For more than a decade, I’ve built and grown an international employer branding agencyfrom the ground up. I’ve had some great ideas, some good ones and of course my fair share of bad ones, but most importantly I’ve always remained open to new strategies, ideas and ways of doing things.
Most recently, I’ve seen phenomenal growth in my business as a result of a strategy made famous in the film Moneyball. If you haven’t seen it, or if you’re not a baseball aficionado, fear not. The central premise is relatively simple: the Oakland A’s used an analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assemble a competitive baseball team (in spite of being a small market club with limited financial spending power). To make a very long story short, the Oakland A’s went on to win the World Series that year, proving nearly every “expert” wrong in the process.
To return to the world of business, the film (and book by Michael Lewis) really made me think about my own hiring strategies, and more specifically, how I was organizing different departments and recruiting for certain roles. Let’s explore how I applied these same principles to my business, and walk through five rules essential to success when employing the ‘Moneyball strategy.’
Rule #1: “We have to think differently”
Early in the film, we see Brad Pitt sitting around a table with his scouting ‘experts’, talking about how to stretch their money. The Oakland A’s were competing with monster organizations such as the New York Yankees, who could offer lavish salaries and off-field perks simply unmatchable by most organizations.
It’s the same in business. The key is to think differently about the entire process; find out your own unique niche and bring in talent that matches your goals. For example, I recently hired a Hollywood actor and film director to grow my in-house film department. It was a bold move since the candidate had zero previous agency experience, but the decision has been incredibly rewarding, and as a result, we’ve won bigger and better contracts than ever before.
Rule #2: It’s not about buying players. It’s about buying runs. It’s about buying hits.”
Don’t get oversold on the person; focus on what their productivity will be. Does this hire match what you’re trying to do? Could another, “less experienced” candidate deliver the same outputs at half the cost?
It’s not about underpaying your staff or choosing the cheapest option. It’s about finding the right fit for a specific KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that you’re trying to reach, and determining the most cost-effective strategy of reaching that goal.
Rule #3: “People are overlooked for a variety of perceived biases and flaws.”
As the Oakland A’s proved, you can absolutely build a championship team with people who are overlooked and undervalued by everyone else. Success is not a solo mission; it’s a team-oriented process that requires an eclectic mix of working parts to function efficiently and effectively.
Business is full of bias and perception. The important thing is to always look at peoples’ actions, not their words. What has someone actually accomplished in their career? Be as specific as possible. Anyone can talk a good game. But the proof is in the pudding. Often, the real stars can fly under the radar. Always look for the doers and base your hiring decisions on those who will deliver the most value in achieving a specific set of goals.
Rule #4: “Adapt or die.”
As Brad Pitt rather bluntly notes in the film, the Oakland A’s had to “adapt or die.” There was simply no way they could compete with large-market teams who had millions – even billions – of dollars to spend.
When the normal or expected way of doing things isn’t bringing you the results you want, you know you have to change something. Don’t be afraid to be bold. It’s the ones who hold onto the past with a fierce, unwavering grip that end up losing out. In my world of digital marketing, I have to recognize that the best candidate might not have a stereotypical “marketing” background. It really depends on what I’m trying to achieve, but I’m certainly not afraid to look beyond the veil to find the right fit for the right role.
Rule #5: “Give him some confidence.”
The Oakland A’s began their fateful season in poor form, but all they really needed was a bit of confidence. It’s simply not enough to assemble a talented team; you need to encourage your people and put them in the best position to succeed.
In business, leaders are so important. Without proper leadership, teams can feel dysfunctional and disjointed. Put your own needs and wants to the side for a minute. Think about how you can really boost the performance of your staff and help them grow and become better versions of themselves. That’s true leadership. That’s real success.