Are you strong up the middle?
Baseball fans are familiar with the term “strong up the middle.” It refers to an imaginary line beginning at home plate, going through the middle of the pitcher’s mound, across second base and and straight to the outfield wall in center field.
General managers tend to think of this term when they are acquiring players to build a competitive baseball team. They want good defensive players who have excellent fielding skills because they will make the team “strong up the middle.” That is, at catcher, pitcher, shortstop, second base, and center field.
I think you build a business the same way. You have to be strong up the middle. In this case, instead of thinking about a baseball field, think about yourself. What’s under your navel, what’s in the center of your chest, and what’s between your ears?
Look in those places, and in your gut you will find courage, in your heart you will find a love for what you are doing and in your brain you will find the ability to process options and make smart decisions. There are many steps all of us need to take to make our businesses successful, but these three are critical to setting out on the right path and helping to stay the course.
Starting a business is a scary thing. Suddenly there’s no infrastructure – no desk or phone an employer provides, no tech support, no established daily routine. There’s no regular pay check, and you will have to go out and find any business you get.
Those are scary things! When you set out on your own a certain amount of fear is natural. It takes courage to overcome that fear. And it takes courage to face the hard times that will come – and they surely will. Support from family, friends, and associates helps. But, when you’re laying awake at 3 a.m. and staring at the ceiling wondering how in the world you are going to succeed on your own, it takes courage to get up the next morning and keep trying.
I tell people I mentor often ask me “what should I do?” when they are trying to decide what kind of business to start. I tell them to draw two intersecting lines. One of those lines, I say is your skill set. The other is your passion, what you love to do in your heart. Then I tell them to draw a circle at the point where those lines intersect. Inside that circle, I tell them, is where you need to be.
Starting a business is hard enough. Being good at what you do is, of course, essential. But you need more than that. You have a passion for it and be passionate about it. Put simply, you need to love it with all your heart!
Not only does loving what you do keep you motivated. It inspires confidence from the people you will seek out as clients and customers. They know that people who love what they do take pride in their efforts and that that love and pride will show up in the final product.
Reverse the tables. Would you want to do business with someone who, even though they might be skilled in their field, comes across as just going through the motions? Probably not.
There’s a popular saying that “Life is choices.” Those choices, of course, are the decisions we make.
Much of the success of your business will depend on the choices you make, and there are many. How much startup cost to bear? How to market yourself? What business organizations to join? How to spend your time wisely? Which advisers or mentors to turn to? How to set your margins and maximize ROI on your time and talents?
The answer to all of these and other choices you make as a business owner will require that you be more than smart. They will require that you make smart decisions. There is a difference!
Everyday as I think about my own business I think about the importance of being “strong up the middle.” It’s a good defense against the potential pitfalls of being a business owner.
And, as with any good game plan, a strong defense sets up the offense. Then, when opportunities arise, I’m ready to knock them out of the park!