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4 Things Founders Can Learn From Derek Jeter

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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.

11 Responses to “4 Things Founders Can Learn From Derek Jeter”

  1. pescatello

    i can only handle some much Yankee love. I wish this was more insightful and less about how awesome Derek Jeter is. He is a great player and he “comes to play ever day” but so do lots of other superstars}

  2. larrychiang

    I also like Derek’s 1% solution where he tries to take a micro area of his game and improve it.

    Love this post even though I dislike the Yankees. I wanted to see Jeter as a cubbie but that’s just being from Chicago and *hopeful*}

  3. daslee1969

    Love the post, Om. I would add a couple of things:

    1. I agree 100% w/Peter King of SI: Derek Jeter and Tom Brady: same guy. They may seem glamorous but part of their appeal is that teammates love them because…

    2. They’re the hardest working guys on the team. And all they care about is winning. I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan but Jeter is my favorite player in baseball. What I love is that he is ALWAYS on the front row when the Yankees need to rally. It’s been that way since 1996.}

  4. Good point Ivan. I guess with the hiding Indian cricket time got at the hands of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, I am a little jaded and feeling a new loyalty to baseball.

    Nevertheless, your point is very well taken. I would try and be more sensitive next time. Sorry about that mate…}

  5. ivan007

    ‘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’
    Hellooo! Sure, if you want to assume that only americans read your blog, you don’t have to explain. But to me the paragraph above this made no sense at all. Oh, and I don’t know when Independence day is – I’m not even sure how much a dime represents. We’re not all americans out here.}

  6. senorbunch

    As someone who’s recently relocated to NYC from LA, I’ve been blown away by the amount of Jeter/A-Rod coverage; not that I ever doubted the voracity of NY media when compared to LA — I just didn’t have any frame of reference to begin to comprehend how much ink these guys actually got here.

    That being said, when somebody gets $25+ mil a year, the expectations should be through the roof.

    But also worth noting — how little I hear about Jason Giambi, who gets paid almost as much as A-Rod, and doesn’t deliver anything close to what the frosted tip wunderkind does.}