Small business lessons from the Boston Red Sox victory

While listening to the post-game interviews after last night’s fantabulous Boston Red Sox victory in the World Series, it occurred to me that small business owners could take away several lessons from the team’s rise from, as a Providence Journal headline put it, from chumps to champs. Reporters repeatedly asked what went into turning a last-place, highly unlikeable team into a much-loved World Series champion in just one season. Here are what I think are the chief take-aways from this saga that are highly applicable to a small business…or any-sized business, for that matter:

• The tone comes from the top. It is clear that the new manager, John Farrell, came into spring training and immediately set the tone that this was going to be an organization that is all about winning and also about mutual respect and trust. The latter point –– the respect and trust factors –– were completely missing during the disastrous, but blessedly short reign of Bobby Valentine, a manager who routinely threw players under the bus in media interviews. In contrast, John Farrell is a master with the media, never showing up players and accepting blame himself the few times that things went wrong this season.

Be like John Farrell and your employees will also want to play their hearts out for you. Take Bobby Valentine’s approach and call people out publicly in staff meetings, on the shop floor or in front of customers, and you’re guaranteed to have disgruntled, unmotivated employees and the high turnover that comes with such poor working conditions.

• Hire good people and then get out of their way. By all news reports, last year the trio at the top of the Fenway pecking order (John Henry, Tom Warner and Larry Lucchino) interfered with the general manager’s ability to assemble the team he wanted and dictated the hiring of Bobby Valentine. In contrast, this year they got out of the way and let their baseball operations people do their jobs. The result was an artfully assembled team of winners led by a masterful manager who knows how to get the best out of people. The lesson to be learned: Hire good people and let them do their jobs without micro-managing and constant second-guessing.

• Good communication is key. After last season, it was revealed that Bobby Valentine rarely, if ever, spoke with his coaches. He didn’t want their input…ever! How amazing is that? And as far as communicating directly with players, apparently little of a positive nature happened there either.

Again, in sharp contrast, it is clear that John Farrell and his coaches worked as a cohesive unit with good communication and clear goals and the results showed it. Coaches were relentless in their preparation and communicated well with players, who, as a result, came to games well equipped with information that would help them face the opponents of the day, including the dastardly pitching staffs of Detroit and St. Louis.

For small business owners, the lesson here is in the value of constant and consistent communication about the goals at hand and also the efficacy of “managing by walking around” and having conversations with all staff members on a regular basis.

• Embrace your community. More than any other year that I recall in my 43 years as a Sox fan, this team embraced the city of Boston as never before. This, of course, was a result of the tragedy the city faced during the Marathon bombings and the big emotional toll that took on everyone in the region, including the players.


  1. The marathon bombing is really heartbreaking, back to the topic I like the way how you compared their gameplay on managing a small business. Just like a sport coach a business coach will help you reach for the trophy it will guide you all through the way.

  2. These small business lessons really work. Hire the best people, communicate with them on a regular basis, then start combining your ideas. I'm sure it will result in a successful marketing strategy.

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