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Stand Out & Get Noticed.

How the Savannah Bananas baseball team stand out and get noticed with guest Jesse Cole.

On this episode host Henry Lopez and Jesse Cole explore how to promote and market your small business in unusual ways that get the attention of your ideal target customers.

Instead of traditional marketing methods, Jesse applies unconventional promotional tactics that are fun and attract attention and a loyal following of fans.
You might be thinking, what can I learn from an owner of a baseball team – well this is not your usual sports team. We are talking about the Savannah Bananas which have become a huge success due to their unique approach to marketing. And so much of what they do can be applied to any small business

Jesse Cole - Owner of the Savannah Bananas

Jesse Cole, also known as “the guy in the yellow tuxedo” is the founder of Fans First Entertainment and the owner of the world-famous Savannah Bananas as well as the Party Animals and Firefighters.

With the mantra “Fans First. Entertain Always”, the Bananas are on a mission to Make Baseball Fun by creating the Greatest Show in Sports.

The team has sold out every game since their inaugural season in Savannah and has since grown a ticket waitlist of more than 2 million fans from all over the world.

With more than 15 million social media followers and features on such outlets as The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, HBO Real Sports and Access Hollywood in addition to Bananaland, a five-part documentary original series on ESPN+, the Savannah Bananas are just getting started.

Jesse is the proud inventor of the fastest and most entertaining game of baseball, Banana Ball. Banana Ball puts a fun twist on traditional baseball with new rules featuring a two-hour time limit, no walks, no bunting, no stepping out of the box, no mound visits and best of all, fans can catch a foul ball for an out.

He is the not-so-proud promoter of the Grandma Beauty Pageant, the Human Horse Race, the Living Pinata, and Flatulence Fun Night.

In addition to the wildly successful Banana Ball, Jesse continues to create raving fans all over the world as a best-selling author of “Fans First, Find Your Yellow Tux”, and as a highly sought-after international keynote speaker for some of the world’s largest and most respected organizations.

Most of all, Jesse is a raving fan of his wife, Emily, his 3 kids, and peerless promoters like Walt Disney and PT Barnum.

Episode Host: Henry Lopez is a serial entrepreneur, small business coach, and the host of this episode of The How of Business podcast show – dedicated to helping you start, run and grow your small business.


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The following is a full transcript of this episode. This transcript was produced by an automated system and may contain some typos and some other minor inaccuracies.

Henry Lopez (00:04):

Welcome to the How a Business Podcast. This is Henry Lopez and this episode is about how to stand out and get noticed. And my guest is Jesse Cole, the owner of two College Summer Baseball League teams, an author of two books, a speaker and an expert on standing out and getting noticed to grow your small business instead of traditional marketing methods, Jesse applies unconventional promotional tactics that are fun and attract attention and a truly loyal following of fans. And you might be thinking, what can I learn from an owner of a baseball team? Well, this is not your usual sports team. We’re talking about the Savannah Bananas, which has become a huge success due to their unique approach to marketing, and so much of what they do can be directly applied to any small business. This is a re-release of episode 180 that I released several years ago, but I think the content is still completely relevant and it’s such a good story, and I think you’ll really appreciate the information and the insights and the experiences that Jesse shares on this episode.

Henry Lopez (01:08):

To get more information about how a business, including the show notes page for this episode, and to learn more about my one-on-one and group coaching programs, please visit I also encourage you to please subscribe to my show wherever you might be listening so you don’t miss any new episodes. I recently had the opportunity to visit Savannah, Georgia for the first time. I had never been there before. And in addition to being charmed by the history and the architecture, it’s a wonderful place to visit. I witnessed firsthand the ever-growing popularity it seems of the Savannah Bananas baseball team, as evidenced by all of the merchandise you can find for sale in all of the seemingly in all of the local shops. And so that’s what triggered me to remember this great conversation that I had had with Jesse Cole about standing out and getting noticed. So here is my conversation with Jesse Cole.

Henry Lopez (02:14):

Welcome to this episode of The How of Business. This is Henry Lopez, and my guest today is Jesse Cole. Jesse, welcome to the show.

Jesse Cole (02:22):

Excited to be here.

Henry Lopez (02:23):

Excited to have you. Jesse is the owner of Fans First Entertainment, who owns and operates the Savannah Bananas and the Gastonia Grizzlies. They’re college Summer Baseball league teams. And we’ll chat about that. Obviously Jesse and his teams have been featured on MSNBC, on CNN, and multiple times on ESPN. Cole is an in-demand speaker and the author of the newly released book, find Your Yellow Tux, how to Be Successful by Standing Out. The Savannah Bananas have sold out 32 straight games. That is a lot in that they don’t play that many games, so it is a tremendous success and they have a waiting list in the thousands for tickets for this upcoming season. Jesse believes to be successful, you need to stand out and be different. He’s passionate about creating attention, loving your customers more than your product, and more importantly, loving your employees more than your customers. So once again, Jesse Cole, welcome to the show.

Jesse Cole (03:24):

Henry. I think you’ve covered it all. So I think we’re good. Ready to go? Good

Henry Lopez (03:28):

At a minimum, you got to tell us about the yellow text. Of course, people can only listen and if they don’t go to the website or your website, they can imagine this yellow tux that you wear all the time.

Jesse Cole (03:39):

Yes, I own a yellow tuxedo. It’s not just one. I actually own six yellow tuxedos at this point. I’ve proposed to my wife in the middle of the game at a sold out crowd in the yellow tux, thank goodness she said yes. And I’ve slept in the yellow tux has become part of my life. But in a big picture scheme, it represents the fact that we look at baseball dramatically different than most. We look at it as a show. And PT Barnum’s one of my biggest mentors, and literally he was always dressed up, ready to put on a show. And I’ve kind embodied that with our team and that’s what it is. It’s about a show and for us, we know what business we’re really in. And it’s not the baseball business, it’s the entertainment business. So that’s why the yellow tuxedo fits me and what I’m doing and kind of fits our whole theme of our business.

Henry Lopez (04:21):

Yeah, well that’s fantastic. And I think, again, it translates so well to any other type of small business that entertainment or we might put it often as the customer experience that we create, but a lot of it translates, I think, Jesse.

Jesse Cole (04:34):

Oh, a hundred percent. And that’s what my book find Yell Ts is about. It’s what is that one thing that you can be the best at? What is it that makes you stand out and either you or your business? And I’ve been able to work with a lot of businesses and try to find ways for them to stand out and create attention and really focus on that customer experience. I think so many companies get into maintenance mode where they’re just constantly trying to have incremental gains, but we focus on big splashes and really creating that wow factor. And we’ve been very fortunate. It’s been very successful.

Henry Lopez (05:00):

Yeah, love that. Alright, so let’s go back a little bit. I believe you studied humanities and leadership and college. Tell me about what you were thinking then and what you wanted to be when you grew up.

Jesse Cole (05:12):

One of my biggest mentors as well is Bill Veeck, the famous baseball owner who he gave away 12 live lobsters to a fan during a game. He broke all the rules and one of his quotes, it says, I don’t break the rules, but I merely test their elasticity. And I think I’ve done that my whole life. And when you bring back my major, it’s funny, I don’t even think about the humanities major because it wasn’t even really offered at college. I went to Wofford College, a small D1 school in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I went there to play baseball and I literally didn’t want to take any of the normal majors taking business econ. It was all about taking calculus and macroeconomics, which I was like, why do I need to take calculus to learn about business? So I developed my own major and started studying leadership and leadership and coaching and leadership in government and really developed my own thing and I’m doing ever since. I played baseball back and then I tore my shoulder and that ended my baseball career. And ever since then I’ve really been trying to create my own path and it’s turned out to be pretty successful. And more than anything, Henry, just a lot of fun. I don’t like playing by the rules, the nine to five. I like kind of doing my own thing and we’ve failed a lot along the way, but I’ll tell you, it’s created some great stories.

Henry Lopez (06:16):

Have you always had this enthusiasm and attitude? I got to think of, for example, when baseball career came to an end, there has to have been a low point there. Has this always been your personality?

Jesse Cole (06:27):

I’ve always been, I was an only child, surprisingly always still fighting for attention and fighting to connect with people. So I’ve always had that in myself, my personality. But when I first found out that my baseball career was over now, I played my whole life, my whole goal was to play professional baseball. That’s all I did. And I had the chance, I was talking to professional teams in college and then I tore everything on my shoulder. And part of my capstone project for the humanities major and leadership major was to film myself throughout this process. And I remember turning the camera and saying that I’ll never play baseball again. And it was one of the toughest moments I ever went through because I worked on it my whole life. And so for about two, three months I was lost. I didn’t know what I was going to want to do and I thought about getting into coaching and that was when I had the real aha moment, a mirror moment as I call it in the book. I sat there watching baseball and I realized I was completely and utterly bored. And that there’s a huge difference between playing baseball and watching baseball. And at that moment I realized we needed to change the game of baseball and make it more fun. And so from that point on, I realized, started having the enthusiasm, the energy, because I was building something different and not just building the typical thing that everyone else does

Henry Lopez (07:31):

Now. The fans first. Entertainment didn’t come around to 2011. The teams that we’ll get to in a moment didn’t start till 2014. So just briefly tell me about what you were doing with yourself after college and before you found what you’re doing now.

Jesse Cole (07:46):

So right out of college, I got a job crazily. I was an intern for two months for the lowest level of baseball, a team in Spartanburg, South Carolina. And I got offered the job as general manager of this team in Gastonia, North Carolina. So at 23 years old, I became the GM of a team. I dunno what the owner was thinking, it was pretty crazy. And I showed up that first day and I realized what he was thinking. The team couldn’t get much worse than where it was literally, there was only 200 fans coming to the games previously. The team had lost over a hundred thousand dollars a year and there was only $268 in the bank account that first day. And we had three employees and payroll was on Friday. So that was my first day. And I realized at that point we really had to dramatically turn around this team and make it not just about baseball. So that’s where I started just at 23 years old with really the worst performing team in the country, in a small town in Gastonia, North Carolina.

Henry Lopez (08:40):

Amazing. Alright, so fans first, tell me about that starting and what that business was about.

Jesse Cole (08:46):

So that’s been the whole change really. The first few years we just tried crazy things. To put it in perspective, we had grandma beauty pageants at the ballpark. Our players did choreograph during the games. I went in the dunk tank as the gm. I mean we were Pieing fans during the grout. I mean during the game it was just all about this circus mentality. So all of a sudden people started talking about it, we created attention, but I was so focused on growth and the team was growing 500 fans, a thousand fans up to 2000 fans. But I realized it was solely about the growth and the revenue and the attendance and it wasn’t really about our people. And we made this change to become fans first entertainment because we had an aha moment and it said, you know what? Most companies, what they focus on is the product.


They don’t focus on the people. And so we changed our whole mentality to be about customers and the fans. But here’s the secret, Henry, the fans first, it’s actually our own employees because they are our biggest fans. They’re the biggest fans of the team. So we put all our energy focusing on taking care of our people and creating that mentality. And then all of a sudden that creates that perfect experience for the customers. And I can share some of the things we’ve done, but we really look, we map the journey from when the first customer, when they see us on our website to the time they come to our ballpark, to the time they leave. And then in between all that, we’re constantly caring for our people and our employees. So it’s been a crazy journey, but that’s why we’ve literally been able to sell out every single game because of this whole mentality. Now

Henry Lopez (10:02):

That team that you were working for as the gm, was that the Grizzlies or was this another team?

Jesse Cole (10:07):

Yes, that was the Grizzlies. So I went and bought it in 2014. Everyone asked, how do you buy a team when you’re young? I go, you take on hundreds and thousands of dollars and potentially millions of dollars of debt. It’s very easy as someone who’s in business like yourself knows you don’t just go ahead and buy it. So we took on all that debt, bought the grizzlies, and then two years later we had the opportunity to come to Savannah, Georgia and take over a team in a stadium that used to have professional baseball. So they had professional baseball for 90 years. And we came in as this low level college summer team and had to really turn the whole perception of the community around. And we did after a long struggle and I can share, my wife and I had to sell our house, we had to empty out our savings account. We were living on an airbed. I mean, it got really, really tough. But that’s when we learned the biggest lessons.

Henry Lopez (10:51):

That’s when you decided to buy the Savannah Bananas or was that you started the Savannah Bananas, right? Or were they already existing?

Jesse Cole (10:58):

Yeah, yeah. It’s just two years ago. I mean, we came to Savannah on October 5th, 2015. And literally we showed up that first day and the phone lines were cut, the internet lines were cut, there was no office. So we had a picnic table and tied in an old storage building. It was my wife and I and four millennials, people right out of college that said, we believe in you guys we’re going to do it. And we literally for months tried to get the community to buy into what we were doing about baseball being more like entertainment. And no one believed in us. I mean, we sold one season ticket in the first two months, there was no revenue, nothing. And it got to a point in January that I got a phone call on Friday evening at four forty five and we had overdrafted our account and we had no money left. And it was that point, my wife and I, we decided we had to sell our house and empty out our savings account and go all in to save the Savannah team. And that was just two years ago in January. And so we went all in and everything changed from there. But going

Henry Lopez (11:50):

Back to the Grizzlies, when you bought that, you mentioned you got financing. Were you able to get that financing? Is the stadium and the land part of it or what was it that got you The financing meaning,

Jesse Cole (12:03):

No, go ahead. I’m sorry. Basically in the way it works in almost all ballparks and arenas, they’re owned by the city. So the city owned it. So we were just buying the team and buying the assets. Basically the success that we had built is what we were buying. So I was fortunate to do owner financing with the previous owner and take on a serious amount of debt. That’s what happened back in 2014.

Henry Lopez (12:24):

Yeah, that makes more sense. And then did you have a good chunk of cash by that point to put in, or was it a percent finance? Zero. That’s what I figured. Did you bring in investors or he was able to finance the entire thing or tell me about that.

Jesse Cole (12:41):

He was amazing and another great mentor, he just financed the whole thing because he knew we built it from a team losing hundreds of thousands of dollars to growing and successful. So he financed the whole thing, took on a ton of debt and just started making payments annually on that. So the same thing coming to Savannah. We took on another huge amount of debt to buy the expansion franchise.

Henry Lopez (13:01):

What do you think you believed in this so much that you were willing to sacrifice then your personal finances, selling your house, all of that. Why do you think that is? Why did you do that?

Jesse Cole (13:12):

To go all in, you have to have an unbelievable amount of belief. And our belief came in the fact that we saw what happened in Gastonia. We saw an old ballpark that was in the fifties and 4,000 people showing up. We were getting hugs when people left the stadium and say, I’ve never had so much fun. We literally had a gentleman, I’ll never forget, a big gentleman come up to me after a game. And he gave me this huge hug and he said, my mother and I haven’t talked for years, but she came out to a game and she said it was the most fun she’s ever had, watching the players dance, watching everything. She comes to every game. And now my mother and I sit together at every game and you’ve brought our relationship back together. And I was like, no, I didn’t do that was on you, Todd.


But what he said, he said, this is what these games are all about. And so I saw it and I was able to feel it every day, the impact that not just a baseball game, the opportunity to bring people together. And so for us, the biggest influence for me has been Simon Sinek, obviously that great video, how great leaders inspire action. It’s not what you do, it’s not how you do, it’s why you do it. And we were driven by that. Every day we would see these fans first moments and people say, we’re seeing something we’ve never seen before. We’re bringing our family together. And I have numerous stories that we share with our staff on that. But when I saw that, I knew that if we could just get people to believe, see what we’re doing and create some attention, then all of a sudden this would be successful. So it was a leap of faith, a huge one. My wife and I was our first year of marriage, and so we had this airbed, there were cockroaches at the place we were staying at after. I mean it was bad, but we had this leap of faith that what we were doing. And you know what, I’m so glad we went through that because it brought all of our staff together and I’ve never seen a culture like what we have now. And that I believe is the biggest reason for our success now.

Henry Lopez (14:41):

Yeah, that’s wonderful. And of course it’s huge that your wife was on your site, she was as bought in as you were, right?

Jesse Cole (14:47):


Henry Lopez (14:48):

Or was maybe she just thought you were crazy, but I love them anyway. Oh,

Jesse Cole (14:51):

She and everyone thinks I’m crazy. There’s no questioning that Henry. I think the reality is what my wife was able to, we got into this business together. She was our director of fun when she first started in the team, and that was her position. And she saw what we were doing. And I think every great success has someone behind supporting them and she’s there every step of the way. So I was very lucky to have her say, you know what? I will live on an air bed. I will sacrifice. I will live on $30 a week trying to eat food, which is not even real food. I’m not even talking about Hot Pockets. I’m talking about that fake stuff at Walmart. That’s what we were doing. But she believed in it and she believed in me, which was really nice.

Henry Lopez (15:26):

Yeah, that’s huge. A great story. Thanks for sharing those details. When you talk to now other types of business owners and your speaking opportunities and engaging with other businesses, I’m sure they look at you. Yeah. But that’s a fun thing. It’s a baseball game. I can see where you do that. How have you seen some of the ways that you’ve helped other normal businesses inject some of that fun and that passion and that enthusiasm so that you do you attract people who want to be there and they create that experience? What are some of those examples where you’ve been able to help other business owners or provide some guidance to other business owners on that?

Jesse Cole (16:01):

Yeah, a hundred percent. Well, the first point I always talk to any company is I say it’s called a mirror moment. And what I say is, what frustrates you about the business? What frustrates you about the industry? What frustrates your customers? I think people don’t think of from that way as a starting point of innovation. What I realized with our business that people were frustrated by how baseball was long, slow and boring, and it needed to be faster and needed to be entertaining. So I start the process by them looking at that, and I started every speech sharing the mirror moments. And when I worked with some companies, I mean to give you a great example, I was working with talking with a company, a construction company, a home builder, and they literally just go through the process and you buy a house and this is a huge house, a huge expenditure and your life, and you buy it.


And they’re like, how can we make the entire experience them from the beginning and what would create that perfect experience for the customers? And so they started crafting up this amazing thing. When you first buy the house, they send you a video with them all celebrating, having this huge signing party with champagne. Then they send you a gift with an iPad and a Yeti cooler and all these things. Then they start sending drone footage of your house being built. They’ve even taken people to have dinner in their home before it’s even built to have a private dinner with their favorite food. And then finally they have a ribbon cut in with a red carpet. And when you buy your house, when you finally close on your house and they have a celebration with champagne and no other home builders are doing that. And I think most people think that they try to do what everyone else is doing. So I always say whatever’s normal, do the exact opposite. And better isn’t different, only is different. So think about what can you do in that experience to be different? And that’s really it. I talk about how to create attention, what we’ve done as far as all these different things as far as videos, timely events, there’s a few criteria we use with that, but mostly it’s the customer experience. It’s that fan first experience and that’s where people jump on and really start putting it into their business.

Henry Lopez (17:47):

That’s fantastic. That’s a tremendous example. And I love Better isn’t different, sorry, I stumbled there. Better Isn’t different, only is different. That’s a huge takeaway there. We struggle as small business owners and we often get into businesses where it’s a me too and we think we’ll be slightly better, but what you’re saying is that’s not enough. And so a mirror moment in this context is about putting yourself in the shoes of your customer or your clients and seeing how you can create only kind of moments, unique moments for them. I get that right?

Jesse Cole (18:25):

Yeah, it’s so easy. I mean, every day I think people get frustrated by certain businesses. You think about you may be calling a bank and you’re put on hold forever and you have to press five to get to this nine to get to this, 11 to get to this. That is a friction point. How do you eliminate that friction point when you go to a restaurant and no one’s there to greet you or take your seat or no one’s even to thank you at the end of a restaurant experience. Look at all those things that people don’t like that are frustrated. And it’s funny because I’m this positive guy, but you actually have to go negative first to be able to create the positive. So that’s where I start with everything and every single business has these friction points, whatever it is, whether you’re a one-on-one consultant, there’s certain things that people don’t like. And I think it’s tough sometimes you might even have to ask people and say, what about this process as friend to friend? Do you not? And if you get open answers, you can really start changing your business and that’s where you make a huge difference.

Henry Lopez (19:11):

Yeah, yeah. I’m with you there. Alright, the book which just came out, find Your Yellow Tux, how to Be Successful By Standing Out. Why did you write this book?

Jesse Cole (19:23):

I’ll never forget the day I was driving into the ballpark, and this was with our team in Gastonia. And I saw bumper to bumper traffic going in a different direction, going all the way into Charlotte. And I’m driving with no traffic and I’m going to work at a ballpark and literally have complete freedom of what I’m doing. And I was blown away. I was like, I’ve been able to create my own path, loving every day, having the time of my life and creating something special to make an impact. And I got the opportunity to speak at an event in New Jersey and they said, what do you want to talk about? And I said, well, you know what? I found my yellow tux. I’d love to share that story. And I gave the speech. It was in front of about 200 financial professionals, accountants, people in finances, people that had nothing to do with baseball, what we’re doing.


And I gave the speech and at the end I was blown away. It was a standing ovation. They said they’ve never had more of an impact on how to really look at their life differently, look at how they can stand out in business. And at that point the people were put in the venue like you got to write a book. And so I put it together, took over a year of writing the process and the response has been tremendous. And it’s interesting, Henry, here’s the crazy thing. I thought this would be for young entrepreneurs. I’m getting a bigger response from actually retired people and older entrepreneurs that say they wish they could go back and do this differently. I’m like, you still can. Don’t give up if you’re retired, have fun with it. So it’s really, I’ve been fortunate that it’s made an impact and basically it’s just going to challenge the way of thinking, don’t live the nine to five, don’t feel like you’re stuck how to get out of that. And that’s where it’s at. And I’ve been fortunate to be able to speak and share the message. The crazy guy in the yellow tuxedo at first, people think I’m even crazy and then at the end they think I’m even crazier. But that’s okay.

Henry Lopez (20:51):

But it’s inspirational. It’s interesting. The people who are retired to give you that feedback, I got to think as they look backward regret and how they didn’t enjoy the journey,

Jesse Cole (21:02):

People regret. People regret the things that they haven’t done. And that’s the thing you don’t really regret. Things that you’ve done, you regret things you haven’t done. So that’s why I say everyone just start. Just do things, try things. I think it’s hilarious. Will Ferrell gave a commencement speech recently, and I joke about this in my speech. The brilliant philosopher Will Ferrell said, keep throwing darts at the dart board. You’ll eventually hit the bullseye. And I think so many people get stuck just doing the same thing over and over and over again and hoping for different results. Try things branch out there. I mean, Henry, you mentioned it yourself. I mean, you’re doing so many things that shiny object syndrome that we all have, but you know one of those things we turn anything that makes more happiness and create much more of an impact than anything. So why not try it? I mean, I’m with you. The one thing is the way to go, but I say you got to try things before you know what your one thing is. Alright,

Henry Lopez (21:46):

So let’s dive in a little bit more now on some of the things you talk about in a book about standing out and getting noticed, especially as we’ve already touched on for the other types of small business owners that are listening who don’t have this great entertainment product that you have. But having said that, I think one of the huge takeaways is that wasn’t what that whole ball game literally and figuratively was all about, right? It wasn’t about that you brought that to it even though a million people told you No, no, no, that’s never been the way it’s done. We’ve never done it that way before. That won’t work in baseball, right? I’m sure you heard that a million times and it’s the same thing. I think people kind of adhere to that. No, that won’t work in my business

Jesse Cole (22:27):

A hundred percent. I think you need to embrace criticism. People play it too safe all the time. And so when we first came out with the name the Savannah Bananas, we were crucified. I mean literally we got so many emails and messages and all over the news, the owners should be thrown out of town. You guys are an embarrassment to this city. You’ll never sell a ticket. You’ll never last mean. And we saved all those. And which is funny, a year later after we sold out all our games, we did a mean tweet video and we actually read all these terrible mean tweets. And which is funny, our director of tickets said, Jesse, almost all of them are seasoned ticket holders now, which is hilarious love. But my point is, if you’re not getting people talking, you have no attention. I says, attention beats marketing.


1000% of the time, for our first four months in Savannah, we were marketing nonstop, but no one cared because we didn’t have the eyes and the ears of the people. So we did something so big that we knew some people weren’t going to like, but now they knew who we are and now we can start building them into our fabric of what we mean about fans first and having fun and being crazy and different. If you don’t have their attention, you have nothing. So we went big and we still continue to go big. I mean, a year ago we offered President Obama when he was no longer the president, an internship with our team, a literally internship where he would be working in the concession stands helping out, and we’d get him a host family. And we did this video and it went viral. And we think about all those opportunities. When can we create some attention? And that’s fun because that fits our brand and we have a full-time videographer on our team. And that’s very rare, especially at a college summer level because we want to continue to share that message and share that story how we’re fun. And it’s what you invest in. So we’ve invested in attention and we’ve invested in our fans first experience.

Henry Lopez (24:01):

And that’s, again, that’s such a huge takeaway for small business owners because what we end up trying to do, we either get paralyzed, we don’t know where to go with marketing or we try to take the shotgun approach, which we don’t have the budget for, and we forget that it’s really about creating attention, delivering a good product. When people come to your ballpark, they have a genuine great experience. Otherwise, otherwise the tension seeking would just be noise and you would get ridiculed. But this reality is when they come, they have this great experience. So that’s got to be there, but you’re able to get so much more from attention than from traditional marketing. Go ahead. I’m sorry

Jesse Cole (24:36):

A hundred percent. No, and I think the great point here. You mentioned budget. Everyone says, well, we can’t do all these crazy things. I’ll tell you outthink, don’t outspend. We had $0, $0 living on an airbed and we just started thinking creatively. And you can think about how can you also use your assets and your resources in a different way. For instance, we trade constantly. When we had no money, we would barter. I mean we would offer tickets and marketing and advertising. I mean literally we get free bananas. My yellow tux gets cleaned every year for free whenever I need it because we just use ways to trade and barter. You just got to be creative. And I think everyone says, I can’t spend, what’s the budget? Do we have 10,000 to do this big event? No, just think a little outside the box. And when you tell people what you’re going to do and involve them, I mean, we had a pig come to our office a couple of weeks ago. Literally we had a pig in our office because a team named themselves the Macon Bacon and we protested them and said, save the pigs, stop Macon bacon. And we had a pig in our office and did a video. The pig cost nothing. The pig, I mean the pig’s owner was happy that they were in a movie. You just think outside the box and people want to be a part of the journey, especially if it’s different.

Henry Lopez (25:38):

Yeah, no, I love it. How do you keep Jesse sometimes from that constant fun and coming up with crazy ideas from crossing a line? There’s a line somewhere, I don’t know where it is because it is a business at the end of the day and you got to generate a profit and you got to pay your salaries and you got to take home a profit. How do you balance that?

Jesse Cole (25:58):

We cross it. I mean, to be honest, a few months ago we came out with Dolce and Banana underwear. Literally most teams, they sell T-shirts and hats. We got tidy whitey with a big banana on the crotch. And we sold that and we did a Dolce banana video with a person dressed up. I mean literally taking the clothes off, showing the underwear in black and white with Italian music, playing just like the Dolce and Cabana commercials and put it out there. Most people laughed. Some people thought we were crazy and that they wouldn’t buy tickets from us. But the reality is we tried it, we had fun with it. And now underwear is still selling. People are buying underwear because it’s different. So we’ve crossed the line. I mean, I’ve stopped games in the middle of the game to shoot movies. Our fans are literally sitting there waiting and we’re shooting a movie with our pitcher, our first basement in the middle of a game.

Jesse Cole (26:41):

We did a Bull Durham scene. So we’re definitely not conventional. I mean, we have a break dancing first base coach in the middle of the game is doing the moonwalk and Michael Jackson dance moves while he’s giving the signs. That’s breaking the rules. But that’s who we are and that’s our brand. So I wish it’d be easy to say to accompany, don’t do that. But we’ve learned from all of it. I think what our fans enjoy, the fact that we’re not playing it safe. That is our brand. That’s who we are. So I wish I could give say the practical advice. How do you balance that? I mean, I think anything that’s dangerous, anything that’s not safe, obviously we don’t play with, but it’s who we are. So we’ll continue to break the rules.

Henry Lopez (27:18):

Yeah, no, I’m with you there. Where I was more wanting to get is how do you draw the line on the serious side of the business, which is that I still have to make a profit. I got to make sure my expenses are in line. I got to make sure people are safe. Not that, like you said, you did the underwear thing and maybe people thought that was tasteless, and so maybe you crossed the line, but you pushed an envelope there, you pushed the border. But how do we balance the fund versus Yeah,

Henry Lopez (27:45):

But the business side of it, how do you keep that so that you’re running the fundamentals and making money and positioning yourself for the future? Do you understand what I’m asking there?

Jesse Cole (27:56):

Yeah, a hundred percent. A hundred percent. And we, I mean we have structure, accountability and urgency we talk about, but the simplistic of everything is fans first. And what we talked about, the biggest change we made is we actually stopped focusing on revenue. This is crazy, but we focus on impact. Most people, young people especially, we have all millennials in our office, you talk about how many dollars tickets we’re selling, all that revenue, it doesn’t matter as much. So we focused on, we know a number that if we impact 200,000 people, they come out to our ballpark. If 50,000 people buy merchandise from our website, we know that will take care of the revenue. So for us, we still have those talks every week. We’re talking about how many people can we impact, the greatest impact for the greatest amount of people. That’s our focus, everything. And then we know once we get that our waiting list, I mean we just put another priority list on sale because the waiting list has become so big. And today we’re measuring, I mean, it’s hundreds and getting into the thousands right away exciting us, getting us going. And that will then for take care of the revenue. So impact first and then the revenue takes care of itself.

Henry Lopez (28:52):

Yeah, that’s perfect. That’s exactly what I was trying to understand. And I can see it now. You have fun, you try different things, but you also have the team focused on these key metrics, these key objectives that are going to make you financially successful so that you can continue delivering this experience.

Jesse Cole (29:10):

A hundred percent. And I will challenge companies to look at and say, stop just looking at dollars, dollars, dollars because dollars don’t mean as much. And if you focus, turn that around and look at people and look at how many people when you start doing that, that motivates our people every day. Wow, can we impact another a thousand people today, 2000 people. And it’s changing. And that’s why I think why we’re selling out every game and the revenue is completely taking care of itself.

Henry Lopez (29:30):

What did the players think initially when you called this thing the bananas? Did they want to play for this team?

Jesse Cole (29:36):

Yeah, there was a lot of question marks. There was a lot of, here’s what happened. They were, so, is this really our team? And they showed up that first day. And not only that, I said, guys, not only is this the name of your team, but we’re going to teach you how to dance right now. And they’re like, what? I’m like, we’re going to learn how to dance. Here’s our choreographed dance instructor because we got to dance every game and they were just blown away. And I go, guys, but in a few hours we’re going to have our fan fest. And that’s just basically, you guys have practice, practice. And we invite the fans if anybody wants to come and I go, you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before. So I teased, I took the guys outside and this was on a fan fest, literally practice.

Jesse Cole (30:10):

There was no game. And there were thousands of people waiting outside to come watch the team practice. I go, guys, this is why this is going to be a different experience in the best summer of your life. And it’s because of you guys. It’s because of you dancing and giving roses to little girls in the game that we do every single game. They deliver roses and being out there and interacting. And I go, most ballparks will play in front of 300, 400, maybe 500 people. You’re going to play in front of 4,000 people every night and your practice is going to have a thousand people. So again, it came back to the impact and we talked about the difference they were making. So at that point, they were all in. They were, what can we do? Whatever we’ll do, they want to be a part of it. And so

Henry Lopez (30:44):

We’ll hold the banana in the picture of you tell us too, right?

Jesse Cole (30:46):

Yeah. And we had them in videos. I mean, we did so many videos with the players. I mean literally we had a practice where they were just practicing with bananas, like taking batting practice with bananas. I mean, we had Dodge Banana where we threw bananas at them in a part of a video. I mean, they were part of the whole experience. But what happened is they’re getting seen on Facebook and on YouTube by thousands of people. So these players are now celebrities. So I think they’ve really embraced what we’re doing here.

Henry Lopez (31:07):

Yeah, that’s fantastic. I would love to have seen their face the first time they saw that crowd, right?

Jesse Cole (31:12):

Yeah. Oh yeah. Shock and disbelief.

Henry Lopez (31:14):

I can imagine. So when I think about that and try to translate to a small business, I had mentioned before we started the show that I have a self-serve frozen yogurt shop. And the way I translate it there is what I’ve seen if we hire the right people and we motivate them correctly, is that when we have a full day and there’s kids and families enjoying the experience and it’s all good and they love the product, everybody feeds off of that, including our employees. Yeah, it’s not at the level of being at a stadium at a bananas game, but it’s the same thing. And I think that’s the takeaway for a small business owner listening, that you can create that kind of excitement and buy-in in just about every business

Jesse Cole (31:52):

And also celebrate all those small wins. And I say dose of recognition every day there should be a dose of recognition where you’re recognizing your people or you’re recognizing a review you got online or something positive and continue to share that over and over with your people and it becomes this contagious drug that everyone’s feeding off. So we do that every day, try to recognize our people.

Henry Lopez (32:10):

You touched on, you have a young staff, millennials working with millennials. You’re a millennial yourself, I believe, right? I’m on the edge.

Henry Lopez (32:18):

On the edge, right on the edge looking in. Tell us about that. Because a lot of us older people like myself, entrepreneurs have challenges with that. And we’re always looking for better ways to motivate and encourage young people to become part of the team and contribute. And so tell us what your insights are on that

Jesse Cole (32:36):

In the baseball business, sports industry as a whole. The is outrageous, and I just read a statistic additionally that wasn’t just the sports business, but overall that the average person under 30 years old leaves a job every 13 months, which is just staggering. And I think it’s because their focus of the company isn’t on their people. So we have had zero turnover, I mean zero. And we’re 22 to 27 years old, and we actually, even this pastor, we let our own people name their own salary and literally come up with their own salary. We have been able to empower our people, our young people, to feel like they’re a part of it and feel ownership. There’s no policies on our staff. You can take time off when you want the hours, and this is crazy. But what happened is you’re treating these people as adults, and I think it’s not, they don’t work for you as a leader.

Jesse Cole (33:19):

You work for your people. What are you doing every day to help them grow? We have a better book club here where we actually pay our people to read and we learn that from Arnie Malim and the great book Worth Doing Wrong. We pay our people to read, we ask them what their goals are every year they put their three goals and we talk about that. How can we help them with their goals? I think owners need to inverse and look at their business differently. And that’s my whole mantra. Don’t just look at literally what your people can do for you. What can you do for them? So we’ve changed that. So every day we’re focusing, I’m walking the office and I learned this from Walt Disney. I talked about walking the park, I’m walking the office and just trying to connect with our people and be there for ’em.

Jesse Cole (33:53):

And for them, it’s just knowing that we’re proud of them. And I think for millennials, letting them know that you’re proud of them and the work they’re doing goes so far. Catch people doing things right. Don’t always catch them doing things wrong. And so I’ve learned this from all my mentors and lessons and it’s been unbelievable. It’s a family. I mean, we take our people and their spouses on cruises every year. I mean, we constantly have dinners and just connect with our people. I’m taking our people to lunch, one-on-one as an owner every week. And it’s just those that matters more. So how are you investing your time as an owner? Are you investing your time focused on your own goals? Are you focused on investing your time on your people’s goals? And that’s kind of what we’ve been able to do and seen success with it.

Henry Lopez (34:32):

That’s fantastic. That’s inspiring. I’d like to dive in a little bit more though and make sure I get it. Especially this concept of name your own salary. So if I’m what I would call an entry level employee, I’ve just started with the organization. I don’t know what that position might entail. Maybe it’s an usher, maybe it’s working concession stands. Are you paying them something above minimum wage? Are you paying them a salary that they name? Tell me a little bit more there.

Jesse Cole (34:57):

Yeah, so it’s all our full-time people. So basically after their first year, they all come together and we say, Hey guys, this is your opportunity. Let’s look at your job. Let’s look at how you can name your salary and also go with the responsibilities and accountability and ownership. And the reason I did this was simple. When I was 24 years old, I was fortunate to double the revenue and I changed the whole team and the trajectory and I worked really hard to do that. And the owner said, Jesse, we’ve never seen the success. What do you think is fair for your salary? And I went back to the drawing board, I was like, oh wow, this is crazy. I’m 24 years old. I had that opportunity. So I started looking at like, all right, well I did this. What if I do this? And I held myself accountable.


So I went to him, I said, I think I can do this this year. So that warrants this type of dollars. And he said, that’s fine. And he gave me that at 24 years old. And it really changed my trajectory in life to feel like an owner at 24. And I thought, if I can get our people to feel like owners at 23, 24, 25, that will make the biggest difference in the business. So to answer your question on the part-time staff, we have a set game salary, which is different. Again, most companies, they have an hourly wage. We have a set game salary, we don’t need to go into the details, but that set game salary is definitely more than minimum wage. We keep it simple. So we keep it very simple with them. And then if they’ve been with us for a few years, we keep up in that and increase in it. I look at it, I’d rather have $10,000 more in our people’s pockets than me at the end of the day because I know that’ll make a bigger difference in their life. So it costs us more, it costs us more to operate, but I also think we draw more revenue. And to put it into perspective, in our first five months since this name year salary for the whole staff, our business is up over 150%. That’s incredible.

Henry Lopez (36:26):

Have you found yet that anybody has been ridiculous or not reasonable in naming their salary? Or do you find that most people that they really put the thought into it like you did when it was offered to you to name your own salary?

Jesse Cole (36:42):

They put a lot of thought into it. But here’s the key where owners can get this wrong. If they don’t have transparency with their staff, if they don’t share where the numbers are, where the revenue, where the growth is, and again, for us, this is only a little bit that we share because we’re focused so much on the impact. So we try not to talk about the dollars much, but we show the big picture of where the staff is. And so they are able to look at that, understand that. And yeah, I mean in the sports industry, people are paid very, very low. And we just didn’t feel comfortable with that. So most people, they did ask for 20%, 25% raises, and we said yes to every single one of them. And the reality is it’s worked out. It was a bet. I talk in my book about taking small bets. It was a small bet for us that may, in the scheme of things in one year cost us a good amount of money. But overall, I don’t think it’s going to hurt us that much. So that’s what we did. It’s crazy for

Henry Lopez (37:27):

Your part-time employees, you’re paying them better than other places would. It’s a fun, passionate environment to be in. What else do you think has helped you achieve this low to zero turnover? What else do you do for the employees that they feel like they’re worthy, they’re taking care of that you give them the feedback? All of those things are critical, right?

Jesse Cole (37:49):

But how much do you know your employees? So I’ll give you an example. Two years ago, Danny who worked for us, he fought for a job. This is when we were struggling. He fought, he worked hard, he was persistent. So we hired him and he worked so hard that first year, he ended up working with every nonprofit church community group. And he ended up raising just fundraising over $50,000 for the community in addition to helping us sell out almost every single game. And I knew Danny’s from Cleveland, Ohio, and my wife and I were like, he’s a diehard Cleveland sports fan, really just diehard, which is tough for him because Cleveland Sports isn’t the best, especially with the Browns. But he was a diehard Indians fan. Him and his dad had that one bond. And last year when the Indians went to the World Series, my wife and I, we looked at each other, we got to do something.

Jesse Cole (38:30):

So we brought the whole staff together and we presented him with a toy airplane. And I said, Danny, this represents how far you’ve come with us, how far you’re going and how you’ve taken everyone with you. And he goes, wow, thanks man. That’s pretty cool. And I go, also, Danny, it represents you’re flying out to game one of the World Series tomorrow to go with your dad. It’s going to be you and your dad. And at that moment, here was the greatest moment. He didn’t believe it. He was in shock. And we have a video of it, but the whole staff started cheering and going nuts, all everyone else. There was no jealousy, there was no envy. Everyone was so happy for Danny and what we were doing that when you create a culture like that, that everyone cares about recognizing people and certain people get certain benefits, we try to take care of them whenever we can.

Jesse Cole (39:10):

It’s those moments that matter most. So we know our people, we know how much the Indians matter to them. We know different things about everyone’s favorite restaurant. I asked the question, if you could eat a one restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be? And you could have it for free. And we know that. So we’re able to really take experiences and get to know their spouses. We send thank yous to their spouses and significant others, and I don’t think we’re doing anything crazy. This is just learning. And you’re going to ask me later what my favorite book is. I know in all your how to, and I’m jumping to that. It’s Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman. And he talks about how he created this with a billion dollar company about just caring for your people. They’re your own kids. And I’ve read that in so many books about that and recognition, and that’s the game changer in business. I’m in a yellow tux and I could talk about being different, crazy and standing out, but care for your people and everything else takes care of itself.

Henry Lopez (39:57):

And in our small businesses, we can do that. We should be able to know everybody and know about them. There’s no excuse there, but we have to want to do that. And I think if we’re, maybe that’s not us. We need to find the right people to work with us or partner with to accomplish that. I’ve always though struggled sometimes with trying not to cross over a line between employee, employer relationship and friends. What do you buy that, do you believe there is no such line? Tell me about your thoughts there.

Jesse Cole (40:30):

I understand that a lot of people feel like there is a line, but I don’t think companies like to talk about the word love either. And we talk about love and we talk about family, and I don’t even do it as much. Our people do. They say this is a family. I mean, it’s crazy. When we interview someone, everyone on our staff interviews them. They spend the entire day with everyone. And I mean, we’re a 15 people, so we’re not a huge business, but from a small business, because if someone joins us, they’re joining the family. So the reality is I’m not worried about crossing lines. I mean, obviously in the sense you got to be careful, but we’re friends. We enjoy each other’s company. What I love more than anything, and seeing millennials send us Snapchats on a Saturday and the whole group is out together singing karaoke, or they’re at the dueling piano bar, I love that because I know how much fun they’re having together. And that’s when you come in Monday morning in the office, it doesn’t feel like you’re coming into work. You’re coming to hang out with your friends. So I don’t think that’s a bad line. But again, we started with all people 22, 23, 24, this is all their first job. We built this. I think it’s tough to make that transition when you have people that are used to other environments. It’s a real change.

Henry Lopez (41:31):

Yeah, that’s a good point. No, that’s great. I mean, that’s why you have the culture that you have and you’ve been able to achieve that. That’s fantastic. Alright, the podcast. What led you to start the podcast and who is it for?

Jesse Cole (41:43):

Yes, the podcast business done differently. When you start a podcast, you always hope to make an impact. For me, I realized I just wanted to continue to learn and look at people that are successful and see how they’re doing things differently. And it’s really taken off. It’s been interesting, like a game show. I ask fun questions. I have people even singing on the show. I mean, it’s like we do at our ballpark. It’s a circus and a business show breaks out. But reality is, for me, it’s been great. I ask about service questions, which I care about. I ask about culture. But really I just want to see how people look at business differently. And even if they’re not, I want to try to hopefully get them to think about business differently because that’s what I believe is successful. So enjoyed it. I’m going to keep rolling with it and rock and rolling with it, but that’s why I do it. Yeah, that’s

Henry Lopez (42:25):

A great show. I enjoyed it as well. Alright, summarize for us. We talked about the book, the podcast you do, speaking engagements. Well, what else? How else do you offer your services and your knowledge with other small business owners and large corporations as well?

Jesse Cole (42:39):

The one focus I think I try to have in a great word, a great book called The One Word by John Gordon. He talks about how new year’s resolutions fail. And I guess this is a good time for this. Almost all year’s resolutions fail, but he talks about how everyone should have one word that they focus on for the year. And we started putting that in our culture. Just focus on one word and hold yourself accountable to that. And so for me this year, my word is inspire. So I keep it very simple to inspire. You need to live an inspirational life. You need to be focused on others, and you need to share your story. So for me, what I’m doing is every day. If I could share it on a show, if I can share with our people, if I can be out speaking and inspire, then saying true to my word, and it keeps it very easy to stay focused so people can go to find your yellow I’m constantly posting things, hopefully to inspire people to think differently and stand out. And obviously the book, find Your Yellow Tux, how to Be Successful by Standing Out.

Henry Lopez (43:28):

So inspiring other people, your team, other people that you come in contact with is a big focus for you. What else do you love about what you do today?

Jesse Cole (43:39):

I love the mornings. I’m a big fan of Miracle Morning and by Hal Elrod. I get up and every morning I read, I run and I write and I do a thank you letter and I get fired up to start the day because I start with the routine, which is focused on others and focused on learning and getting better. So that fires me up. So when I come to work, my staff, it’s funny, they’re like, here comes Jesse, because I come and just high fiving everybody. Let’s get it started. So that gets me excited. And when I’m on a stage, the opportunity to really speak with groups. I love getting on a stage, speaking, sharing our story, throwing out underwear in the crowd and having fun as well. So that’s my thing, and we’ll see where we go with that.

Henry Lopez (44:17):

And we’ve touched on this, but in the book you talk about finding joy and success in everything you do. And I had asked you earlier if that’s always been your personality, is that something you had to learn? And where did that come from for you?

Jesse Cole (44:31):

I think as an only child, I was always, like I said, trying to stand out. But for me, and I think everybody that has some success, you have challenges of self-doubt. And sometimes you question yourself and not every day is perfect. And I go through all that as well. But when I realize when there’s self-doubt and there’s challenges and I feel limitations in what I’m doing, it’s because I start focusing more on myself and not focused on others. So every day I try to literally bring joy by focusing on others. And once I do that, it’s a game changer. Stop worrying about what people think. People are in their own world, they’re thinking about themselves most of the time. Just do what you believe in. And so that’s what I’m trying to do. And it’s still a challenge for me, Henry. I think anybody, when they’re putting themselves out there every day like I am crazily in a yellow tuxedo. I mean, when I go to the airport, I’m going to give a speech, TSA, and everyone looks at me like, what? This guy in a yellow tuxedo. I get checked by so many TSA members wondering what’s going on with this. So it’s very easy to potentially question what you’re doing, but I just laughed. So

Henry Lopez (45:28):

You wear the yellow tuxedo when you’re traveling? Is that what you’re telling us?

Jesse Cole (45:32):

Oh, if I’m going to give a speech, oh yeah, you better believe it. So I was given a speech in Phoenix and I got picked up from the airport and I had to give a speech within the hour. I’m in it rocking and rolling. Oh yeah, it’s bizarre. You should see the looks I get, Henry, it’s wild.

Henry Lopez (45:44):

Does your wife draw a line? We don’t go to dinner with the yellow tux, or does she have any limitations or rules on that?

Jesse Cole (45:50):

Yeah, I try to. It’s like my uniform. So Monday through Friday I’m wearing it and I’m rocking. But on Saturday and Sunday I try to be with the family.

Henry Lopez (45:58):

Are your parents still with us?

Jesse Cole (46:00):

Yes, yes, yes.

Henry Lopez (46:02):

What do they think about all this?

Jesse Cole (46:05):

It’s great. And I say this and what I care so much about is I always want to make my dad proud. And my parents were divorced and I live with my dad and he brought me up. I want to make him proud. And so that’s what I try to think about with our people. I try to tell them that I’m proud of them. So he’s told me he’s unbelievably proud of what we’re doing and what we’re accomplishing. And he’s a part of the journey. He lives in Boston and he and my amazing stepmother, Diane, they travel down here, watch the games, wear the bananas gear, and are huge fans of what we’re doing. So I’m very lucky in what I have.

Henry Lopez (46:35):

Yeah, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Alright, you’ve given us great book, book recommendations. Everybody Matters. Miracle Morning, the One Word. And of course, your book. We’ll have links to all of those on the show notes page for this So be sure to check those out. So we’ll wrap it up here. Now, Jesse, what’s one thing, one or two things that you want us to take away from this conversation?

Jesse Cole (47:01):

Be patient in what you want for yourself, but being patient in how much you give to others, that’s been the game changer for me.

Henry Lopez (47:08):

Where would you like us to go online to find out more about you? About the book, about the baseball teams?

Jesse Cole (47:14):

Find your yellow I’m actually giving away a free chapter from the book. And you can also see us on M-S-N-B-C, see some videos of all the craziness we’re doing. But find your yellow And I love to engage, I think a big thing. I think so many people are afraid to ask questions, reach out to me, LinkedIn or Facebook, just reach out to me if I can help in any way. I love doing that love, hopefully inspiring you to think differently.

Henry Lopez (47:49):

Well, great, Jesse, this has been a fun, engaging, very entertaining, but also a lot of huge takeaways I know for myself on how to apply these things that you’re doing so successfully to my small businesses. So thanks for taking the time to be with me today and for sharing.

Jesse Cole (48:07):

Thank you for what you’re doing to help entrepreneurs and keep standing out, Henry.

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