Bobby Cox using baseball savvy in banking world

At 71, Bobby Cox just signed up for a challenge that may be more daunting than managing the Braves from worst to first. Cox is the new chairman of Adairsville-based NorthSide Bank, which has performance numbers way below what he would have tolerated from any of his former players.

Bobby Cox

Bobby Cox

The small community bank, with $129 million in assets and three branches, has been a victim of the real estate crash, struggling with serious losses and a lack of capital to cover them. It’s been under a regulatory order for more than three years to improve its condition, highlighted by losses of $3.2 million in 2008, $4.7 million in 2009, $1.2 million in 2010 and $501,000 last year.

Cox never thought he’d be dealing with such numbers when he became one of the original investors and board members in 2005. In his new role as chairman, he thinks he can help attract the capital to give the bank more breathing room as it tries to turn around. Cox said the bank is close to raising $2.3 million in capital and expects to post a profit of between $600,000 and $700,000 this year. He talks about what he learned in baseball that can translate to the business world.

Q: It’s not easy to be successful year after year. The Braves won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles while you were the manager. What’s the lesson for business leaders?

A: You’re right. It is difficult. When you set the bar really, really high, it’s hard to maintain it.

You can’t let complacency set in. I used to tell our guys in spring training that we can’t live off of last year. We have to keep on going as hard as we can. The people at the top have to keep tweaking the business or the ball club — adding because other businesses or clubs are adding.

I know people in the business world who run their businesses sort of like a baseball team. You have your lead-off guy and the guy who can knock the ball out of the park — different roles. I kept it as simple as I could so people could understand it.

Also, we built a solid foundation [of talent] for the long-term. And we got lucky. All plans are not successful.

Q: How do you prevent complacency from setting in?

A: I don’t think you can give a speech in five minutes and expect success. You can’t come in and beat them up. We play 162 games.

I tried to create an atmosphere where people wanted to come to work. It wasn’t going to be a job for them. It was something they were having fun at. They play off their leader. If you put in the hard work, if you are motivated, then the people under you are going to be motivated if you treat them right — the way you want to be treated.

I think you can be successful with good management at the top and letting people work at the bottom, and not meddling so much. Bring people in who really, really want to do it. They have talent or you wouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

Q: Why did you get involved in banking?

A: I got involved when a former chairman asked me to be on the board and to be an initial investor. I thought it would be a great thing for me in retirement, to be honest with you. Come down and drink coffee with the customers and hang around because I have a farm near here. You know community banks are a lot different than other banks. We can have that special touch.

Eighty-three banks have gone down in Georgia since 2008 in the real estate crisis. We’ve bent but we’ve not broken. We’re kind of like [Tom] Glavine in the face of [adversity]. He would start bending, but then he’d bounce back.

I’m thrilled with this new chairman’s job. I’ve got more energy than I had two months ago. This is a new challenge. Just like in managing, I’m going to try to meet it.

Q: How do you see NorthSide’s prospects for survival? Which is tougher — turning around a baseball team or a bank?

A: They’re both tough. You can do it by raising capital here and you can do it by increasing your budget for the baseball team. In both cases, money comes into play.

Actually, we’ve been profitable for the last nine months. We’re starting to turn. We’re dealing with the problem loans. I think I can help raise capital. When you mention bank investing these days, people see you coming and they walk the other way. I think I can help in that area. I think we can be a Cinderella story.

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received? How did you get beyond losing critical games?

A: Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t think it’s always going to be good. Keep plugging. Keep pushing.

Also, I think you have to take chances in any business and in running a baseball organization. You have to have the guts to do something.

As for dealing with losses, I was pretty tough on myself after a ball game. But it would be gone the next morning. You’ve got to contain your emotions after a defeat. Honestly, I could be a miserable person after a win, because everything didn’t go 100 percent.

But if I’m miserable the next day, the players are going to feed off of that. You have to create an environment where your people really, really can’t wait to get to their job.

Each week, Sunday Business Editor Henry Unger has a candid conversation, called “5 Questions for the Boss,” with a top executive in Georgia. Some remarks are edited for length and style.

30 comments Add your comment

anon1

August 25th, 2012
3:04 pm

anon1

August 25th, 2012
3:06 pm

Now, how do you think his experience will translate into running a bank. Obviously put in place for his name recognition.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Good Luck

August 25th, 2012
3:37 pm

What’s the status of the baseball park plans that Mr. Cox and others were developing for the Cartersville/Bartow county area. Anyone know?

RA

August 25th, 2012
3:37 pm

Hopefully he will be a better banker than baseball manager. 14 division titles, 1 world series win. With all that talent and to go 1 for 14?

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Beau

August 25th, 2012
4:15 pm

“Attaboy, Northy! Let’s go, kid!” — Bobby Cox cheering on his bank from his corner office.

Pace53

August 25th, 2012
4:48 pm

Call in The Honest Plumber for advice… he will assist in this endeavor… with INTEGRITY…

Fraud

August 25th, 2012
5:02 pm

Lets all hold the bankers hands while we go over the cliff together. Skip this is the worst job you can manage…wait till that late October collapse Obama has planned…it will give a whole new meaning to a “world series”!!!!

LOL

August 25th, 2012
5:57 pm

An easy rob….that turd cdnt manage a team much less a bank…..steal on him like the rest of the NL did……LOL

Joe The Plumber Too

August 25th, 2012
7:11 pm

“Call in The Honest Plumber for advice… he will assist in this endeavor… with INTEGRITY…” What a joke, integrity? I guess you call ripping off senior citizens and housewives by using scare tactics being honest. Read his write-ups on Kudzu by real people victimized by his integrity. Guess Pace53’s last name must be cunningham.

dg

August 25th, 2012
7:16 pm

Ask him is he’s still beating his wife……

Matt the Brave

August 25th, 2012
7:23 pm

Good Luck, it’s coming along. The development is called Lake Pointe, and they just closed a deal to create a wake park (sort of like a water park, but with more features) this last week. Apparently, it’ll be opened in Spring 2013, with the rest of the park’s first phase opening in Spring 2014. You can find more out here:

http://www.lakepointsports.com/

ragnar danneskjold

August 25th, 2012
9:05 pm

I would counsel a client-with-resources to never join a bank board – that it nothing more than a ruinous lawsuit from personal bankruptcy. The regulators make it an unreasonable risk for anyone with any real substance.

Sonny Clusters

August 25th, 2012
9:24 pm

Imagine going into a bank and the Chairman is picking his nose!

Laprincey

August 25th, 2012
10:02 pm

Be interesting to see if Bobby gets ejected when the FDIC people arrive to close down the bank and he shags out of his office, waves his arms wildly and kicks dirt on them.

dre

August 25th, 2012
10:06 pm

Yeah, this has success written all over it. Sheesh. Great move trying to compete with big banks in this economy.

Ken Stallings

August 26th, 2012
8:40 am

Unfortunately, I cringed when I read this column. I pilot airplanes for a living. Want to fly from one place to another and I can do that for you. Have over 25 years experience doing that sort of thing.

But, if you need surgery you better pick someone else!

Bobby has zero professional education in banking and it does require a serious degree of knowledge to manage a bank. Bobby was brought in as a publicity stunt — a way to encourage people to invest their money in this bank by leveraging Bobby’s public persona. It may be a savvy move as they have gotten this column in the AJC. But, this does not translate to such investments being well made.

I hope this works out well for Bobby because obviously I have no animosity against the man. But, I would not do business with a bank just because they have a very famous baseball professional working on their board of directors.

DP

August 26th, 2012
8:42 am

Georgia leads the country in bank closings over the last 4 years, and the answer is to put a guy who knows absolutely nothing about banking in charge of one?

Donkey king

August 26th, 2012
9:20 am

It isn’t April Fool’s day yet. Is this for real??? No wonder this bank is in the cellar.

D from Charleston, SC

August 26th, 2012
10:16 am

ATTN BRAVES Fans: Will Dan Uggla and Brian McCann cost Atlanta a shot at postseason glory? Newest blog at http://bravesbanter.com/. Update on the Starting Pitcher rotation battle… Who is the odd man out as of today, and would Kris Medlen be the Game 1 starter of a playoff series?? Old favs like how to score Hank Aaron seats for UNDER $50 and eat&drink for FREE at Turner! All at http://bravesbanter.com/…. Don’t Stop the Chop!!!

john

August 26th, 2012
3:24 pm

Hey, he can always smack the employees around like he did his wife if they don’t behave. WHY is this man considered a ‘hero’ when he beat up his wife????

boomie

August 26th, 2012
3:26 pm

how funny an image is this? bobby managing the bank in his baseball uni. sitting there behind his desk while his assistant rocks back and forth.

only in the great state of georgia can an industry that’s made headlines with recent failures hire a manager who specialized in failure. one title with three first ballot hall of famers in his rotation for most of a decade.

doubt that this bank will be experience much success. “c’mon kid. bring in your deposit”.

Real Deal

August 26th, 2012
5:57 pm

Managing a community bank isn’t all that hard. It just takes a lot of common sense and the ability to stay away from all the construction/home building thieves in the metro Atlanta area.
As long as that bank stays local and keeps out of the Atlanta real estate market, they will be ok.

Priorities

August 26th, 2012
9:47 pm

By “baseball savvy,” do you mean sitting, chewing gum, and saying “Now let’s go out there and win”? There’s a lot more to running a community bank than managing a pro baseball (or football or basketball) team. Ironically, the coach is paid 10 to 20 times the salary.

Pace53

August 27th, 2012
8:44 am

The ‘Honest Plumber’, Mr . Cunningham does more for the Metro Atlanta Community than any of us
know about… and does it without using his company as a backdrop. Such a committment
to the local community has given his company a level of high quality service and respect that few in the service enjoy can claim.. And yes, INTEGRITY IS PART OF HIS BRAND…

[...] Nathan · 0 comments TweetBobby Cox has become the new chairman of Adairsville-based NorthSide Bank.  The small community bank is currently struggling due to [...]

haha

August 28th, 2012
10:00 am

Bless his heart. Poor bobby always confused regardless of the circumstance.

double standard

August 30th, 2012
2:40 pm

Good for him. It’s good to see he’s stopped beating his wife.