by Michael Sansolo
Things don’t always go as planned. A famous general once said that wars are won by the side that recovers best from lost battles, because the reality is, we all lose. The trick is getting over those losses quickly and learning from them.
That's something that Amazon has built into its culture from Day One - the company seems intolerant of incompetency and complacency, but very tolerant of mistakes and losses. (You can look this up on your Amazon Fire smart phone. Don't have one? That's because it was an enormous failure for Amazon, which turned learning from the experience into its Alexa-powered smart speaker ecosystem.)
But sometimes it takes a new set of eyes to see how to turn even the worst decisions into the potential for a win or celebration.
A terrific example is possibly the most infamous contract in all of professional sports - the one given in 2000 one-time New York Mets player Bobby Bonilla decades ago; a contract that draws national attention every July 1 because on that date the long-retired player gets an annual paycheck for nearly $1.2 million.
The details of the incredibly awful deal are far too numerous to list here but the abridged version is that it involved the notorious Bernie Madoff, the Mets’ then cash-poor owners and the perennially unlucky lovable Mets.
Essentially Madoff sold the Mets owners on a financial scheme to restructure Bonilla’s contract with visions of how much money they would actually earn in the process. But shortly afterward Madoff’s Ponzi schemes unraveled, the Mets’ owners had to sell the team and Bonilla keeps getting his annual check. (He’ll be getting paid for another 13 years.)
The incredible contract now belongs to the Mets’ new owner, Steve Cohen, and he is providing us with a lesson in how to shine a different light on the disaster. As USA Today reported, the Mets’ new owner recognizes the attention long focused on the ridiculous contract and the widespread attention given to “Bonilla Day” by sports fans far and wide.
So he wants to turn the day into an event featuring NFTs (non fungible tokens) with Bonilla’s autograph on various baseball memorabilia and possibly having the retired player at the stadium to greet the crowd. Among the ideas under discussion are having Bonilla ride around the stadium in a car and having the infamous contract itself on display.
There’s even speculation that the contract will sell at a memorabilia auction and could fetch a higher value than Bonilla’s annual check.
The lesson in all of this would seem to be that we’re all going to make mistakes, just hopefully not on the same scale as the one done by the Mets’ previous owners. Sometimes, as happened with the Mets, the mistakes might become widely known and even ridiculed.
But with a sense of humor and some creative merchandising, even a mistake can become cause for celebration and maybe some redemption.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com.
His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.
And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.