Matt Gifford admits he’s an anomaly in today’s working world. He has been with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball organization for 20 years. He started as a $5 per hour telemarketer selling tickets and is now a vice president and the general manager of the Springfield, Mo., Cardinals, the parent club’s AA affiliate.
He has seen many of his co-workers leave after five to seven years to take other positions but he has stayed put, doing everything he can to make his team better and the fans’ experience more enjoyable. He has turned down opportunities to join other sports franchises for more money.
And, after 20 years, he still is looking at 40 hours in the rearview mirror nearly every week.
Why? For two words: psychic income.
Psychic income is defined by Dictionary.com as “the personal or subjective benefits, rewards, or satisfactions derived from a job or undertaking as separate from its objective or financial ones.”
For Gifford, who spoke to brother-in-law Andy Dorrel’s economics class on Oct. 23, it means being part of a great baseball organization and staying within a day’s drive of his relatives. “And I love the jewelry plan,” he said, which includes World Series rings for 2006 and 2011.
Psychic income also includes being asked about the Cardinals by your friends, Gifford explained. And it definitely covers listening to Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Red Schoendienst trade their incredible stories. It’s what makes the job you do more enjoyable.
But the impact of psychic income can get lost in the negotiation of players’ free agent contracts. The dollar signs often mask other advantages. Gifford said after a certain level, the player’s family will be financially well off for generations. But they still chase the larger dollar amount instead of weighing the advantages of the psychic income. In some cases, they sacrifice their legacy with the team and the community by leaving strictly for more money.
The grass is always going to be greener on the other side of the fence.
“You have to put the ego away” when considering the money and take look at the total package. This is true regardless of your profession. “The grass is always going to be greener on the other side of the fence,” he said, but you still have to cut it and clean up after the dog.
That is why it is important to maintain your own personal “board of directors,” a group of family and friends who you can rely on to give you advice. It could be your friends from Culver, he said, but it needs to be people who have the same “core values” as you and no financial interest in what you do. When it does come time to consider making a move, consult with those people. They will steer you in the right direction.
He views the corporate structure of the Springfield Cardinals as a tire rolling down the road. At some point, each of the 20 full-time employees is going to affect the customer’s experience. That is when the “rubber meets the road.” If there is a hole in the tire, it is up to another employee to plug it. “Never skip a job someone else will have to do,” he said.
That includes the general manager grabbing a mop during the seventh inning stretch to clean up a particularly nasty spill on top of the dugout (he has video proof). Because just like in the dugout, every employee – including the general manager – will get the call to be “the next man up.”