Most baseball fans can recall growing up with Topps baseball cards with free bubble gum in every pack.

For decades, 70 years to be exact, Topps owned the baseball card market. They had an exclusive contract with Major League Baseball (MLB) and Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA).

A few weeks ago, Topps was blindsided when MLB and MLBPA announced a new exclusive contract with the online sports merchandise retailer Fanatics, Inc.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Fanatics was in negotiations for several months with MLB and MLBPA. Topps had over 4 years left to go on their current contract. They were blindsided when they received a letter from the MLBPA informing them of their decision and a phone call from MLB to the CEO of Topps.

Not only did Topps lose their 70 year relationship they also lost their imminent public offering valuing the company at over $1 billion dollars.

There are two big lessons here.

Lesson 1. Relationships are everything. It is clear that somehow Topps lost its relationships with both MLB and MLBPA. Their relationship and value had diminished to the point that they only received a letter and a phone call terminating a 70 year relationship.

Lesson 2. Client diversification is critical. Clearly MLB and BLBPA were represented a significant amount of Topps sales because when they lost these two customers they lost their valuation and pending IPO.

Critical questions for you: Are you conducting ongoing timely client reviews and other relationship building activities? Is (are) there any one or two customers that if you lost them could significantly reduce the value of your business and substantially change your lifestyle?

About The Author

Greg Muzzillo started Proforma as an industry distributor in 1978. The company grew quickly and in the early 1980s Proforma was recognized for three consecutive years on Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in North America. In the late 1980’s Proforma introduced its membership program to empower distributors to retain their business ownership and independence, and to share in sales and marketing resources, purchasing power with industry suppliers, one back office including all billing, accounting, vendor payments, cash flow, computer systems and more. Today Proforma has over 600 Members and is the $500 Million leader in the Promotional Products and Print Industry. Proforma’s record breaking success includes having 18 of its Affiliates named to Inc. Magazine’s 2020 list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies and 193 Affiliates achieving its Million/Multi-Million Dollar Club with sales up to $38 million.