Being ‘The Boss’

By Dawn Lospaluto
In July 22, 2010

With his signature flair for the dramatic—perhaps a birthright for someone born on the 4th of July—Yankee owner George Steinbrenner passed away last week on the morning of major league baseball’s All-Star Game, ensuring a nationwide tribute on one of the sport’s largest stages.  Admire him or despise him for his tactics and the changes he brought to the business of baseball, Steinbrenner’s impact on the sport and on the fortunes of its most famous
franchise are irrefutable.

When Boss George became principal owner of the New York Yankees in the 1970s, the storied team had fallen on hard times, its glory days a memory, its stadium generally half-empty, its reputation for filling ballparks in the cities it visited tarnished. Steinbrenner approached the situation with a “take no prisoners” approach, throwing his money and his weight around, ignoring complaints and criticisms, and bold step by bold step reinventing and reinstating his team to its championship ways.

Title after title followed—11 pennants and 7 World Series victories—and he continued to build his sports business on every win, deftly leveraging the team’s restored reputation and reinvigorated fan base into ancillary growth such as a Yankee cable network and new stadium.  The end result: A $10 million (mostly borrowed) investment was a $1.6 billion property when he handed the reins to his sons.

My fellow New York Mets fans and I watched the Steinbrenner show with less than admiration for his personal style, but with a fair measure of envy over the result. Whether players were bought or brought up through the
minor league ranks, they coalesced into teams that won—on the playing field, where bravado and bluster take second place to execution and achievement—and won and won again.

The morale of the tale? Whatever you think of his actions, George Steinbrenner poured his resources and his reputation into one paramount activity: making his product the best it could be. By bringing the top players into the Yankee fold at any cost, by insisting on nothing less than victory—not trying hard, or coming close, or doing your best, but winning—he instilled an attitude that permeated every level of his franchise, front office to farm
system. Winning wasn’t an option. It was an absolute. And he backed up his demands with management support at the highest level. Top to bottom, the New York Yankees were committed to winning this year. Every year.

We may not be able to bring the same resources to our enterprise, but we can bring the same passion to succeed. We can bring the same single-minded focus on the core objective of doing whatever we do better than any of our competitors. We can avoid being sidetracked by spending time or resources on anything that pulls us away from our main objective. And we can communicate to everyone in our organization—without confusion or doubt or
reversals—what our most important goal is, what we expect and will demand of everyone in order to reach it, and what the ramifications will be if we don’t. We need not be harsh, but we should be realistic, and we will find that most
employees will do whatever they can to meet our expectations when they know exactly what those expectations are.

Dawn Lospaluto

Epicomm Senior Director of Communications, Dawn has been the editor of Epicomm 's "Bottom Line" magazine and its predecessor publications, "NAPL Business Review," Printing Manager," and "The Journal of Graphic Communications Management," for 20 years. She also writes and edits several Epicomm member print and electronic newsletters, including [Re]View, Management Bulletin, Highlights, and Discover; press releases; and various marketing materials; and oversees Epicomm 's book publishing program. Dawn previously served as corporate managing editor for Allied (now Honeywell) Corporation and as a reporter and editor for New Jersey's largest evening newspaper. She is a graduate of Douglass College (Rutgers University) and holds an M.A. degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she has served on the adjunct faculty.

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