Play Ball! From Empty Stands to a Sold Out Stadium—Jesse Cole, Owner, Savannah Bananas

What are you doing to stand out from your competition? What are you doing to create attention for your business? 

Today’s guest, Jesse Cole, shares his story from buying an expansion league baseball team with literally empty stands and how his team now sells out an entire season in a matter of hours.

Jesse Cole is the founder of Fans First Entertainment and owner of the Savannah Bananas.

His teams have welcomed more than one million fans to their ballparks and have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, ESPN and in Entrepreneur Magazine.

The Bananas have been awarded Organization of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Business of the Year and won the CPL Championship in their first year. Fans First Entertainment has been featured on the INC 5000 lists as one of the fastest growing companies in America.

The Savannah Bananas currently have sold out every game since their first season and have a waiting list in the thousands for tickets.

Jesse released his first book “Find Your Yellow Tux – How to Be Successful by Standing Out” in January of 2018 with a World Book Tour…at Epcot.

Cole has been featured on over 500 podcasts and is an in-demand keynote speaker all over the country sharing the Fans First Experience on how to stand out, be different and create raving fans of both customers and employees.

Cole is the Host of the Business Done Differently Podcast and has interviewed over 100 of some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs, authors and speakers.

Fun Fact: Cole owns seven yellow tuxedos and proposed to his wife Emily in the yellow tux in front of a sold out crowd. She said Yes! The two later married at their stadium. In 2018, they welcomed their first baby banana, Maverick.

If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: https://bigskyfranchiseteam.com/ or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759.   

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):

You’ve worked hard to build your business, and now it’s time to grow. Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast. I’m your host, Tom DuFore CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team and a serial entrepreneur. And we’ve got a great episode for you today. I’m so excited, I have been following our guests, Jesse Cole for quite some time and just really enjoy it his posts and learning from him. He’s absolutely fantastic. And today’s theme is tied in with baseball, major league baseball is getting started here. It’s springtime it’s episode 42, and always reminds me of Jackie Robinson’s number, that’s been retired in professional baseball.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:46):

And being in Georgia here, Jackie Robinson is from Georgia. So lots of cool things tying back to baseball as we get started. And today’s guest is Jesse Cole who happens to own a baseball team. And today’s question to get you pondering is about getting attention for your business. And what are you doing to stand out in your business, standing out from your competitors and other businesses? What are you doing? And our guest Jesse Cole talks all about that on how he took a baseball team that literally had empty stands to now being fully sold out. They literally sell out in minutes or hours for an entire season now for his baseball team.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:38):

Jesse Cole is the founder of Fans First Entertainment, and the owner of the Savannah Bananas. His teams have welcomed more than 1 million fans to their ballparks and have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, ESPN, and an entrepreneur magazine. The Bananas have been awarded organization of the year, entrepreneur of the year, business of the year and won the CPL championship in their first year. Fans First Entertainment has been featured in Inc 5,000 lists as one of the fastest growing companies in America. The Savannah Bananas currently have sold out every game since our first season and have a waiting list in the thousands of tickets. Jesse released his first book, Find Your Yellow Tux: How to Be Successful by Standing Out, in January of 2018 with a world book tour at drum roll Epcot. I love that, it’s amazing. Cole has been featured on over 500 podcasts, including ours, Multiply Your Success. And as an in demand keynote speaker all over the country, sharing the Fans First Experience on how to stand out, be different and create raving fans of both customers and employees.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:46):

Cole is the host of the Business Done Differently podcast linked by the way, in our show notes and has interviewed over 100 of some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs, authors and speakers. Fun fact, if you haven’t seen him, you’ve got to pull up a picture or photo of Jesse. He is always in a yellow tuxedo. So if you’re just listening or tuning in, he’s always in a yellow tuxedo. He owns seven yellow tuxedos, he proposed to his wife in a yellow tux in front of a sold-out baseball crowd. And she said, yes. And they later married at the stadium. And one other quick note for you here, stay tuned all the way through to the end. We asked Jesse a couple of extra questions, one in particular from my seven-year-old. So I snuck in a question from my seven year old, you got to listen to it to hear what he had to ask Jesse Cole from the Savannah bananas. So let’s jump into my interview with Jesse Cole.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (03:40):

I’m Jesse Cole and I’m the owner of the Savannah Bananas baseball team, but to many we’re more known as a baseball circus than an actual baseball team. So a little background. Yeah, I’ve been in baseball my whole life and played all the way through college and a part of my shoulder and got an internship with a team that was failing. And luckily I did okay, and got offered a job as a general manager of another team and that team was even worse. And I learned very quickly with taking over that team as a 23 year old with only 200 fans coming to the games and $268 in the bank account on my first day that I had to get out of the baseball business. And so, but you still own a baseball team, but I realized that I had asked the question, what business are we in? What business are we really in?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (04:24):

And the teams that we had were the lowest level of baseball, college summer baseball, it’s not professional baseball, it’s college summer baseball. So we had to make it about fun. And so with that first team started doing dancing players, grandma, beauty pageants, flatulence fun nights, salute to underwear nights, dig to china nights, just started making it all about entertainment and fans started coming in droves. And five years ago my wife and I said, let’s take another big step. And we bought an expansion franchise to go down to Savannah, Georgia. And we went to Savannah after there was professional baseball for 90 years, but it failed in town. No one was coming to the games. They wanted a brand new stadium, the city said, “We’re not going to build you a stadium.”

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (05:02):

So they left, we came in and proceeded to fail in the first six months by only selling two tickets in our first three months, it was so bad that we got a phone call that we overdrafted our account. We were out of money, my wife turned to me and said, we have to sell our house. We sold our house, emptied our savings account, and we were sleeping on an air bed. And that was just in January of 2016. And we knew we had to be dramatically different to get some attention there. Unfortunately we were trying to fit in like everyone else when we first came in as the new kids on the block, and that was the wrong move.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (05:33):

So we named the team after a fruit became the Savannah Bananas, came up with a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas, a male cheerleading team called the Man-Nanas, even had a mascot named split, started doing dancing music videos with the players and just turned it into a circus. And now fast forward, five years later, we’ve been fortunate to sell out every single game and we have a waitlist for tickets in the thousands. So that’s where we stand today.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:54):

Well, thank you for sharing that background. That’s just amazing. And you said a lot happened during those several years there. So literally going from sleeping on an air mattress to basically a superstar in a sport that the average age of a baseball fan continues to go up. And so your fans are not in that case. So what was it that compelled you to start looking at things differently or be willing to take that risk there?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (06:29):

To be honest, I just really scratched my own itch. As a guy, I played baseball my whole life and I remembered, I loved playing the game, but I don’t like watching the game. I realized that it’s so boring, it’s so long, it’s so slow that it wasn’t that fun. And if I played the game and understood, hey, we’re doing a hit and run here, there’s a double steal. I understand the intricacies of the game and on board, good luck to an average baseball fan. And so I said, well, that’s a problem, baseball’s long, slow and boring, we need to change that. So we asked the question, what if we made it non-stop entertainment? What if we had things happen at the ballpark that you’ve never seen before to get people excited about it? And then it just came a series of asking those questions.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (07:09):

And a lot of things failed at first. I think we realized we weren’t going to be an entertainment first business, but then we had to keep trying and pushing the envelope. We realized that, hey, a bad fan experience is not just being bored, but getting nickel-and-dimed. Tom, we’ve all been to a sporting event. You pay for your parking, you pay for your ticket, you pay for a program, you pay for your burger, your drinks, everything. You’re broke by the end of the day. Good luck if you have kids, it’s like, oh, minor league baseball, it’s cheap. If you take four kids and everyone eats and buys tickets 100 bucks plus.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (07:36):

So we said, no, let’s make every ticket all inclusive. And so in Savannah, every ticket, you come to our ballpark, you get all your burgers, [inaudible 00:07:43], chicken sandwiches, your soda, your water, your popcorn, your dessert, and your ticket, everything for less than 20 bucks. And so that was the whole mindset. And so we just kept doing that and having fun. And I think when you know you’re trying to make something fun and exciting, you will ask questions that maybe other people won’t ask, because you’re not doing it the way everyone else has done it. And that’s what we try to do is always ask those questions, what is that better fan experience and make it fun.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (08:06):

Wow. Well, it’s impressive. I’ve been a fan of yours, I’ve been following you on LinkedIn. So just a shout out for anyone who’s not familiar with Jesse Cole, look him up, you’ve got to follow him. You won’t miss him if you’re not… If you’re just listening, he’s in a giant yellow tuxedo but with a top hat, a yellow top hat, but his LinkedIn and social media, everything that you’re putting out is fantastic. So I’m so grateful for you to be here and share some of what you’re doing. And one of the things that came out that I found was really interesting. So now you’ve got this new expansion team, your team is playing well, your stadium is sold out. So share about where these changes that have come from literally two tickets in three months to now you’re selling out. So talk a little bit about that.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (08:56):

So it’s twofold. So first, we had to get the attention of the fans. And so I believe attention beats marketing, 1000% of the time. Everybody’s got a marketing plan. We’re going to do this, we’ll do this, do you have an attention plan? And the question is attention plan is different. I always challenge people to think like a reporter. Are you doing things that are newsworthy? Are you doing things that are remarkable? The definition of remarkable is are people willing to remark about you? And so to do that, you have to ask the question, what makes you different? And so we started thinking about this, all right, what’s typical at a baseball game. You come, you sit, you watch the game, the players play, you hope they win. You might get a t-shirt, that’s it. So we said, what if we just scrapped the entire experience to be dramatically different?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (09:39):

So when you come to our ballpark, the first thing you’ll see is parking penguins. People dressed up in penguin costumes parking your car, which makes no sense, but it’s fun. And then you’ll see our players out at the gate, signing autographs, taking pictures. Then you’ll have our full pep band, which in baseball you don’t have pep bands. We have a 20 piece pep band playing Rocky or final countdown. And then you have our Banana Nanas, senior citizen dance team, literally doing Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake dances. And then even in our bathrooms, our biggest rival is the Macon Bacon. So of course, in our men’s urinals, we have Macon Bacon urinal cakes, so our fans are peeing on our rival every single game. We even added Macon Bacon toilet paper, which we just bought, and we’re actually selling it to fans.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (10:20):

People are buying a roll of our rival for 10 bucks. It’s the silliest thing in the world. We even have Dolce and Banana underwear, when fans usually throw t-shirts in the crowd. Yeah, we throw t-shirts, but people who’ve been to a game, the last one that I throw to a big gentleman who’s usually going crazy is a Dolce and Banana underwear. And I make him put it on in front of all the fans, over his pants. It’s all these moments. Our fans, our players go on dates with fans during games. Our players deliver roses to little girls in the crowd as we play a love song and we make it a cute, our players do music videos. And it didn’t start like that Tom, that’s the key. But once you start doing something a little different, it’s a good addiction, I’ll say it’s a good drug because you start looking for more and more opportunities.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (11:03):

When he first started, even I said a bad boy, I’d go, well, let’s get him a Batman costume, so he literally dressed like Batman. He’s six years old and goes to the bat, [inaudible 00:11:12] and he’s like, here comes our bat boy, you just look for all these moments. We have a professional high fiver, a six year old, and he’s paid to high five fans. It’s just those things, and so you look at every little moment, how do you make it fun? And I think so many businesses maybe find one or two, find those remarkable moments and they stand out and they get people talking about you because we didn’t have enough money to spend on marketing. We were failing, we couldn’t spend money on marketing. So we had to spend money on ideas that could create people talking and doing the marketing for us. And that was the whole mindset.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:43):

Well, it’s incredible. You are I think what so many people think of, or you’ve become this larger than life figure. You’re capturing attention, as you said, so you’re garnering and capturing attention, but so many businesses and people who maybe even have thought about starting a business say, well, I don’t know. And here you go opening an expansion baseball team in a town where a baseball just failed. You sell two tickets in the first few months, and now literally you sell your tickets, your season sells out what? In minutes, hours, it’s like almost immediately, it’s literally the hottest ticket in town. So-

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (12:26):

Well, I’ll talk [inaudible 00:12:28], that was the second point that I mentioned, it’s about creating that demand. So many businesses are so greedy and they’re so focused on short-term profits, and not focused on different game. When you focus on long-term fans, you will do things to actually create those fans, let’s say I’m going to pack 5,000 people in my stadium and make it a bad experience. Or you know what, I’m going to try to sell as many of these as I can, even though the people aren’t going to get serviced, but that’s another check. We turn away so much money. We had an accountant who actually was like, he would yell at me, but it’s a point where it’s like, that’s not who we’re trying to do. So we try to create demand by saying, hey, this is how many tickets we’ll sell for this night.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (13:10):

Our stadium’s 4,000, we’re not going to try to pack them in even more, we’re not adding tons of seats. There’s demand, so when we sell out one thing you announce that there’s potentially another thing, but fans miss out and you want to be a part of something. So we have a waitlist for everything. We don’t just put tickets right on sale when we’re announcing the new game. For our One City World Tour, which you heard that right, One City World Tour, we actually had a waitlist for two months before tickets go on sale. You create that excitement about people… A line is not a bad thing if you know you’re ready to fire it up or something.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (13:41):

People want to know, what did Yogi Berra say that, well he said, “The restaurant was so crowded, no one goes there anymore,” but the opposite is true. That literally, if there’s no one outside at a restaurant, you’re not going to go there. So you got to create something that people want and they also celebrate that. And so we’ve created that demand as well. And I challenge businesses to think, how do you create a waitlist for every item that you have? That’s a really important thing that helps create the demand.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:04):

Wow. Well, thank you for sharing that. And Jesse, I’d love to get into a little bit of our kind of formula here for the questions we like to make sure we ask every guest. And the first question we ask everyone is about this idea of a miss. And was there a miss or two along the way and something you learned from it that you could share with the audience?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (14:27):

Yes. And that’s the toughest question for me, Tom. I get that asked all the time, because the reality is we don’t talk really much about failures. It’s just talk, we talk about at-bats, how many at-bats can you get? We’re constantly [inaudible 00:14:38] get your next at-bat. I don’t know if you know this, do you know who had more hits in major league baseball than anyone else that ever played the game?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:46):

In major league baseball?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (14:47):

Yeah, the most hits ever? It’s a tough, but people don’t know it.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:51):

P. Rose?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (14:52):

There you go, you got it. Bingo. Over 4,000 hits. Do you know he had over 14,000 at-bats?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:59):

No.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (15:00):

He had 2000 more at-bats than anyone that ever played the game.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (15:04):

Wow.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (15:05):

Of course he had more hits. So my point is he also got out 10,000 times. So to answer your question, yes, we’ve had misses. The first night we did all you can eat, we had no idea how to do it. The line was for about three hours, people waited and waited and waited, and it was a terrible experience, but we had to get through that messiness to get better. We’ve had misses with promotions that have gone wrong. Yes, salute to underwear night was a disaster where we actually said, wear your underwear on the outside, you get a free giveaway, it was completely not family friendly. flatulence fun night, where we gave away whoopee cushions and had a farting contest was not family friendly. We did a dig to China night where we buried a trip to China in the infield dirt.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (15:47):

And literally we had people digging and the woman found it was a certificate and she realized it was a one-way flight to China, no flight back and no accommodations. She wasn’t that happy with that one either. So those are all definitions of misses, but the reality is I hate saying this cliche thing, it’s a miss if you don’t try things. The first time we did bananas insiders, we had a camera system, so six streaming cameras. And the first night we had our miked up players in the middle of the game. No one’s done it like the whole game, they were running. It was like, you couldn’t even hear them because their miked up was terrible, we couldn’t figure it out. The first night we had a drone going, the drone went in the wrong direction. It didn’t follow the ball, it went right into the trees. We had a drone going into the net. Every night something goes wrong, but that is not a miss. That is something closer to getting a hit because the next night we got the drone better, the next night we got the miked up player.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (16:38):

The next night we didn’t do salute to underwear night again, all those things we learned from them. So they’re all minor misses, but no major misses because what we do is everything’s a small bet. We’ll never bet the farm. People said you guys, but what I mean, you gave away all your ad money. You have an ad free ballpark, you don’t sell any advertising. Yeah, it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. We gave away that last year, two weeks before COVID, what a brilliant business decision shut down all your revenue right before. But it was only less than 10% of our revenue. That’s not a huge bet for us, it’s actually a small bet. So we look at all these big things that people see as small bets. And then if they don’t work, it won’t kill us. And I think that’s the mindset we have. Sorry, I gave you a lot more than what you wanted Tom, but that’s where I went.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:20):

That’s exactly what I wanted. And I’m so glad that you shared that because it’s interesting. We’ve had a lot of guests who share a similar mindset with you where really it’s not a failure. It’s not really a miss, it’s if you don’t try, you’re never going to get any better. You’re never going to learn, you’re never going to be able to make things better. So I appreciate that.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (17:46):

And again, I think don’t look at failure as failure. We learn as kids that if you get and F in a big red ink, that’s the end of the world. Start looking at this discovery, what did you discover today? That’s a whole different mindset. We just did a weightless referral program for mobile, we put two weeks behind the campaign. We got 13 people because of it 13, not 1300, not 130, 13, because it was the dumbest thing to think, hey, you guys refer other people to get on our list so then you might have to wait even longer what a dumb idea. But we were trying something out that was a failure, we move on.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:20):

Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that, I really appreciate that. And the goal is I want the audience when they’re listening to this to understand that successful people that have accomplished things, like you said about Pete Rose, he had 10,000 outs or whatever that… That’s crazy if you think of it in that way. It’s wow, he got out a whole lot more than he got on base. And he’s the hit leader of all time. So yeah-

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (18:51):

How about on this, do you know who struck out the most in major league history? This one’s really tough, no one really gets this.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:58):

I would guess, Sammy Sosa.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (19:04):

That’s always guessed, it wasn’t him. He had three home runs in game seven of the 1977 world series. He’s known as Mr. October.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:12):

Oh my gosh, I can see his face right now. I can see him running around the bases-

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (19:19):

[inaudible 00:19:19] his comment with glasses, big afro.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:22):

Oh my gosh. His name is slipping my mind. Go ahead.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (19:29):

Reggie Jackson.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:30):

Reggie Jackson. Thank you.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (19:33):

He struck out more than anyone that ever played the game, but he’s not known for his strikeouts. He’s known for his home runs, he’s known for Mr. October. He’s a hall of Famer. They don’t remember the strikeouts, they remember the hits.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:45):

Yeah. No, that’s a great point. Well, and next up is talking about some hits. Home runs, grand slam and baseball terms, but we talk about the idea of a make or two or three, and you’ve shared a whole bunch of some different things you’ve done, but are there some that maybe stand out a little more than others to you that you’d like to share? Talk about a make that you’ve had.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (20:08):

First time we had dancing players, I brought a dance instructor to teach the guys before their first practice how to dance. Players weren’t that happy about it. One player went off to the bullpens that I’m never going to do this, but the first night they danced, they didn’t jump on it. The next night they danced again, the third night I’m walking through the grand stand and a husband and wife are talking and I hear the wife go, “Shut up, honey. They are about to dance.” I was like, “All right, we got something now.” And all of a sudden those guys started dancing all season. A guy from Bolton came out halfway through the year, he took off his belt, he started doing it all around the middle of the field because he wanted to be a celebrity. I found out a few years later that he was on a billboard in LA.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (20:42):

He became a male model, which is hilarious. I share that little story because that dancing players was one of the biggest early aha moments for me. People hated baseball, but as soon as you’ve said, you have dancing players. We became the only team having to get some players. Now that turned into not only dancing players, but every night they do a different dance. So we they’ll do Britney Spears dances, they’ll do Nelly-Hot In Herre, they’ll do [inaudible 00:21:07], I try to say it right there, they dance every night and it’s become so much bigger than that because then we brought in a break dancing first base coach. Then we brought in the Banana Nanas dance. We learn how powerful dance is, we do dances with the entire stadium, the whole stadium that’s hey baby. Then we started doing music videos with Can’t Stop the Feeling with Justin Timberlake and Old Town Road.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (21:27):

And now on TikTok we’re so fortunate to have more followers than any major league team. People on 400,000 followers, it’s all because of that dance and that finance bet. What that hit taught me that early dance was that showing players in a team doing things that teams don’t normally do and having fun while doing it can make such a huge impression with your fans and make an impact. And so that has led us down this train of what can we do that no one else is doing? How can we be the only?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:57):

Great, that’s tremendous. Thank you for sharing that. For our audience listening in what amazing advice, suggestions, wisdom here. Thank you. And Jesse, in terms of, I’m in the franchising business, and so I always have this idea of multiplying, multiplication on my mind and we’ve had a wide range of answers from guests that have been on, but I’d be curious for you, have you used a multiplier personally, professionally that’s helped you in your career as you’ve grown and growing your company?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (22:29):

Yeah. I’m going to go the opposite way because that’s pretty much, whatever’s normal do the exact opposite. If you want to multiply, do less. And so give an example, [inaudible 00:22:41] they have tons of different things they sell, they have tons of options. We have one ticket, it’s all inclusive. Includes all your ballpark food, that’s it. That’s one ticket. I’ve learned from Donald Miller, you confuse, you lose. So how do you simplify is how you win? We used to have tons of events at the ballpark. We had haunted stadiums, we had the running of the Bananas, we had food truck festivals. We had tap in the morning beer festivals where literally you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning, we had beer festivals starting at 9:00 AM in the morning. We did tons of different events, but it’s attracted our focus to what we are the best in the world at, and what we believe we’re the best in the world is creating the best baseball show and the most fans first experience.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (23:22):

Once we threw away sponsorship, once we throw away those events, once we said, we just have one ticket, we could focus on creating the best show in sports. I believe if you want to multiply, focus on that one thing that differentiates you, what you can be the best at and amplify that, share that over and over again, talk about that over and over again. What are people sharing about you? If it’s the best Cajun restaurant, if you’re the best cleaner talk about what that is over and over again, and don’t try to expand to so many services at once become the best at that. And then those opportunities will be open to, this is what I’ve seen work really well.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:59):

Amazing. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. And well, Jesse, one of the final questions that we like to ask every guest is what does success mean to you?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (24:12):

It’s a great question. What does it mean to you?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:16):

Well, that’s part of the reason I started the podcast, so I could get everyone else’s answers and then figure it out.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (24:22):

No, it’s a great question. I want to hear what you say.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:25):

But generally for me success is setting your mind on… Setting some goal and going after it win, lose, or draw, just setting your mindset on a goal and just going after it and being able to say, I did it and learning from that to make it better, to change, to improve. So that for me is look, if I can do that, I’m going to be successful because I’d rather do that than sit on the sidelines and wait, I’d rather try do something, try to make something of it and then learn from it. A lot of what you were talking about with what you’ve done with the Bananas in trying this and that, sometimes it works, but you know what, whatever didn’t work quite as planned, you make a tweak and the next time you do it, it worked really well. So that to me, I love those stories. So that’s for me.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (25:24):

I think it’s great. I think what you said there, I think success is different for every single person. And I think we can never uniform say, this is what success looks like. It’s easy for me to look at what is success not, success is not comparing yourself to anyone else. That is what a lot of people had success they’re comparing, oh, your accomplishments, your achievements, your wealth, your this your that, to me, that’s not success. And so I think about success freedom and fulfillment, the ability to do things that gives you freedom, that you love, that you enjoy, and that gives you purpose in what you’re doing. And most of all just makes you happy. The most successful people are the happiest people and the happiest people are often the most successful people. So for me, that’s what I try to look at. And I think if you want to go one more step down success, I think truly successful people help make others successful. And I think that’s part of their fulfillment that they get out of life.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:21):

Yeah, I agree. That’s well said. Well, I have an extra question that came up-

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (26:29):

Go on man, I’m ready to rock. We’ll go deep, we’ll mess around whatever you want to go.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (26:32):

Great. Well one question in particular I have to ask, so I have three kids in grade school right now and my seven year old who’s in first grade said, I explained to him about the interview and he said, “Well, I got to know, does he have banana juice at the baseball park?” And so I said, “I don’t know, well, I’ll ask him.” He said, “Okay.” So I’m asking, do you have banana juice?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (26:58):

I wish he was here. What’s his name?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:00):

Michael.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (27:01):

I wish Michael was here right now because I’ve been asked about so many things about bananas, but I’ve never been asked about banana juice. And I don’t even… I can only assume it’s just a juice made from bananas, you don’t even know either. Michael-

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:14):

No, I have no idea.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (27:15):

… Follow up for you or any of the listeners. What is banana juice? I’m going to look at that right now, but to answer your question, we do not. We have frozen bananas, we have banana cream soda, we have a slippery banana drinks. We even have a banana beer, not for you, Michael, but we have a lot of other banana drinks, but we don’t have banana juice. So I’m now looking into it.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:37):

All right. Perfect. I thought, well, that’s interesting. I don’t know, we’ll ask him. One thing that’s really stood out to me in following you is your culture and community you’ve built with your staff and your team. Literally from the top, all the way down to, top to bottom, left to right, whatever, all of the people are dialed in to what you’ve created here. And so I’d just like for you to share maybe a little bit of I know it takes a lot of hard work and commitment to do that. So I’ve always found that those who do it well, make it look easy. You make it look easy, and I know it’s not. So I’d love your feedback or impression on how you’ve been able to maybe foster or create some of that culture that other business leaders here may be able to glean some wisdom from.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (28:31):

Yeah. I think it comes down to being clear on who you are and what you stand for, and also clear on who you are not for and who are you not? And I think for us, Tom, we made a mistake, we first named the company Team Cole and Associates, sounded like a terrible law firm like this accounting office. What is that? That was the name of our company. And then we said no, what is it about, what do we do? What’s our mission? We’re fans first entertain always. So we named our company Fans First Entertainment, and we made every decision we make is it fans first? And so then we asked that question even further. We said, well, who are our biggest fans? And we said, well, you think all of the people that come to your games, we said no, should be our people, our staff, our employees, our teammates. Then we said well, how do we make that part of our culture?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (29:13):

And so we say, love your customers more than you love your product, but love your people even more than you love your customers. And so we started thinking about how do we do that? And so there’s lots of stories, lots of things that have happened. We’ve surprised people with bucket list trips to Ireland with their dad, we sent someone to go to game one of the world series with their dad. We do all these things that are really special during COVID. We went grocery shopping for them. My wife has the heart of gold that she always thinks of these things. But one short story, if you have a few minutes, I can share really-

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (29:41):

Please, yes.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (29:44):

So we had a young man who works for us who’s got a mental disability and he does everything around the ballpark and literally started from day one and does it all. You’ll see him in the concessions, you’ll see him ushering, you’ll see him picking up, you’ll see them all over. And he’s got the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, just going around the ballpark smile. And he always say, it’s a great day for a ball game, even if it’s raining outside, he’ll still say it’s a great day for a ball game, great spirit. His name’s Reggie. And just two seasons ago, he said, “Hey guys, just want to tell you my birthday this year is on a game day.” And not only did he tell me, he proceeded to tell every single person on our staff that his birthday was on a game day. So of course, we already had something planned for him, but I remember so right before our pre-game huddle, he came around the corner with me and the whole staff was there 150 people.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (30:30):

And we sang him happy birthday. His eyes lit up and goes, “For me?” We go, “Of course, Reggie it’s for you. You told everyone on staff.” So we sang him happy birthday and we gave him balloons and he was all happy. And we said, “Hey, one more thing, Reggie, make sure you come down to the dugout before the game.” He goes, “Okay, do we need some help?” I go, “Yes we do.” And this is the guy who has given pep talks to the team, so he loves being around the dugout. So he gets down to the dugout and we have our player intros. The band is on the dugout, 4,000 people standing, we just played Can’t Stop the Feeling. The crowd is going crazy, batting first from Georgia takes the field batting second, they all come down. And then finally we say last but not least fans, you know him, you love him, let’s hear it for Reginald. And he throws his hands up in the air and he sprints through the line.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (31:13):

And at the end of the line, our coach is there with a Jersey with his name on it. And he gives Reggie, the Jersey, Reggie puts it on and he stands at the line with all the players for the national Anthem. And you can see, we had a video, a tear go right down his face. At the end of the game he said, this is one of the best days of his life. And he gave us all hugs. Simple gesture, little thing, our team all came up with it together. How do you recognize people? How do you make sure you know that they care, moments, manner, meaning. Create moments that show people that they matter and you’ll have deeper meaning. And we say this all the time, nothing matters more than making people feel like they matter. And so around our culture, that is our big goal to always show people that they matter no matter what. And that’s been how we’ve built this fans first culture.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (32:01):

Wow. What an amazing story and incredible, just incredible. And the commitment to it. It starts with you as the leader, it starts with you. And just the fact that you’re willing to walk around in a yellow tux all day, for everything, that’s a commitment. If that doesn’t say commitment, I don’t know what does, and so it’s communicated not only in your words, but your actions. So I appreciate that and learning from you and following you. So thank you as someone who just appreciates what you’re doing as well. So thank you. Well, Jesse, is there anything you would like to leave with the audience before we go that maybe you haven’t had a chance to say or share?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (32:48):

You know what I mean? I love talking about this stuff, but yeah, I would just say, don’t be afraid to have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, I wear a yellow tuxedo everyday to give permission to our team to have more fun. And when you have more fun and you give more fun, you have a better experience for everyone involved. You end up making more money, everything else works out better. And so that’s what it’s about. And I’ll say we have a Fans First Playbook that we share with all our team and a player has to literally go through it before he even gets a uniform. And on the back, it says, “Be patient in what you want for yourself, but be impatient in how much you give to others.” And I think for everyone that’s listening, if you kind of follow that mindset, that’s really helped us constantly give, give, give and don’t worry about the outcomes and results. Just be patient in what you want for yourself.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (33:34):

That’s amazing. Well, and okay, to be fair, one other thing I was thinking about was your new report that you published I saw yesterday, or a couple of days ago. I just curious about the Georgia Southern professor that did a study on your team. And so would you talk a little bit about the study and the report and the findings? I found it very compelling and interesting.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (33:58):

Thanks. So long story short I always talk… When I go speak to groups, I was like, yeah, you know what, we win more games than any other team and we have more fun. And I think the reason why we win more games is because we have more fun and everyone’s like, oh yeah. And this professor was like, he didn’t tell me this, but he was like, I’m want to see if this is actually true. Obviously they win more games, that’s easy, but I want to see if these guys actually do play better because they’re having more fun. So he did a research study starting 2018 on all the players that played for us and looked at their statistics, both in college and in the summer.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (34:29):

And theoretically your stats shouldn’t necessarily get better during the summer because you’re playing with a metal bat during college days. And then in the summer, you’re playing with a wood bat, but he looked at all the teams, he studied OPS, which is a very important baseball statistic, he studied strikeout to walk ratio. He tested some of the basic, the really big offensive statistics. And he said there was only one team that showed a strong correlation, it wasn’t even close. And it was the Savannah Bananas. Every stat he checked, it said basically, if you put on a Savannah Bananas uniform, you will play better. And so the last two years he’s gotten into our dugout and he’s been a part, he’s taking notes on the culture and the guys are just having more fun.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (35:08):

Literally there’s more dancing, there’s more celebrating, there’s more fun and I think it’s proven. On the outside, you’re like, yeah, if you’re on a job that you hate, that you don’t enjoy and you’re constantly counting down the hours till you get to go home, you are not going to perform better, but for our guys, they don’t want to leave the ballpark because when they actually at the end of the game and they’re greeting the fans, the fans are all dancing with them, they’re hanging out with them and having fun. And they’re telling them, “Hey, not just great double, but hey, it was awesome when you’re on the dugouts dancing. Hey, it was so cool when you did the conga line through the crowd.” They’re talking about those moments, which is encouraging them more fun. And I think the big study proved that fun and culture equals better performance. And so we are doubling down on even more fun and that in the years to come.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (35:49):

Wow, that’s incredible. And I’m just curious as the community and your culture just continues to solidify, it’s very clear what you stand for and what you do. How has that been for just player recruitment in general? And I would imagine most times you talk about culture, people will say, I’ve even found it with our business, you attract the right kind of customers and repel the customers that maybe aren’t ideal. So talk about how that’s impacted your recruitment for players.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (36:23):

Yeah. Well, just same thing, traditional baseball fans, they don’t love our games, they don’t like all the shenanigans, the fact that we give away [inaudible 00:36:30] and Johns and [inaudible 00:36:31] and have all these crazy things at our ballpark. We play games and kills, Tom, and by the way, for the record, we are undefeated in kills. So they don’t love it, but the players, yeah, at first there was a lot of question marks. We had to talk to the guys, “Hey, we’re the Bananas. A lot of people are going to criticize you for being the Bananas. We were crucified when we first came to town about being the Bananas, the owner should be thrown out of town. You guys are an embarrassment to the city. We heard it all. So we had to say, guys, just say, Hey, it’s fun to be a part of something unique.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (36:58):

And we try to help them with that. But then as they started seeing the popularity and the TikTok videos and the Facebook videos, the Instagram videos, and seeing the fun. Now we get over 1000 players apply for us for 30 spots. And so it’s very selective and some of the best players won’t play here. And also some of the best players we don’t necessarily think are best fit for us if they’re too serious, if it’s all about baseball, it’s not about giving back to the fans and having fun. So our coaches have done a great job, they are very strategic on who becomes a part of it and they get it. And so it’s been a lot of fun to see the players join in on the circus.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (37:34):

Amazing. Well, Jesse, I’d love for you to share how someone who is inspired or would like to learn more about you or maybe come to a game or buy some merchandise. What’s the best way to get in touch with you on that?

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (37:50):

I appreciate it. And one of the things that I really always preached is that, “Hey, just keep giving value, don’t try to sell.” And the funny thing is like, you look like a promoter, you’re like a P.T. Barnum. Yeah P.T. Barnum, Walt Disney are my biggest influencers, but I’m never saying sell. And you won’t see ads from the Bananas or on my LinkedIn saying, buy this. So I’m pretty easy to find you search yellow tux, you’ll find me, you search Jesse Cole, the Savannah Bananas. If there’s things that are a value to you, we obviously have some opportunities, but I think Tom, you believe it’s more than that. And people like to buy, they don’t like to be sold and hopefully I can keep writing about value and hopefully fans can see some opportunities for them.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (38:24):

Absolutely. Well, I will say this if you are coming to Savannah, Georgia, or somewhere in the area try to find a way if you can, get a ticket, they’re a hard to come by, but try to get a ticket and get in and get the experience of the Savannah Bananas while you’re visiting. So Jesse, I’m so grateful and thankful for you to share some time and just for being so grateful to share some extra time. Thank you so much for that.

Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas (38:52):

Tom, it’s a lot of fun. Thank you for what you’re doing and how you’re making a difference my friend.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (38:54):

Jesse, thank you so much again for being here. I really appreciate your time especially because you are someone that I have been following for a while and admire and aspire to be more like, so let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (39:13):

Number one, attention beats marketing every time. I loved when Jesse said that, attention beats marketing every time. And do you have an attention planned? Do you have an attention plan? And I thought that was just great advice. Number two, if you want to multiply, do less. I liked that he said that he said, if you want to multiply, do less focus on the one thing you’re best at and do that better than anyone else. And that will lead to other doors opening for you. And number three, he talked about success, not being compared to others. So your success is not being compared to others. And it’s all about freedom and fulfillment, finding your own personal freedom and fulfillment in whatever it is that you’re interested in doing.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (40:07):

And now it’s time for today’s win-win. So today’s win-win is when Jesse talked all about the culture that he has been creating with his customers, with his employees, with his players from top to bottom left to right, any direction you want to take a look at here he said, love your customers more than your product, but love your people more than your customers. And he also said nothing matters more than making people feel like they matter, nothing matters more than making people feel like they matter, and the kinds of people you want to be around.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (40:51):

And then finally he talked about in their playbook that every player gets when they come into their organization, he said, “Be patient in what you want for yourself, but be impatient in how much you give to others.” And that was phenomenal. And Jesse, I’m so grateful for you because that’s exactly how you made me feel interviewing you. I know you’re a very, very busy person and you gave all the time and attention and I am so grateful for that. And I really appreciate it. So that’s the episode today, folks, thanks for tuning in, please like, subscribe, share this with others and play ball. Enjoy the spring season here with baseball on its way.

 

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