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Lesson #1: You Have To Spend Money to Make Money
A key part of Steinbrenner’s winning strategy has always been to hire the best people no matter what the cost. Steinbrenner believed that there was no price tag too high for bringing on board a player he knew would help the team win. It was all part of his mantra of winning at any cost.
Before his retirement, Steinbrenner recruited star baseball player Roger Clemens to join the Yankees. With a $28 million contract, Clemens became the highest paid player in the history of the sport. What made the deal even more surprising to onlookers and fans alike was that Clemens was being paid that amount even though he was going to miss the first two months of the season and would only play every 5th game after that.
While most critics dismissed the move as reckless, Steinbrenner knew what he was doing. Today, the figures speak for themselves. Before Clemens joined the team, the Yankees were 48-44. After, that number improved to 42-22.
Steinbrenner knew that in hiring Clemens, he was not only bringing on board a good pitching arm. He knew that he was also hiring leadership and experience, as well as sending a message to the rest of the team about just how important winning was.
Throughout Steinbrenner’s career, the Clemens experience has become the rule rather than the exception. Steinbrenner also employed the second and third highest paid players in the game, Alex Rodriguez ($26 million per year) and Derek Jeter ($23 million per year). Both have not only proven themselves worthy of the future Hall of Fame, but have demonstrated themselves as excellent team leaders.
Steinbrenner’s strategy was not about accepting the highest price tag. Instead, he focused on individual players, people he knew would bring more to the team than just their skills on the field.
The same went for Steinbrenner’s management. Despite having repeated public fallouts with his fellow management, Steinbrenner has always maintained some of the best management in the game, both on the field and off. Like his players, they too earn more than their counterparts on other teams.
Steinbrenner pays the best and in return, he expects the best. As willing as he is to meet any price tag for a star player, he is also willing to fire them at will if they don’t perform. He focuses on creating not only a winning team, but a winning environment, and on fostering a culture that everyone from the players up is willing to invest in and is motivated by.
Steinbrenner believed that he would always get what he paid for, and so he was willing to pay the very most. That is how he created not only a winning team, but one that is sure to leave a legacy that goes far beyond the scoreboards.
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