4 Things Founders Can Learn From Derek Jeter

If you read New York tabloids like I do, that is starting on the back page, then you are exposed to the incessant chatter about Alex Rodriguez, clearly the best baseball player in game’s recent history and how he stacks up against Derek Jeter, the face of The New York Yankees.

The $250 million versus $135 million contracts, the winning attitudes, their performances in clutch situations are part of the New York vernacular, giving obviously biased ESPN commentators a chance to chime in and add fuel to the fire. I love the fact that Yankees, my home team has them manning the infield. I love the silky smooth home runs that come off A-Rod’s bat.

Derek Jeter, however, is someone I respect. He might not be the most gifted hitter, nor is he the best short stop in the game’s history. What he is is an everyday player, who has taken the talent he was born with, worked hard, and transcended to a superstar status.

DJ, as we Yankee-fans know him, is an ideal role model for a start-up entrepreneur. At least, Jeter inspires my business philosophy — mostly because of what he does both on and off the field.

1. Consistency wins the day: Jeter’s stats say it all. He has a lifetime batting average of 0.317, and he has stayed above 300 for all but three of his seasons. (I’m sure I don’t need to explain to my readers that this is like a company founder, or a VC, hitting the proverbial IPO home run on every third company.)

More importantly, Baseball season is 162 games long; you have to show up everyday and work hard, and do your best. Even though we would like to believe that a start-up is a sprint, the reality is it a marathon.

2. Opportunity knocks, better open the door: In 1996, when Yankees Manager Joe Torre introduced Derek Jeter as his new Short Stop, Jeter stepped up to the mike, and chose his words carefully: “I’m going to get an opportunity to become the shortstop.”

What Jeter was saying, despite all his evident gifts, is that we all have to earn the right to be successful —whether it is playing baseball, or building a company. Your peers, the press, and your venture backers might give you an opportunity, but you can never forget to respect this for what it is —an opportunity, not an entitlement. And you must work hard every day to continue to earn it.

3. Lead by example: Derek Jeter does not walk through an empty stadium—he jogs.

Just because no one is watching doesn’t mean you can relax. Any time is preparation for game time.

You have to assume that one day that stadium will be full, and you will have to jog across it in front of thousands of fans. Same holds true for founders. Today you might be working alone. Tomorrow you will have others working with you, and they will take their cue from your stride, your determination —and your consistency.

4. Focus on the bottom line:  “Bottom line” is Jeter’s favorite phrase. Being bottom-line oriented keeps him focused on the task at hand, and the ultimate goal —winning. Being bottom line oriented keeps things simply, and eliminates distractions, allowing him to maximize his talent, and his effort, to achieve the win. In my case, it’s not just profits, but also ensuring that we keep the quality of consistent, and high-impact. Having my own “bottom line” has kept me focused while running this little publishing company of ours. And I have been known to jog across the office, especially when it’s empty.