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National Restaurant Association - Cubs' Tom Ricketts: Create your winning business

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Cubs' Tom Ricketts: Create your winning business

Tom Ricketts and Mike Greenberg at NRA Show's Supersession (photo: Oscar & Associates)

If anyone knows about beating the odds, it’s the Chicago Cubs. After a 108-year losing streak, the team came back with a vengeance last year to win the World Series. But getting there was a long process that started with change from the top down.

The National Restaurant Association, in partnership with Sysco, invited Cubs’ executive chairman Tom Ricketts and ESPN Radio host Mike Greenberg to talk about how great leadership and affecting positive change creates a positive workforce culture that translates into wins on the field (or in a business).

A successful organization starts at the top

When Ricketts and his family bought the Cubs franchise in 2009, the team and its fans were used to defeat, but still had soaring expectations. 

Ricketts’ challenges were exactly what restaurateurs face every day: how to build a culture of excellence ‑ starting at the top. It would take an entirely new strategy to shake things up, but that’s exactly what Ricketts intended. Here’s what he did:

Invest in top talent. Ricketts made an investment in the future to attract and draft young, fresh talent to the team.

Hire strong leaders. He needed excellent leadership, so he replaced his general manager with the Red Sox’s Theo Epstein.

Change the workplace culture. He kept star players that helped build and grow the organization while creating a workplace culture that transformed attitudes.

Consistency is key

Another clear overlap between baseball and restaurants is the need for consistency, Ricketts said.  The best strategy for winning the World Series is getting to the playoffs ‑ often. To do that, you need a core team of young players delivering consistent performances.

That’s similar to what major players in our industry have learned. Major chains understand customers count on consistency so wherever they are, they’ll know what to expect from their dining experience.

The key takeaway: set your standards and stick to them. Once you set a course for growing or improving your business, stick to it and see it through to conclusion, he said.

Just look at Ricketts’ track record to know he’s right. He bought the Cubs for $845 million and now the club is worth about $2.2 billion.

How’s that for a return on investment!


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