Don't Let Your Startup Be Like The Red Sox

On Monday I wrote about a problem I’ve seen in a few startups recently. Your people must be the most important part of your startup — above everything else.

As I turned on my “I’m about to fall asleep” edition of Sportscenter, I heard a wonderful example of this problem from the sport of baseball. I say wonderful because I’m a Yankees fan, and this segment was all about the disastrous season of the Boston Redsox.

As it turns out, Bobby Valentine, who was brought in to right the ship and replace Terry Francona after last year’s historic collapse, is one misstep away from being fired. There are several reasons for this, but at the end of the day it all comes down to the team’s performance. Bobby V is not a great leader and his team doesn’t believe in him. Let’s take a look:

  • In spring training, he publicly called out his own players — Kevin Youkilis being the main target. Publicly. Not behind closed doors. Not directly to the players in question. But Publicly. Needless to say, this immediately raised eyebrows.
  • Then the team got off to a rough start. 4 wins and 10 losses to be exact. And there were calls for Bobby to lose his job right then and there because the players weren’t responding to him as a coach. This quote from Dustin Pedroia at the time says it all:
"I really don’t know what Bobby is trying to do. That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here. He’ll figure that out. The whole team is behind Youk. We have each other’s backs here."
  • Youkilis, who was (un)surprisingly off to an unusually slow start, had to miss 3 weeks due to an injury and Will Middlebrooks — a talented rookie hungry to make his mark — started hitting really well. This was an opening to make a move and get rid of Youkilis. Yes, get rid of the guy who helped lead the Red Sox to 2 World Series Championships and finally break the 86 year old curse of the Great Bambino. And just like that, Youkilis — the Greek God of Walks — was traded to the Chicago Whitesox, so that Middlebrooks could play every day and Valetine could have his way.

So let’s fast forward to today. David Ortiz and Wes Middlebrooks are both on the Disabled List with return dates unknown, leaving the Red Sox struggling to find both a third baseman and a DH. And by struggling I mean Boston is currently 12.5 games behind the Yankees in the Division, 6.5 games out of the Wildcard with 5 teams ahead of them, and losers of 9 of their last 13 games.

Oh yeah, by the way, Youkilis is now playing for the first place Chicago White Sox. In 2 fewer games with the White Sox this season as the Red Sox, Youk has almost doubled his Home Runs, Walks, and RBI’s compared to his numbers with the Red Sox. Not bad.

The point is the same as the post on Monday. TAKE CARE OF YOUR PEOPLE. They need to know that you have their back no matter what, know that you are fully committed to them, and know that they can trust you.

As a Yankees fan, I’m glad to see the Red Sox struggle. I thought it was foolish to bring in Valetine when they announced it, and I think it’s foolish they still have him there now. They need someone who is going to fit in with the Red Sox culture and be able to have the Red Sox players overachieving, not underachieving like they are currently.

Don’t follow in the footsteps of the Red Sox. Make sure your startup puts your team first above all else. That’s the only way you are going to get the most out of your team and that’s the only way you are going to be able to build greatness.