Leadership/Management

Bob McClaren: ‘You’re Never Too Big To Seek A Little Advice’

More than any other big-time professional or college sport, “baseball is an eating sport,” maintained Bob McClaren in our recent podcast. And he should know. McClaren spent a decade as the president of business operations for the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball and witnessed firsthand how families built meals and couples arranged their dates around a ballgame and something yummy from the concession stand.

McClaren put away a lot of good food, himself, but also enough “weak hotdogs” to promise himself that if he ever got the chance, he would offer the world “a better dog.” The good news for baseball fans is that not only was McClaren a baseball fan, he was born into a cattle ranching family that had run 44 Farms in Cameron, Texas since 1909. And you can be sure that when this McClaren left baseball to take over operations at the family business, he added hot dogs to the ribeyes, New York strips and filets whose quality earned 44 Farms the Beef Improvement Federation’s 2023 Outstanding Seedstock Producer of the Year.

Greatness tends to attract greatness (or aspiring greatness), and in 2016, 44 Farms received a visit from some board members and the CEO of Walmart US. McClaren was immediately bowled over by their humility. “They said they wanted to win fresh,” recalled McClaren. “And when I asked what that meant, they said that beef wasn’t one of their strong points and they wanted to get better with beef.” 

Then the Walmart CEO asked the key question: Would 44 Farms help them?

“What struck me was the humility of these folks to travel to our little ranch to talk to us about how to get better at producing and delivering a great beef product,” he said. McClaren liked the Walmart people enough to partner with Walmart to help the giant chain “up its beef game.” The partnership represented a stretch for the Central Texas ranch, but they built a Prime Pursuits network of 1,200 farms to share best practices and develop a successful source of quality beef with Walmart that thrives to this day.

“The Walmart team did everything they said they’d do to help us make this successful,” noted McClaren, who offers listeners a main course of wisdom about great teamwork, including these dishes: 

• The value of getting to know teammates, partners and customers personally before doing business with them.

• The importance of making your team feel valued and connected to a greater purpose beyond a paycheck.

 • How McClaren turned a loose confederation of “cowboys” into an innovative business network to serve Walmart.

“The fun part of businesses is getting to know people and understand them and their experiences and how we can help one another,” McClaren said. “Man, when you help somebody be more successful … you don’t have to worry about the bottom line. It takes care of itself.”


Don Yaeger

Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.

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