Yesterday the chairman of the Chicago Cubs, Tom Ricketts, visited the Business Marketing Association of Chicago to speak about what it takes to breathe new life into an iconic brand. Needless to say, as fans of all things Chicago, situated as we are in the Windy City, I was excited to head over to the Standard Club on behalf of Ifbyphone and hear what Mr. Ricketts had to say.

It was an impassioned speech. I learned more about the Cubs in an hour than I thought possible, and caught a glimpse of what makes generations of fans return to Wrigleyville again and again as the years go by. “It’s not so much a brand as it is a vibe,” said Mr. Ricketts, and he’s right. But as a marketer, what really got my attention was the business focus the fan-turned-owner has been able to apply to a team known for never quite going all the way. Everyone wants to know how he plans to turn the team around, so Mr. Ricketts gave us a peek into his game plan for improving the baseball organization of the Cubs, and, upon hearing it, I was surprised by how much it sounded like the game plan of a business bent on success.

State-of-the-Art Facilities

The Cubs are completely overhauling their facilities. From weight rooms to Wrigley Field itself, Ricketts is investing millions into bringing the standards miles above where they were in the past. Bigger. Better. Stronger. More. If you want a winning team, Ricketts told us, you need to provide a place for them to learn how to win.

Off the field, this resonates with me. More and more businesses outside of baseball seem to be learning the importance of the workspace, thus the emergence of contests like Forbes’ 10 Coolest Office Spaces and the better known Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. The winners are decided based on things like salary and internal career path, but there is also weight on the facilities. Is the workspace comfortable? Are there amenities? Do you want to come to work? The Cubs has done something similar. By investing in their facilities, they are not only creating spaces that will become known as the places to train, attracting more talent, but creating spaces that will foster the talent they have already.

Consistent Training

One of the challenges Ricketts spoke of the Cubs facing was a lack of consistency in training, something almost any business will nod their head grimly in agreement with. It’s difficult—especially as companies grow larger—to ensure that every employee is learning the same processes the same way. Professional baseball players are no different, apparently. Ricketts spoke of the problems faced when different trainers at different stadiums across the country are giving different advice on how to steal bases, etc. The lack of consistency was hurting the team.

To amend this, Ricketts implemented a training program not for the players, but for the trainers themselves—The Cubs Way. Every trainer and every coach learns The Cubs Way, a specific and consistent set of fundamentals put on paper so that no matter where the team is, the training they are receiving is consistent and in line with the goals the Cubs wish to achieve. A team that is learning the same tactics uniformly means a team that is united in the way they play baseball…and united in a way that leads to wins.

Great Players

It seems like a no-brainer, Ricketts said, but it’s complicated in baseball. However, it came down to the fact that where other teams were spending up to $12-13 million on the draft, the Cubs were only spending $2-3 million. No longer. Ricketts learned that if you want to be competitive, you have to spend the money on new talent. Get to the draft. Be competitive. Bring in strong new players. That particularly is something we at Ifbyphone feel strongly about, especially given our plans to grow 50 to 100 percent each year. If you want a winning team, you need to bring in winning players—and the Cubs are ready to win.

Happy Fans

This last one is something Ricketts said about the experience of Cubs fans that should matter a lot to any business that understands the importance of providing excellent customer service. If anything builds the “brand” of the Cubs, Ricketts says, it’s that. The experience of the fans in the stadium matters, and that’s why he’s investing in adding more restaurants, more bathrooms, and more ushers, to ensure that the people who support the Cubs year after year, win or lose, are rewarded for their loyalty. “We may be having a tough season,” Ricketts said, “but no one at Wrigley should ever be having a bad day.”

I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but if a business wants to look at a model for success, it need look no further than the Chicago Cubs. Ricketts has the right idea. Only time will tell if these strategies will win the World Series, but for now, we at Ifbyphone will be keeping an eye on Wrigley Field for inspiration.