Astros and BidPrime. Stories of making a difference by being different.
Bill Culhane steps up to the plate to discuss how the Houston Astros and BidPrime share some common traits.
Read below for Bill’s full story on a find, a friend, and championship-level organizations.
Throughout history, there are times when sports mirrors business. On occasion, you can look at athletes or sports franchises and make connections to your own situation, your own industry. As the Houston Astros have advanced to the Major League World Series, the parallels for me are amazing.
Years ago, prior to embarking on my journey in the bid services industry, I did the customary research and due-diligence. Of course. I heard from peers, and discovered through my own investigation, that the industry had a less than pure, virtuous reputation.
Have no doubt, I harbored a few doses of healthy skepticism. After several meetings with BidPrime’s Co-Founder, he sold me with his sincerity and specificity on the plans to be distinct from the herd. Upon hearing his vision for doing things differently, and through gaining an appreciation of his goals, I accepted the offer. My conversations with that Co-Founder, closely mirrored a talk I had with a friend, who was involved in Major League Baseball (MLB). In particular, one common talking point grabbed my attention: If you want to make a difference, sometimes you have to be different. I was sold.
It would be reasonable for you to wonder, “How does professional baseball have anything to do with bids?” Here’s how. Recently, as the MLB league championship series started up, fans of the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs were rightfully anxious and excited. Not dissimilar to those in the business and corporate worlds, each of these organizations took varied approaches, with a differing cast of characters and factors involved, to reaching that point.
It just so happens that I have a personal connection to the Houston Astros ascension to the American League Championship Series. Sure, I live in Texas, my wife hails from Houston, but there’s more to the story. Back in 2012, as part of my parttime life in sports broadcasting, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview John McVaney, who was included in Jim Crane’s ownership group, as a newly minted minority owner of the Houston Astros. You may recall that Jim Crane purchased the Astros from Drayton Clayton, for roughly $680 million. I met and befriended John, by virtue of announcing the games of John’s son, Jeff McVaney, for a number of years.
As the baseball historians amongst you know, at the time of the sale back in 2012, the Astros had recently become labeled as a beleaguered, downtrodden organization. The Astros owned a recent history of more losing than winning, a talent pool of expensive veterans well past the ends of their effectiveness, a farm system devoid of significant potential, surrounded by a frustrated, disenchanted fanbase. The glimmer of success, including a painfully brief appearance in the 2005 World Series, was a distant, fleeting memory for the Astros’ supporters. The present and future were bleak, at best.
Without the need to be clever in constructing my line of questioning, I asked John, “How will the Astros be different, under the stewardship of the Crane ownership group?”
Now to paraphrase, John talked about starting with the basics, not resorting to the unpredictable and often futile strategies and suppositions of others. Organizations throughout the MLB could continue focusing on overpriced veterans, unpredictable free agency, variations of Moneyball tactics, and other models which often yielded a yo-yo effect of results. While learning from those approaches, the Astros set out to be different.
The Astros wanted to create an organization built for long-term, sustained success. In addition, John relayed broad strokes on how the Crane group understood that success wouldn’t be achieved overnight. The plan was to develop homegrown talent, while being wise and cautious in exploring the acquisition of other team’s assets, fueled by smart leadership and investment. The endgame was to avoid gimmicks, always to be improving, build towards the ultimate goal of a sustainable, winning culture throughout the entire organization, top to bottom.
Without committing to the burden of an exact timetable, there are too many unpredictable variables, John talked about ultimately winning championships. Based on recent events, that time is now.
Early on, did Jim Crane, and his ownership group, have critics? Unquestionably. Among the opinions espoused were, the wins weren’t coming soon enough and organizational moves were faulty. In short, skeptics and pundits argued the Astros should be strictly adhering to the alternative models I outlined previously. In response, the Astros stuck to their plan. In the beginning, they said what they were going to do. As time marched on, they stayed the course. Be different.
This past Saturday, the Astros knocked off the vaunted New York Yankees in the ALCS. The Yankees with their endless resources and formidable and unequaled history of championships. The Yankees are the big time, big market, historic overlords of MLB. In comparison to the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs, the Astros are the new kids on the block. Despite these daunting odds, as I’ve watched the Astros’ ascension to the elite in MLB, I harken back to that visit with John. The outcome of the ALCS notwithstanding, the Astros are setup for continued, favorable outcomes.
It wasn’t surprising to me that, of the four teams that were left vying for the World Series championship, the Astros are the only one below the MLB total payroll average. In addition, of those four remaining teams, Houston has the smallest television market. They had to be creative, couldn’t do business like the other guys. For sure, they didn’t want to emulate those at the bottom of the pecking order and standings.
Now, we round the bases back to the charming bid service industry. Recently, I’ve noticed a growing trend, within our industry, of clouding the landscape with shtick and sizzle. Some take liberties with facts, for example, suggesting, “You have to subscribe to our bid service to get RFP/bid documents.” To put it kindly, that sales pitch is way out in left field.
We’ve also spotted those who use the old hidden ball trick of pretending to be something they aren’t. Rather than embrace who they are, and what they offer to the market, they make poorly constructed and misleading associations. If you’re housed in a megaoffice-plex, with a coffee bar and an in-house gymnasium, don’t portray that you’re a gritty Ma and Pa startup. The horse isn’t the unquestioned leader in transportation, because it’s been around longer than planes, trains, and automobiles.
Full disclosure: We hung our shingle in 2009, bootstrapped, are still a scrappy bunch with a vision of anything is possible in changing the bid service industry. The Astros didn’t put together the largest payroll in the MLB to achieve success and we don’t throw money at problems hoping to make them go away either.
In addition, there is the predictable and unexceptional boast, “Our bid service will make you more successful, well, because we said so, you’ll win more, all you have to do is pay more for your bid service. It’s that easy.” With a nod to that notorious crook, Bernie Madoff, I’ll share a secret: Winning government contracts isn’t the lottery. You don’t increase your chances of winning by paying more for your bid service, nor following the guidance of a biased, quota-strapped salesperson.
If the bid service competing for your business says they can hit a a 98 miles per hour heater, ask them to get up to the plate and prove it. Compel them to demonstrate to you how they are different. Heck, how about a real free trial of their services?
Regardless if you are building and growing your business, operating within the bid service industry, or efforting to construct a championship-level baseball organization, a number of the elements are alike.
- Have a plan and a vision.
- Say what you’re going to do. Do what you say.
- Surround yourself with talented people, who are invested in the organization, and treat them fairly.
- Provide your people with the tools they need to succeed.
- Build an organization of which your people will be proud and others will respect and support.
- Give back.
- Understand that shtick and sizzle aren’t a strategy. It takes smarts, hard work, and taking care of your customers and staff to succeed.
There are seven ways to reach first base and a vast variety of ways you can succeed in growing your business. Dare to be different.
For more information on BidPrime, please call us at 888.808.5356, or visit our website: BidPrime.