Hitting A Home Run For Your Business

Is there one way that an individual or organization can truly score in business?

Stan Kasten, president and CEO of the storied Los Angeles Dodgers, a baseball franchise co-owned by the Guggenheim Group, Magic Johnson, and myself exhorts there’s definitely a strategy. Kasten’s resume includes being president of the Washington Nationals, where he re-ignited an apathetic fan base turning this baseball team into the crown jewel franchise in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was the president of the Atlanta Braves, who during his tenure won more games than any other team in baseball, and he is the first sports figure to hold the title of president of three different teams in three different major sports simultaneously with Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves, the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks and the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers. As such, Kasten is enormously respected as a sports figure with a reputation for not just building winning sports franchises, but for turning around the entire business organization and the individuals who manage it.

Kasten generously took time to join me at our UCLA Master’s class on The Business of Sports where he shared his 3 pillars for building sustained, successful organizations – on the field and off.

  1. Product

    Building an enduring, successful product is the direct result of creating, nurturing, and sustaining the people around, behind, and in front of it. This is why Kasten exhorts that it’s not just the players on the field – your “product” – but the development of your management, coach, and executives as the secret sauce to building championship businesses. Kasten believes that the development of organizational excellence depends on a farm system that grows both executives and players alike such as the minor league franchises in baseball. This shapes the best attitude and aptitude of the people who manage your product.

    The time and money you invest your development programs can be your game-changer.

    The time and money you invest your development programs can be your game-changer. These development programs offer organic opportunities for your employees to learn your unique systems, to get to know each other, bond, and work optimally in teams. In addition, these programs foster culture which is critical to building any organization’s sustained success.

    In both good and challenging times, growing and cultivating a continuous stream of home grown and groomed talented individuals who know how to work together can be your competitive advantage.

  2. Customer Experience

    In our world in which many products and services have become commodities, where you can’t compete just on price, and with continual economic uncertainty, the emotional experience you give to your customers, fans and other stakeholders must build and sustain your business, foster loyalty, and drive online and offline evangelism for your offering. Examples of emotional customer experiences include exceptional customer service, in-store or online interactive activities both with your product and with other customers to propel sharing these experiences, listening and then adapting to the changing needs of your market, delivering on your promise time and time again, and offering the great value your customers seek.

    In the case of the Dodgers, Kasten has poured resources into new high definition video boards, great sound, and other technologies to provide unrivaled in-stadium experiences. Through these technological enhancements, fans can be more than passengers, but participants, sharing their experience with others in the stadium and at home in real time. This allows the organization to not only to talk to the fans and customers, but to listen to them and respond expeditiously. Fan input was also solicited personally as well as through the Dodger’s dedicated email. Kasten further deepened the customer experience by increasing staffing levels to shorten lines and waiting times at all concession stands and by committing greater accessibility to players and owners at the games through expanded autograph programs and a concerted effort to mingle with fans directly, every night, on all seating levels. Creating a robust experience means looking for every opportunity to not just make contact, but to connect with your customer.

  3. Brand

    According to Kasten, community outreach is critical to developing your brand in subtle, yet extremely powerful ways. These programs foster fierce loyalty and vocal, passionate advocates who promote your brand in their authentic voices in ways traditional marketing can’t duplicate. There are infinite ways your organization can be generous and visible in your community. A few of the Dodgers programs include the Dodgers Dream Foundation (DDF) which was created to provide educational, athletic and recreational opportunities for the youth of the Greater Los Angeles community – particularly the traditionally under-served youth and the Dodgers Community Caravan where over two days current and former Dodger players joined Dodger fans in giving back to the community in a multitude of ways. This creates an empathetic resonance that pays long term dividends.

Kasten offered one final coaching advice: There are no shortcuts. You have to commit to a long term plan to arrive at your “championship!”

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