Sharing Success

Classic Comments: The World According to Yogi

I have turned for inspiration to a beloved New Yorker and much quoted Italian American philosopher, Yogi Berra. What I have always found so refreshing about Yogi’s famous malapropisms is their profound underlying wisdom. Accordingly, I share some “Yogisms” and how they can apply to your business success.

“Good players make a good manager!”

When asked by a sportswriter, “What makes a good manager?” Yogi responded, “Good players!” While it is true that an owner can inspire employees to excellent performance, it does help to improve the odds by recognizing potentially “good players” when you see them, and then hiring them.

That is, whether you are managing the New York Yankees or a restaurant, it pays to carefully evaluate which character traits are required to succeed for each position on your team. Failing to do that evaluation can result in “trying to fit a square peg into a round hole,” which typically results in employee dissatisfaction. (Unhappy employees rarely make “good players.”)

“We made many wrong mistakes.”

One’s credibility is often judged not by how you act when things go right, but how you react when things go wrong. When the Yankees lost the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Yogi did not offer excuses, but instead took personal responsibility for the loss. While doing so was not easy, it reinforced Yogi’s personal credibility with his team and with fans. (Clearly, Yogi was not a practitioner of the American proverb “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.”)

“If people do not want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?”

Yogi’s observation about fans staying away from the ballparks during a threatened players’ strike is most applicable to any business where customers have a choice. That is, a customer’s repeat patronage to your restaurant is not an automatic given, but depends on how well they are satisfied every time they visit. (That’s why it is so important for individual employees to understand and internalize that what they do is often a key in customers wanting “to come to your ballpark.”)

“You can observe a lot by watching.”

The simple power of personal observation is often overlooked in the day to day running of a business. However, it pays to take time (and encourage key employees to do so as well) to “watch” the effectiveness of various aspects of your businesses. For example, watching customer behavior at their table or how your kitchen staff operates at peak times can uncover possible areas for improvement. By watching and questioning (e.g., Why are we doing it this way? How does this improve food quality?), we demonstrate a personal commitment to “raising the bar.”

“You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you are going, ’cause you might not get there.”

Finally, of all of Yogi’s advice, this is perhaps the most powerful. That is, businesses that clearly define their strategy have an advantage over businesses lacking direction. For example, most Independents recognize the importance of food quality superiority in competing against price oriented chains. On the other hand, “little guy” restaurateurs trying to beat “big guys” with price (or failing to excel in quality or service) do not know where they are going and probably are not going to get there!

I hope that these samples of Yogi Berra’s wit and wisdom have helped you. In the meantime, here’s Yogi’s advice about the future: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”