Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow Shares Business Strategy With Bauer Alumni During Annual Luncheon at Minute Maid Park
A textbook and a catcher’s mitt, college classrooms and the baseball diamond, the boardroom and the old ball game — all things that at first glance might not be likely pairs. But, according to Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, business principles and success in sports go hand-in-hand.
Luhnow spoke to C. T. Bauer College of Business alumni on April 2 at Minute Maid Park during a luncheon networking event for the Bauer College Alumni Association. Sponsored by Champion Energy Services, over 100 guests came to hear Luhnow talk about a fresh start for Houston’s team, both players and management.
“I like audiences like this because we speak the same language,” said Luhnow, who became the 12th general manager in Astros history in late 2011. He joins Houston’s front office after spending the last nine seasons with the Cardinals and a storied business career with stints in engineering, management and technology.
This is a critical time in franchise history, he added, and it requires team leadership to pull in their business knowhow to make and embrace tough changes. This year’s March 31 Opening Day saw the Astros playing their first game as an American League team with a number of young players lesser-known to fans.
“You have to get the people involved in any change program. It requires advocacy,” Luhnow said. “I made sure I reached out to the most tenured people to convince them there was change needed, and once I convinced them of the changes, they were able to convince others of the change.”
Even with strong buy-in, change doesn’t happen overnight, and resistance is almost a certainty, he added.
“Until you have evidence, it’s not going to convince people who have been doing things a certain way,” Luhnow said. “You start by piloting something, and once things start going well, you accelerate it.”
That model proved successful for the St. Louis Cardinals, he added, and could have success in Houston.
“It took us the last year to sort through everything and lay the foundation,” Luhnow said. “I think we did a tremendous job of that. For me, this is Year One, where we need to show some significant progress, and I think we will.”
The organization is modeling its player development on successful business colleges, he said.
“We look at this system as one that turns raw material into finished product in four years,” Luhnow said. “It’s analogous to a college, so we have to teach them skills to help them be successful in their careers.”
As baseball season gets into full swing, Luhnow said he and the organization are looking forward to an exciting year for Astros baseball.
“The team that you saw on the field on opening day is the youngest team in baseball, and I think by definition when you have young talent they’re not well-known, they’re not household names and there’s a lot of variability. There’s a lot of excitement around this team and hopefully that will continue.”
The Bauer College Alumni Association hosts monthly networking events, usually breakfasts at the Houston City Club, for its membership. The April 2 luncheon continued a tradition that began last year to hold the April networking event during lunch at Minute Maid Park.
To see photos from the April 2 Luncheon, click here.
By Amanda Sebesta