Chicago has been basking in the glory of their game seven victory in this year’s World Series, the Cubs first in 108 years.
Someone mentioned to me the other day that the Cubs start their night games at 7:08 PM, which in military time is 19:08 – or 1908 – the year the Cubs last won the World Series. There’s a huge amount of folklore and history behind this team that had been affectionately referred to as the “lovable losers”.
I’ve been in Chicago for 26 years and last week’s experience was exceptional, but being a local there is so much more to the story of the Cubs success that I’d like to share. That’s why I think success can be spelled:
C: COMMITMENT to making the Cubs the very best team and reinvigorating the brand.
U: UNWAVERING and complete dedication to continuous improvement in all elements of the team.
B: BELONGING and connection as players to each other, and the team to the neighborhood, the city and the greater “Cubs World”.
S: STRATEGIC FOCUS in all facets of the business of baseball and great tactical execution of a winning plan that aligns all efforts.
A Commitment to Success
The Ricketts family purchased the Cubs in 2009 for $875 million. Seven years later they became World Series champions. Tom Ricketts, an investment banker, led this family acquisition. Tom’s father is Joseph Ricketts, one of the founders of TD Ameritrade, and the family’s worth is in the billions of dollars. Ricketts made it clear that this was a long-term investment in a storied baseball franchise and that partnership is with the neighborhood, the city and the vast array of fans across the globe.
You might ask yourself how the Cubs got to be such a household name given their lack of success over the years. They even had losing seasons in 5 of the first 6 years under Ricketts as the “retooling” took place. But I’ve met plenty of people who in their formative years would skip school or work to buy a cheap seat in the bleachers, catch some sun, drink some beer and, by the way, watch a little baseball.
Despite their poor performance for many years, the Cubs are popular across the country. One of the major reasons for their popularity is the fact that they were owned for many years by the Tribune Corporation which also owned WGN television. WGN was on cable across the country back to the 70’s and 80’s and the Cubs broadcasts, when they only played during the day, were standard fare for afternoon programming. Folks from across the country got exposed to the Cubs in this way.
The Ricketts family commitment to the success of this storied franchise included the following critical decisions:
- They hired Theo Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox to be general manager. He had engineered the recent success of that team and was brought here to work his magic. For those fans of the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis, Epstein got his start in the Athletics organization learning how Billy Beane revolutionized the management of a baseball franchise.
- They reinvigorated the farm system where teams can develop talent themselves. There is currently so much talent at various positions that playing time is tough to dole out. The pipeline of potentially great players is the best that it’s been.
- Wrigley Field is truly a unique place and a wonderful venue for an afternoon or evening. The field has been updated considerably and although it shows and feels its age, it still draws 3.2 million fans per year (4th in the league) and the Cubs attract the largest road crowds.
- The players now have a true state of the art clubhouse and have left their old dank, crowded space behind. The renovations to Wrigley also included two huge signs that effectively blocked site lines for several of the rooftop clubs across Sheffield Ave. The Ricketts bought most of them out to avoid litigation.
- The neighborhood around Wrigley has developed fast. There are hotels, a huge new beer garden, shopping and Cubs offices that now surround it or are in various stages of development. I have driven many visitors past Wrigley before, but now it will be a tourist destination, as well as a highly desirable neighborhood for many residents.
Belonging and Connections
I am writing this less than a week after the Cubs game seven victory. Yes, I am in a Cubs sweatshirt but still need to buy my World Series gear.
The commitment, unwavering dedication and strategic focus have all been consistently well executed to create the current situation for the Cubs. Lovable losers no more. From a business perspective, the Cubs and the Ricketts family have demonstrated how to develop and deliver results in grand fashion.
But to me it’s the belonging and connections that mean the most about the Cubs success. The team was fun to watch and although they are still very young, they played so well as a unit with various interchangeable but highly skilled parts. And they enjoyed not only their success but what it means to the city of Chicago and lifelong Cubs fans.
During the rain delay late in the seventh game, the players huddled together and reinforced and encouraged one another. If you ever played on a really good team at any level, we can only imagine the connection they feel to each other. My experience is that the best teams and organizations also take great pride in “belonging” to one another and their group confidence is a hallmark of their success.
- Does your team or organization have a well-developed strategic focus and the right tactical plans to execute that vision?
- Is everyone committed to the plan and is there a consistent focus on continually raising the bar in terms of performance in all facets of the business?
- Do you take pride in being a member of your team and/or organization and do you find that connection to be an effective motivator?
Remember, Opening Day, 2017, is only six months away.
Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell