Being an entrepreneur with a startup company is a lot like playing sandlot baseball as a kid. Growing up on E. 199th Street in Euclid, Ohio we could often get 6 or 7 guys for a summer baseball game in the street, but we couldn’t field an entire team. That meant we’d have to choose to deploy our limited resources in a manner that provided the greatest value.
With 7 players, we’d have 1 pitcher (critical role, so it was always the same kid, Gary, unless it was his turn to bat, then we’d use a reliever as backup), 1 hitter (critical role), and then 5 fielders spread judiciously throughout the field (asphalt), mostly on the left side of the field because as kids we were largely right-handed hitters who pulled the ball. When a lefty came up the entire fielding strategy would shift to right field.
When a batter would get a base hit we couldn’t afford to allow that human resource to stay on base as that would deplete the fielding resources available thus decreasing the value of the product (game).
So we created ghost runners, a redeployment of limited resources in order to create the best possible product.
Here’s how it worked: Johnny would hit a double past Paul at third base. His brother Jimmy would rotate in from playing first base to be the next batter, Johnny would leave his earned spot as a runner on 2nd base, grab his glove and head out to play center field (he probably left the glove out in center field before he went in to bat in order to save time, displaying his future executive planning skills). Then you’d hear Randy (showing his future project management aptitude) yell …
“Ghost runner on 2nd!!”
That meant that everyone knew that even though there was nobody actually standing on 2nd base, there really is a runner on 2nd base who would score for certain if Jimmy hit a double or better, but who would be left stranded at 3rd base if Jimmy hit a slow roller to Paul and beat it out for an infield single. Things would really get interesting if Jimmy hit a single to the outfield because then a committee would be formed to address whether the ghost runner would have scored on that hit or if he would have been held up at 3rd base by the imaginary 3rd base coach because there was only 1 out in the inning and any self-respecting Cleveland Indians fan growing up on the east side in the late 60’s would know that you’d never send a runner home with one out in the inning.
This committee would make an informed but fast decision (because we needed to get back to the business of playing the game) and precedents would be set so that future decisions could be made without even convening the committee.
That’s exactly how you run a startup company on a daily basis. You take your limited resources, make certain that you are keenly aware of their capabilities, then you constantly shift roles and activities based on the current business needs of the day.
At Showcase U we’re putting the finishing touches on feeling great about introducing the website to potential sponsors and advertisers, creating the sponsor presentation, media planning, event organizing, creating alternate revenue streams … and that’s just what I’m doing as the CEO this morning! There are several ghost runners on base.
But the thing about ghost runners when we were kids … when they scored it COUNTED! Those ghost runners were scoring actual runs and winning games. There’s nothing fake or artificial about this resource redeployment strategy.
Of course, when you hit a home run there is no need for any ghost runners.
I played shortstop.