Small Business Tips From Yogi Berra


“I never said most of the things I said.”

–Yogi Berra

One of my all-time favorite New York Yankee players, a great philosophizer and an all-around amazing person, Yogi Berra, passed away last year. His “Yogi-isms” however, will live on forever. As I was reviewing some of them the other day, I realized how nicely many of them fit into small business problems and solutions.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – This makes more sense than you might realize. Many small business owners come to many forks in the road, and they do nothing. This is why the business becomes stagnant. It doesn’t grow, it doesn’t shrink, it just sits there. Sometimes you just need to do something!
“You can observe a lot by just watching.” – Many small business owners don’t spend any time just watching and observing. How can you fix problems if you don’t know what the problems are? How can you know what the problems are unless you observe the processes and people in action?
“It’s like déjà vu all over again.” – Have you ever tried to fix something and when the solution doesn’t work, you do the same thing over again and expect different results? Nothing is ever perfect when it comes to small business processes. They can always be improved, tweaked, and generally made better, but not by wasting time on trying things that didn’t work the first time.
“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” – So is small business ownership. You may be physically exhausted at the end of the day, but it’s the mental strain that makes you really tired. That’s why it’s important to identify when you are wearing too many hats and working in the business instead of on the business.
“We made too many wrong mistakes.” – It’s not the mistakes that will kill you, it’s repeating the same mistakes. It’s not learning from mistakes. It’s thinking that the problems will go away on their own. It’s not getting to the root cause and just putting a band-aid on the problem. It’s not doing anything to ensure that you don’t make the same “wrong mistakes” again.
“How can you think and hit at the same time?” – At times, small business owners overthink a problem or situation. They try to look at every possible scenario and every possible outcome. They over-analyze it to the point of inaction. Sometimes you just have to take a swing and see how it comes out.
“The future ain’t what it used to be.” – Many times, small business owners reach a point in their business growth where they realize that what they thought the future of their business was going to look like is not how it turned out. That’s okay. Businesses change. Customers change. The business environment changes. Change is good and not to be feared. Just realize that the only constant in small business is change!
“If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” – If people don’t want to purchase your products or services, then you have to do something about it. Perform a competitive analysis – review what they do better and what you do better. Take advantage of your strengths. Seek new places to market. If you can’t compete in one area, concentrate on another. Be better than your competition. Do that and nobody will stop people from buying from you.
“We have deep depth.” – Do you? As the business owner, how many people do you have on your team that can do other team members’ jobs? How many things are you doing that you probably should outsource or delegate? If a key person on your team leaves, how devastating will that be to your business? How much depth do you actually have?
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” – Planning. Strategy. Implementation of the strategy. How confident are you as a small business owner that everyone in your organization knows your business strategy? How confident are you that you have the right people, processes, and organizational structure to implement that strategy? Do you have yearly, measureable goals? Do you have key performance indicators for your business? If not, how do you know where you’re going?
“He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.” – There are many people who can do many things. There are many people who can only do a few things. The important thing is that you utilize people’s strengths. Not everyone will make a good manager? Not everyone can sell? So don’t put people in positions where they are not comfortable or motivated to perform.
“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.” – All projects need a leader. When everyone is responsible for a project, then no one is responsible. Team members will work on their individual piece parts but no one will have overall accountability to ensure that all the pieces fit and work together. When project or team meetings result in everyone talking over each other, nothing will ultimately be accomplished.
“In baseball, you don’t know nothing.” – We are all smart and we are all dumb about certain things and that includes business owners. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know something. What does matter is that you find out or you reach out. It is as important to know who to reach out to as it is to know things as a business owner. You don’t need to have all the answers. You just need to know where to go to get them.
“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.” – Small business owners face heat every day. They face it from customers, from competitors, from suppliers, and so on. You can’t avoid the heat. The important thing is how you handle it and how people see how you handle it. How you treat people. How you react to problems. How you present yourself. That’s what’s important, because people see that; and what you do reflects on your business.

So there you have it. Thank you, Yogi. Thank you for your years as a Yankee when I was growing up. Thank you for your view of baseball and the world. Thank you for your words of wisdom. It was and is a pleasure being a Yogi fan.


Ron Feher
Ron Feher
“Making your business better by making your people better,” captures Ron’s commitment to helping people. He possesses a breadth and depth of experience in a variety of disciplines including job benchmarking, staff development, manager mentoring, executive coaching, employee and management training. Ron has over 30 years of experience working in large, mid-size, and small companies in both technical and management roles with responsibilities covering management and technical training, strategic planning, tactical implementation, P&L, budgeting, vendor and relationship management, user design and testing, PMO, and process/project management of corporate-wide. He has worked for large, midsize, and small companies in a myriad of industries including telecommunications (AT&T), computer manufacturing (Gateway), mergers and acquisitions (RSM EquiCo), real estate, IT outsourcing and publishing (Spidell Publishing). He possesses an MBA in Technology Management, certifications in project management, international management and eMarketing. He is a Value Added Advisor with TTI Success Insights™, a certified Behavior and Motivation Analyst and certified Career Direct® consultant. Ron is currently serving as Irvine Chamber of Commerce Leads Group Chair, FUSION Leaders Chair and Board Member along with being actively involved with several task forces and committees. As an outreach to the community, Ron offers a Career Transition Workshop to churches and non-profits and was a founding member of the Career Coaching & Counseling Ministry at Saddleback Church. Ron’s favorite quote is “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll still get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers

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