘foul ball’ (there’s a couple of other strange results as well, but they don’t matter for our story).  If the pitch passes through the strike zone without the batter putting the bat to the ball, then it is a strike.  If the batter hits the ball but it isn’t hit ‘in play’ then it is a ‘foul ball’.  This is starting to feel like the time I tried to explain the rules of cricket to a group of my American friends – at least I’d had a number of beers at that point!!  But back to our story.

According to the story, Ted Williams divided the ‘strike zone’ into 72 3″ squares.  He then paid someone to record where every pitch was thrown to him.  At the end of the season, he was able to calculate his batting average for each 3″ square.  He identified each square where he hit 350 or better.  Then he practiced being able to just put the bat on the ball in the other areas, so that he could confidently foul the ball off (when you have two strikes on you and you foul off the ball it doesn’t count as a strike and you get another pitch).  When the pitch was in one of the areas where he hit 350 or better he swung hard and HIT THE HECK OUT OF IT!!  (Of course, we won’t think about how someone in the stands – or even in the dugout – could, with 1941 technology, record whether a pitch went through this 3″ square versus that 3″ square!!)

So what does this have to do with being an entrepreneur or small business owner?

Well, the things that you do well are the 3″ squares where you hit 350 or better.  The other areas are those where you just need to do well enough to stay in the game, or where you need to get help from others who do hit 350 in those squares.

Williams took the time to understand where he hit 350 or better; do you understand where your 350 squares are?

He also learned enough about the other areas so that pitches in those areas wouldn’t hurt him.  Are you continuing to educate yourself about all areas of your business, so that you can at least understand what needs to be done and what the experts are suggesting doing?

Practice and experience, develops discipline.

Remember, putting the right team around you will allow you to move ahead more quickly with the growth of your business.

Excellent Execution

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