By MaryEllen Tribby
I have loved baseball since I was a little girl. My dad took me to my very first Yankee game when I was six years old and boy I was hooked!
Over the years I have had my favorite Yankees. Currently, Jeter is the man.
Yet, of all the years that I have been a fan and of all the line-ups I have witnessed, the mid 70's still stands out as the classic line-up in Yankee history. It included greats like Graig Nettles, Lou Pinella, Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson and of course my all time favorite New York Yankee . . . Bucky Dent!
And who would have thought that taking my son to baseball camp would send me soaring back in time three decades...
You see, a few of years ago I'd just enrolled Connor in the Bucky Dent Baseball School in Delray Beach, Florida.
New York Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent was my idol as a young girl. And, I have vivid memories of that landmark moment in 1978, when Bucky hit one of the most famous homeruns in baseball history, destroying the dreams of the Boston Red Sox and their chances of going to the World Series. As a huge fan, I remember the exact moment Bucky's bat connected with Mike Torrez's pitch.
Little did I know that I'd be able to meet him 30 years later, and even have the chance to chat with him one-on-one and pick his brain.
But, we didn't just talk about baseball. I got his insights into entrepreneurship, customer service, mentors and partners, and goal setting. And, I discovered that the core values Bucky used to become one of the most famous baseball players in history are the same core values he has used his entire life to build and maintain a successful business and gratifying life.
His advice is right in line with what I've always recommended. And, you can use his experience and suggestions to make your own dreams come true - whether it's to start a business, lose 20 pounds, or become a baseball star.
Entrepreneurship in the Making
One of the biggest takeaways from my conversation with Bucky was how synergistic our philosophies are. Here's one example. Whether I am speaking at a conference or industry event or I am attending one of my kids' sporting events, I inevitably field someone's question about "what kind of business should I start?"
I always tell people they need to start a business that meets two major criteria:
- You must be passionate about it.
- You must have experience in that field.
This is something Bucky not only understood 34 years ago, but implemented.
During our conversation, he shared with me that after his famous homerun many people wanted to go into business with him because he had a "name" that provided instant equity. He told me that the majority of these offers were for the restaurant business. He said, "I did not particularly like the idea of the restaurant business and I knew nothing about that business. What I knew and had so much experience in was baseball, and what I loved was baseball."
It's no wonder, then, that the business Bucky ended up pursuing was running a baseball school.
He told me that when he was a rookie with the White Sox, he was a guest instructor at a baseball school. He said he loved working with the kids. He had to alter his teaching method and vocabulary depending on the age and experience level of each child, because the only thing that mattered to him was that the child had a great week.
He wanted to make sure the child walked away with even more passion for the sport and learned something in the process.
I thought to myself, "Here is someone who understands the value of knowing your customer and creating the best customer experience possible.'"
This is one of my core business philosophies, and something I personally witnessed with Bucky's business. My son attended his baseball school on EVERY school break as well as during the summer for five years. Not only did Connor's skill set continue to improve, his love for the game continued to grow at the same time.
The Importance of Mentors & Partners
One of the most important lessons I've ever learned was that regardless of your professional status and your experience level, EVERYONE needs mentors and partners. Yet, I see so many entrepreneurs fight this. They think they can go it alone, and it usually blows up in their face.
This is yet another core business philosophy that I share with Bucky. He told me that his older brother was his greatest mentor. He explained that his brother not only coached him in sports, but was also the biggest believer in Bucky's abilities.
Bucky's feelings about the importance of mentors and partners are evident in the way he runs his business. He explained that there are now three partners at the school:
- Partner One is the money guy. He handles everything from reconciling the tuition revenue to paying the bills to dealing with taxes. Everything your CFO would do.
- Partner Two runs the show behind the scenes. He makes sure the fields are in playing condition, hires the top-notch staff, deals with parent/child issues that arise, and has the marketing team report to him.
- Partner Three is the face of the business. (That's Bucky.) He decides on the curriculum. And, of course, he is out there with the other coaches teaching the kids.
The three primary aspects of Bucky's business are managed by three people who are experts in their field - which is something you should apply to your business.
If, for example, you are not a marketing genius and do not have the desire to learn how to market well, that is okay. But only if you recognize that marketing is the most important part of your business and you partner with an expert marketer.
Still Setting Goals
Thirty-four years after becoming famous, Bucky is still setting goals. But, the practice of goal setting did not start when he became a professional athlete. It began when Bucky was a child, determining what he wanted from life.
1. Start with the big picture. Bucky shared with me that all his life he wanted to be a professional athlete. He trained physically, making it his primary goal to become healthy and fit. It was not until he was a sophomore in high school that he decided he wanted to be a professional baseball player, at which point the majority of his workouts became baseball-specific.
The same approach applies whether you are starting a business or you want to lose weight.
2. Conquer roadblocks. Bucky believes in the total elimination of mental and physical roadblocks. For years, people told Bucky that he was neither good enough nor big enough to be a professional athlete.
Instead of allowing that to alter his goals, he got those people out of his life.
I know that "things" seem to get in the way of accomplishing your goals. Let's say you are determined to get healthy and fit. You tell yourself that you will eat healthy and walk one mile a day. But you have an unfortunate accident and break your leg.
What do you do now? Do you give up and allow this roadblock to prevent you from achieving your goal? The way I see it, you have two choices:
- You can put off working toward your health goal for 12 weeks until your leg heals.
- You can start eating healthy while doing some simple exercises that do not involve your leg, and you can start keeping a journal of your progress.
But giving in is not an option. It's easy to run into obstacles. But you can almost always find a way around them.
3. One is the loneliest number. Just like Bucky, we realize that there is strength in numbers. Study after study shows that having an "accountability partner" will give you a 65 percent higher success rate. Why? This is because you have someone else doing some of the pushing.
You know those days when you do not feel like going to the gym or writing a poem or setting up your Facebook campaign? With a partner, you can always get help to move forward. It doesn't matter what your goal is - once you share it with someone, you have a better chance of accomplishing that goal.
It's funny how life works out. If I'd had the opportunity to meet Bucky when I was 15 years old instead of now, the conversation would have been much different, I suspect.
I would not have appreciated everything he had to offer. As it turned out, it was like talking to an old friend - not only about baseball, but about business and the importance of excellent customer service and even the role of family values.
"The below picture is of Connor and Bucky as seen in Sports Illustrated, July 2008. And the best part of this picture is that when the issue came out, Connor actually said "Look mom, it's my FIRST time in Sports Illustrated!"