Build a farm team or buy free agents?

The Major League Baseball season has started in the U.S, and it looks like another year of misery for the Cubs, but my hometown favorite, the San Francisco Giants, winners of 2 of the last 3 championships might be back in the hunt.

[New York Giants at the Polo Grounds [New York...

[New York Giants at the Polo Grounds [New York] prior to Game One of the 1912 World Series, October 8, 1912 (baseball)] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

In baseball, there are two philosophies for building a strong roster. Some teams take the long view and build through the draft. They develop players before they even get to the big leagues — choosing to nurture young players who may become the stars of tomorrow. Other teams have had less success from their farm system, and instead build their team by luring proven talent. They aggressively hunt the free agent market to find the best, proven winners and pay top dollar to add them to the roster.

How do you build your championship team? Do you make the talent you need, or do you buy the talent you need?

Making Talent

Making talent involves finding talented young people with potential, providing them with training and opportunities and watching them develop. For many business leaders, this process can be personally rewarding. But it’s also hard work. You have to be good at picking talent, identifying those people who have innate talent and who will apply themselves to learning and getting better. The risk here is that you could put time into developing someone only for them to decide to take a job with someone else.

Buying Talent

Other business leaders can’t stand developing talent — they liken it to running a day-care. You have a bunch of “youngins” running around and you have to wipe their noses and tell them what to do… No way! These folks look for team members with a track record of success — if they’ve done it for someone else then they can just bring that talent here and have success here — no muss, no fuss. Of course it’s not quite so easy — stars are often a function of their environment and they need a set of supports and processes around them to get their success. Experienced people need less direction, but they still need management. And if they are successful with you, they might get snatched away as well, potentially taking business with them.

Renting Talent

Businesses have one more option that baseball teams don’t — they can rent talent. If your business is growing, you will probably need to expand your capacity at some point, but it’s hard to predict when so adding a salary in those circumstances is hard to swallow. Some businesses will look

outside their company for competent freelancers, folks who are in transition, or even future team members who are willing to moonlight for them. These options provide you a chance to rent some talent, take them for a test drive, and then when a big new project comes through you can pull them in full-time.

Which is the best strategy for your business? Do you need high level talent and don’t have time (or inclination) to raise them up? Do you enjoy building the next generation? Or do you rent the folks you need? These strategies aren’t mutually exclusive, maybe one strategy is best for one position and another for different positions. But which ever direction you choose — pursue it. With a continued shortage of skilled workers you need to know how you are going to meet the talent needs of your growing business. 



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