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Perseverance, Relevance and the Chicago Cubs

Coming from a die-hard Cardinals fan, congratulating the Cubbies is not an easy thing to do.  But the Cubs provide a great lesson for entrepreneurs. The Chicago Cubs have been the lovable losers for 108 years before finally bringing home that championship.  Talk about perseverance.  But in all those years of “dashed hopes”, both the Wrigley Company and the Chicago Tribune built one of the most successful, profitable and enduring franchises in all of major league baseball.

They certainly did not do it with winning.  They never had great teams.  Some of the teams were competitive, but in all those 108 long years most were not.  None the less, the Cubs consistently drew large crowds, high television ratings and a large share of the MLB souvenier market.  The profits rolled in, but the wins did not.  Profits rolled in and yet, up until this year, Wrigley Field had very few of the modern amenities that other clubs have. So how did the Cubs stay financially at the top of league when they didn’t produce winners or have the greatest facilities?

The answer is – relevance.  The franchise made itself and stayed relevant to its fan base.  The owners understood that the hope and belief that someday the Cubs would overcome, would unite their fan base.  “Wait until next year” became the mantra and rallying point, after all you can’t lose forever.  But as the infamous streak grew, so did fan loyalty.  There was and is a mystic to being a “down trodden” Cubs fan.  The Cubs fans became a community or tribe unto themselves, that grew more loyal with each losing season.  The franchise recognized the value in that relationship and connected with it.  They never lost that singular focus on their fan base.

Everyone loves the perpetual underdog… everyone loves a winner (think Cardinals and Yankees),  but mediocrity breeds complacency.  The question for Cubs ownership now is can they maintain that mystic, now that they’ve won it all. Clearly, the Cubs have all the talent to keep winning and maintain relevance with their community.  They have a young and very capable team, they have a talented manager, a deep farm system and a refurbished stadium.  The pieces are there to have a consistent winner.  But can they continue win?  Will failure to make the Series next year result in a diminished franchise?  One just has to look at the Florida Marlins to see that their fans are only interested when they are on top.  When they are “rebuilding” the seats are empty.  When only winning makes you relevant to the community you cannot succeed in the long run…. you need the “community” to be with you through thick and thin.  The challenge for Cubs management will be to keep by their “community” even if they do not continue to win. With this championship the paradigm has shifted, what Cubs leadership will do remains to be seen.  But one thing is for sure, maintaining and growing the most loyal fans in world will be paramount in their actions.

The story is same with your business.  What are you doing to make your enterprise relevant to its customers and clients?  How are you driving consistency? How are you developing your community?  Your business will have successes and failures… the trick is to keep and grow your client base along way.  Being relevant to your base, gives your company the wiggle room it needs when times are tough and it will let you grow with your base as they grow.  The key is understanding and meeting their needs, in a consistent and reliable manner.

So congratulations to the Cubbies… and in the spirit of competition and as a loyal Cardinals fan.  Wait until next year!

 

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