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90 Ideas: Matt Gifford

Vice president of stadium operations, 
St. Louis Cardinals

Posted online

Watch the virtual 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event and take a deep dive with the speakers via podcast here.

1. It’s who knows you.


“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is an incomplete statement. It is only two-thirds of the truth. You need to add, “it’s who knows you.” If you do not make connections with people and stay connected, the relationships do not help. I meet people all the time, but if I do not make sure a person remembers me, we cannot help each other going forward.

2. Organizational charts are fluid.


Organizational charts shouldn’t be pyramids, they should be like bicycle tires. If teamwork is truly your company’s goal, you must understand that everyone at a given moment is on top of the tire. Thus, the organization chart is fluid depending on the situation. For example, the receptionist is the most important person when someone walks in your lobby. If they blow that interaction, there goes the sale. The CEO cannot do everything, but they can empower co-workers to act like the CEO and have the best interests of the company in mind. The revolution of the tire metaphor shows that at different parts of the sales process, someone different is the most important person. If someone does not do their best, the tire goes flat and the company stops being successful.

3. The job’s never too big.


No job is too big or too small for you as the leader. When you do the little things and are not above a task, no one else will be either. Do what it takes to get the job done. I have ranged from negotiating big deals to cleaning up urine atop the dugout during a game; there is not a job I would not do. And that means there isn’t a job that I would ask my co-workers to do that I’ve not done myself or wouldn’t do if it needed to be done. Creating a culture of “all hands on deck” is one of team success, perpetual support and unity.

4. Be the helper.


People ask me for my title and most of the time I tell them that I am the helper. My job is really to assist people and make their jobs easier for the organization and guests. This mindset changes perceptions of guests and colleagues alike. You would be surprised at the information you can gather from a guest when they think you are not “the boss.” The honesty is eye opening.

5. Here to solve problems.


“If you ask a question, you best be working on the solution.” I remember early in my career, I was very good at pointing out issues or challenges for the company. One of my bosses challenged me: “I didn’t hire you to identify problems. I hired you to solve problems.” This has been a cornerstone of my career and my development of young professionals. It is easy to say what’s wrong; make yourself stand out and find solutions.

6. Challenge everything.

My least favorite response to "why do we do it that way" is "because we've always done it that way." Challenge even the simplest of systems. It will make people uncomfortable but that's OK. Most people really do not like change, and you should not change for change's sake, but asking tough questions will make everyone around you better.

7. Know that you don’t know everything.


Be sure to know what you don’t know. That means always being open to new ideas, new trends and a new way to improve your business or process. Listen more than you talk. Be humble enough to know that other people will make you better if you give them a chance. Trust in your people. Great ideas rarely just appear; they are nurtured to completion. Collaboration drives that success.

8. “The Emperor is Naked.”


Surround yourself with great people, especially people that will challenge you. People who all think the same and always agree with the boss is bad for business. You want people that will openly question processes in an effort to improve the bottom line but will come together if the concept is not exactly what they suggested.

9. Give away the credit.


If you are the boss, don’t be selfish. Build confidence in your people with success. Recognize great work by making sure others know. Everyone likes a gold star.

10. Train your replacement.


It is very difficult to get a promotion if your current role cannot be filled. Make sure that your replacement is trained and ready to go, so you cannot be held back. Do not be insecure but show that you are a team player. The growth of your department will reflect a “big picture” mentality that most owners want to see.

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