Moneyball, life lessons

Rohan Brown

I recently watched the end of great movie which I had not watched in quite a while called Moneyball, a movie centred around baseball and starring Brad Pitt.

For those that have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it. The movie is based on a actual events, following the Oakland Athletics baseball team throughout the 2002 season and their general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt).

Facing a restricted budget to employ players and an impending departure of several big stars, Beane the must put together a ‘winning team’. He meets a young Yale Economics graduate Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), who introduces Beane to a new way of evaluating players, based on judging players against statistical data to rank them. This is a massive departure in what is a very traditional sport where recruiters travel all around America and other countries using gut feel to recruit players. It is considered there are many good players that are overlooked due to personal biases of the recruiters, who are statistically good players and are therefore cheap to employ which is exactly what Beane does.

The season for most parts would be considered a reasonable success, the Athletics made the play offs in their league, but they fall short in their league championship for a second year running.

After the season Beane responds to a meeting with the owner of the Boston Red Socks, in what I would consider a must watch movie scene (Google: Moneyball job offer). The Red Socks for the un-initiated are one of the oldest foundation baseball teams. The scene focuses on the Red Socks offering Beane a job, as they consider the methods used by Beane in putting his team together as the future of the sport. The scene references that the stalwarts of the sport don’t like those that challenge the status quo and that change threatens them and this sends people send people in charge ‘bat shit crazy’. The comment is also made that the first through the wall always get bloodied, referring to the treatment they will suffer by the existing establishment who don’t want change, but if that establishment don’t change they will become the dinosaurs of tomorrow.

For the record two years later, the Boston Red Socks won the World Series, after employing the methods of evaluating player as started by Beane at the Oakland Athletics.

The moral to the whole story can be seen in life and business every day, whether that be the first car manufacturers, the first to introduce robots to manufacturing, introduction of hybrid and electric cars. People love to find reasons they will not succeed and are happy make a point of every small fault, without applauding or acknowledging the successes or benefits.

One of the best examples in current society that I see is the threat that internet is bringing. In Accounting it is cloud computing, which by now you would have read many of my blogs regarding cloud software. This is a threat for those that like traditional boxes of software and pay once and use forever. When the first cloud packages were muted, people believed it they would not last, could not deliver. People feared the change, but now it is the norm. At a recent meeting we had with MYOB they indicated that 90% of all new subscriptions are cloud based. Those that have not looked or considered changing are threatened to be left behind. The more we as accountants use cloud based software the more we wonder how those without it can cope.

Personally, accountants are having to reconsider their future practice software packages, with our vendors trying to move us from tried and true long serving software to newer, more integrated cloud-based system. They software vendors have a single or ‘connected ledger’ concept where the accountants and businesses are operating on a common ledger system. To consider the Moneyball lessons, those at the forefront of change and adaption are getting bloodied. They are the firms that are working applications that are not quite perfect and up to the same functionality and standard of traditional desktop software. They are sniggered at by the established older traditional accounting firms. This is because the programs are fully matured yet, but also because many practices are somewhat scarred of the future. Those that have jumped and changed will long term be better for it and at the end the software vendors will improve their applications and it will be the future, leaving those that don’t adapt left possibly stranded and unsupported or unable to be as efficient. Those that have accepted the challenge and made the change are forging the way for the future, which many of those critics will benefit from the long term blood spilt by the early adapters.

If your personal or business life has change threatening it, consider do you brace it and make changes or sit back and go crazy with the change around you. At the least watch Moneyball and enjoy it.