What's the worst thing you can do?

March 09, 2014

What's the worst thing you can do?

The worst thing you can do in business and in life is make a mistake…WRONG

The worst thing you can do in business and in life is making the same mistake twice.

And what’s the second-worst thing you can do? Not share your mistakes, as well as your successes.

Why should we share? Collaborating with others when you make a mistake, need a problem fixed, or have successes that others could learn from, is the key to learning and growth.

How should we share? I’m a big advocate for the face-to-face meeting because I believe that’s one of the best ways we can productively improve what we are doing. It’s a lot easier to look someone in the eye and talk to them about they can improve themselves, and vice versa, as opposed to trying to do so through a computer screen or a smartphone.

Don’t even get me started on all the technology that’s out there! In brief, my feeling on the technologies at our disposal these days falls on both side of the divide between “old school” and “new school.” On one side, the e-mail, texting, social media and intuitive applications we have are all great in creating efficiencies. I can meet with people across the world with the click of a button. On the other side, these technologies can increase distractions and affect the ways we spend our time when we are trying to work or trying to spend time with our families. They take away from our abilities to form deeper relationships with the people most important to us.

I’ll give you an example of how collaboration by true face-to-face interaction can help in sharing challenges, solving problems and building on successes:

It was 1998 and David Wells had just pitched a perfect game with the Yankees. An employee at Steiner figured we should arrange for many of the Yankees to sign a picture of the team carrying Wells off the mound after the last out and carrying him off the field.

This was a risk because getting so many players to sign one piece meant a commitment of over $500,000. It was nerve-wracking. I got a second mortgage on my home to help pay for it. In 1998 we were only an $8 million company in gross sales without a parent company to back us.

But, we thought it was a calculated risk because all indications were that the Yankees would go on to win the World Series and the team had a chance to have the most wins ever during the regular season (and they eventually accomplished both).

The problem was that we couldn’t get David Wells, of all people, to sign. We whiffed on the negotiations and were stuck.

One night there was a group of us at Steiner that were working late and sitting together trying to find a solution. Then someone had an idea.

David Wells Perfect Game CollageHe suggested making a collage. We had some balls Wells had signed from a previous deal, and we mounted a close-up picture with an autographed ball at the bottom of the 16-by-20 photo. The collage also included a scorecard of the game and a brass nameplate with details of his perfect game. We added all this to the picture of the Yankees carrying Wells off the field against a pinstriped background. We were able to set the price at about $1500 and sold approximately 1,000 pieces and made about $1.1 million.”

Edited excerpt from You Gotta Have Balls

The piece ended up being a huge turning point for Steiner Sports and shows how by working together we were able solve a problem by coming up with a creative solution that brought us even more success than anticipated.

Would that idea even have been broached without direct communication and collaboration with my team? It’s highly unlikely. We had an issue with an urgent deadline and it required people taking a good old-fashioned meeting to put our heads together to find a solution. (And yes, even though it was 1998, the distractions from e-mail and phones, however ancient as they may seem, were still problematic)

So, what’s the best idea you've had lately? Have you shared it with others? Your problems—have you collaborated with others to solve them?

Learn from your mistakes and your successes.




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