Tom Kramig – Owner, President & CEO, Lake Erie Crushers

Tom Kramig grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1970’s as a fan of the Big Red Machine. After starting his career as a TV News Producer, he migrated to video production, and eventually, corporate America. In 2016, he purchased the Lake Erie Crushers outside of Cleveland, Ohio, a member of the Frontier Independent Baseball League. In 2018, the Crushers were named Frontier League Organization of the Year.

How do you define success?
The short answer is setting a goal or vision for what you want to achieve and achieving it. This can be either personal such as “I want to be a good spouse or good parent,” or professional such as “We improved our sales or reduced our annual budget.”

What is the key to success?
I would say enjoying the process. Yes, you’re obviously trying to achieve “something,” but it’s also about enjoying the process along the way. Achieving a goal where you make yourself, and quite possibly everyone around you miserable, to me does not represent success. Yes, the goal is important, but so is the journey.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I would like to think I am not done learning, so it’s tough to say. Always being open to new ideas is important. I am a big believer in lifelong learning and trying to continuously improve yourself. At the end of the day, it all comes down to people and how you interact with others. If you can’t figure that out, it’s going to be tough to succeed.

What are some quotes that you live by?
Don’t really have any “quotes” that I live by, but three basic principles I try to continuously stress are communication, collaboration, and customer service. I think if you focus on those three ideas, you’re a long way towards becoming successful.

What are some of your favorite books?
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals is an excellent book and has tremendous parallels to the business world. Making It in the Minors by Allyn Freeman has been instrumental in my later-life career change of taking over a Minor League Baseball team. Also, big on presidential biographies.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
It’s never fun when you have to let someone go. Sometimes, an individual just isn’t a fit for an organization, or your budget doesn’t allow for that position to continue. As much as you may try to coach someone up, or adapt a job role to fit a person’s personality or skill sets, sometimes it just doesn’t work and you need to let them go. That’s never a good day.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Moving forward is what life is all about. Sitting around bemoaning how something didn’t work or the adversity you’re facing doesn’t do any good. Everyone faces adversity. It’s how you respond that defines who you are.

How did you come across the opportunity to purchase the Lake Erie Crushers?
Owning and operating a minor-league baseball team was always an idea in the back of my mind. It started as just digging around the industry to see what was possible, and the more I researched, the more I realized I could make this a reality. And at some point, it came down to a simple concept of “Don’t die wondering” and you take a leap of faith and believe in your own abilities.

What is your vision for the future of the franchise?
I believe this organization can have a tremendously-positive impact on the community, and at the same time, be very successful. I am a big believer in “win-win” scenarios and I think there’s a great opportunity for that with the Crushers and the City of Cleveland’s West Side suburbs.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Keep an open mind, a positive attitude, and match those with a tremendous work ethic and good things can happen. Be passionate about “what” you’re doing and don’t just look at the end game. Treat your employees and customers with tremendous respect. If you can achieve all of those, you’re on the right path towards success.