Innovation in business demands taking risk. It’s uncomfortable. It’s uncertain. But when it’s done right, the opportunity created is a worthwhile reward.
The corporations I keynote are undeniably results driven. No matter if my audience wants to outperform their biggest competitor or even just themselves, it rarely happens by continuing to do things the same way they’ve always done them. There needs to be ingenuity, which can sometimes mean fun.
I’ve worked in sports for 28 years. Of them, 15 have been as a broadcaster for the Kansas City Royals. Some incredibly talented teams were all work and no play. Others lacked what it took to win but had a better time on that field than anyone else. The most successful teams of all managed to do both.
In November, I was joined on my podcast Rounding the Bases by the consummate authority on innovation in business. He’s an entrepreneurial sensation who does things differently to deliver an experience that’s BANANAS.
He has – and this is no exaggeration – transformed America’s pastime into an unforgettable baseball circus known around the world. With new rules, new moves and a new fan experience, he’s taken the game by storm. And done it all while wearing his signature yellow tux.
Jesse Cole is a two-time best-selling author, in-demand speaker and owner of TikTok’s favorite team, The Savannah Bananas. His unprecedented aptitude for fun earned him viral popularity in a way that few things could. But a willingness to take risk – even fail – helped him discover a fan-focused movement that will keep you on the end of your seat, in baseball and in business.
SINGLE: An Innovative Beginning
The Savannah Bananas are on their way to becoming a household name across the country. But it didn’t exactly come easy for the team’s owner, Jesse Cole. In fact, he found his footing on the path to success when the only place for him to go…was up.
“We’ve come a long way in 15 years,” Jesse told me. To give some perspective, today the waitlist for tickets is nearly 500,000 deep. Six years ago, the handful of tickets told to each game afforded him nothing more than an air mattress to sleep on and $30 a week for groceries. Yet still, he was committed to making his team a success.
His plan depended on innovation. In business, it meant eliminating the very things that bothered him as a consumer. In sport, it meant making tradition new. “We gravitate towards what we enjoy, what gives us energy and where we have fun,” he said. “I’m obsessed with making sure that people are having fun and enjoying what they do.”
DOUBLE: Learning to Fail
Innovation in business doesn’t come without failures. When you’re doing things that have never been done before, figuring some of it out as you go comes with the territory. After resolving to take the first step, the pieces begin falling into place. Some of them will work themselves out. Others, inevitably, will not.
Every night, the Bananas pilot about 15 new promotions. Of them, 13 will fail. “When you’re doing more than anyone else, you have to get through the messy to get to the great,” Jesse explained.
All you can eat…failed. Flatulence Fun Night…failed. Slow to Underwear…failed. And so did countless other antics that help create an unforgettable fan experience. “It’s broken down for us a number of times,” he said. “But we learned faster because of it.” Jesse’s willingness to view each of these as opportunities to improve are is what makes him such a skilled innovator.
TRIPLE: Business Done Differently
Major League Baseball isn’t exactly an innovation machine. In fairness, the steady tradition of the game is what made baseball America’s beloved pastime. So when Jesse sent out to build America’s newest favorite game, he decided to take things in a direction they’d never been before.
“We were forced to,” he told me. “There was no playbook. And it was do something different or we are going to fail.” Interestingly, his biggest failure came in Savannah when he approached the business side of the game with traditional tactics. Until one day, he finally said no.
Jesse’s legendary innovation in business will secure his place in history alongside visionaries like P.T. Barnum and Steve Jobs. But his greatest entrepreneurial influence was Walt Disney, who put himself in the customers shoes with every business decision that he made.
“That’s what I do,” he told me. By eliminating things that don’t sit well with him, he is able to deliver something that transcends another night at the ballpark. And it’s working…something he believes more people should strive to do, no matter what business they’re in.
HOME RUN: Idea Innovation
If excellence is what you repeatedly do, the same can be true of innovation in business. Specifically, of Jesse Cole, who has made generating new ideas a part of who he is.
Over the last seven years, he has conceptualized 20,000 of them. And he did it by writing down 10 new ideas every single day, without fail. It’s a practice his team has gotten in on as well. “We come up with more ideas than other other sports entity in the world,” he shared. “And that helps us learn faster.”
When you’re an idea engine, not every one of them can be a success. In fact, the majority of them won’t be. But doing something that’s never been done before means you have no way of knowing what the results are going to be. In Jesse’s case, his endless innovation gave way to something that’s more than a game.
“This is the greatest show in sports,” Jesse said. “This is Banana Ball.”
Learn More About Innovation in Business from Joel
Book Joel Goldberg for your next corporate event. He draws on over 25 years of experience as a sports broadcaster. In addition, he brings unique perspectives and lessons learned from some of the world’s most successful organizations. Whatever your profession, Joel is the keynote speaker who can help your team achieve a championship state of mind.
Joel Goldberg 0:12
Hey everybody welcome in to a another episode of Rounding the Bases. I’ve got a great guest with me today. And before I do that quick shout out to Community America Credit Union and Chief of Staff K.C. Really appreciate the work that they do. Chiefofstaff@kc.com. Let’s talk about kind of baseball, kind of not. The theme today, I believe will be the color yellow. I think that’s probably accurate. If you’ll be watching us on some of the YouTube stuff, you’ll see it. We’re dancing around the bases today with an episode that is bound to be bananas. My guest is an entrepreneurial sensation who does business differently. He has – and this is no exaggeration – transformed America’s pastime into an unforgettable baseball circus known around the world. It’s got new rules, new moves, and a new fan experience that has taken the game by storm. Jesse Cole is a two-time best-selling author, in-demand speaker and owner of TikTok’s favorite team, to say the least. The Savannah Bananas unprecedented aptitude for fun earned him viral popularity in a way that few things have. But a willingness to take risks, even fail, helped him discover a fan-focused movement that will keep you on the edge of your seat in baseball and in business. And I’m thrilled to welcome in the man in the yellow Tux himself. I wondered before we got on, is he going to be in that tux? Of course he is. Every interview I’ve ever seen him in is in that yellow tux. And here is the man himself. Jesse, howare you?
Jesse Cole 1:42
Fantastic. Well done in the intro, my friend. Well done.
Joel Goldberg 1:45
Well, thank you. I’ve got good people as you do as well. Actually, there’s, there’s so much in your story that resonates with me. And it has nothing to do with baseball. Of course, it has everything to do with baseball, but it’s about good teams, good people having fun. There’s so much of what we often miss in every single profession. That is ultimately what you’re trying to do. Right? Entertain people and bring fun to them.
Jesse Cole 2:09
Yeah, 100%. Yeah, you know, I mean, at first I thought I was in the baseball business. And I was a baseball player, I was getting to be a baseball coach, then baseball front office, GM and owner. I’m like, I’m in the baseball business and not for one day, you know? I’m in the entertainment business. And yeah, it’s amazing how they work well together, when you focus on fun. And if you look at the most successful teams at any level, they have more fun than everyone else. And everyone thinks, oh, they’re having fun, because they’re winning. I think they’re having fun that’s leading to winning. And we’ve seen that a lot with what we’re doing. And we’re having more fun than we ever had trying to reimagine the game of baseball.
Joel Goldberg 2:39
I think that’s dead on, because I have covered. I’ve been in sports now for 28 years. 15 with the Royals, and I’ve covered some, some really good teams that didn’t have fun. And I’ve covered some really bad teams that did have fun. I know in the end, whether it’s business, whether it’s baseball, it’s about wins and losses. It’s about results. But I think there’s a direct correlation to what you are saying is that when those groups get along when you have the right team, and you’re seeing that I mean, you know that the ESPN documentary, so perfectly chronicles, not you, not the Bananas, but just everyone that is involved. And it occured to me that in a very short amount of time, you have built this experience for the fans, but also an incredible culture within your organization. And I just, in what I’ve seen, that seemed very intentional on your part.
Jesse Cole 3:28
Well, yeah, it’s it’s many lessons learned. I mean, six, seven years ago, I was sleeping on an air bed, I only sold a handful of tickets, my wife and I had to sell our house and we were grocery shopping on only $30 a week for all of our foods. So go back another eight years before that I started as a GM at 23 years old with only $268 in the team’s bank account with three employees and payroll on Friday after my first day. So, you know, we’ve come a long way in 15 years. And, you know, I think it’s just again, we gravitate toward what we enjoy, what gives us energy and where we have fun. And we first we put ourselves in our fans shoes and our people shoes, you talk about a great culture, like I’m obsessed with making sure that people are having fun and enjoying what they do. And looking at the friction points. I mean, we don’t have any managers, on our staff at all. Because people don’t want to be managed. They want to be led. You know, we were very intentional on every word we use on what we do on our staff. And yeah, from the struggles now to see you know, we’re hiring one or two full time people every single week. We have a waitlist of over 2500 people just to work for us, or work with us, which makes no sense right now. Yes, it’s over 100,000 account, get tickets, but to be 2500 to work with us and shows hopefully, people want to be a part of what we’re doing.
Joel Goldberg 4:34
I think it’s it’s easy for people to say, oh man, they’ve got it all figured out. And yet, this didn’t just happen overnight. Of course it never does for almost anyone. But you talked about the hardships too. And and you speak quite a bit both of you do within that documentary just about the relationship you and your wife had and the chances that you took together to I mean, this is I don’t ask a whole lot of people when they come on the show to tell Talk about their spouses, because it’s an obvious answer. But but in this case, from a business standpoint, I sense that neither one of you could have done this without the support of each other, but also just the different elements that you bring to this, and the sake of the personal sacrifice.
Jesse Cole 5:14
100%. If you look at any great organization, whether it’s in sports or in business, you may have one person that’s out in front, you know, the CEO, the president, the spokesperson, the crazy guy in the yellow tuxedo, you know, they play an important role, but not the most important role. It’s usually the person behind the scenes, it’s usually the person that’s the glue of the franchise, or for us, it’s the heart. And for Emily, yeah, I mean, everything she thinks about is our people, our operation, what’s happening behind the scenes. I’m the promoter, the person that’s, you know, really loves the spokesperson, the ringleader, the ringmaster, whatever you want to call me. But yeah, she makes it happen. And I think every organization has that. Because we can’t do what we do and create the attention and get people want to be a part of it, if it’s going to break down, right? Behind the scenes? And it’s broken down for us numerous times, not because of Emily, just because when you’re doing more than anyone else, you’re you’re you gotta get through the messy to get to the great. And you know, we’ve failed at all you can eat, we failed, we eliminated all of our sponsorship from our stadium, we do 15 new promotions every single night, 13 of them probably fail, we do so much. But we learned faster because of it.
Joel Goldberg 6:17
There are so many lessons in what you’re doing, to me, and innovation. I mean, you love baseball, you grew up with baseball, I know you played college ball, you were a Bat Boy at five years old. I love Fenway Park, by the way, it’s my it’s my favorite stadium of all 30 of them. And so baseball is in your blood. But as you said, you’re in the entertainment industry. But you don’t get to the level of entertainment without the innovation that you have brought to the table, which I’m sure will continue to evolve because innovation always does. And I’m just curious, your take on that? Because change, I think a lot of us like to say we don’t like change. Or, where I live, everybody’s slow to change. As if it’s somehow that’s only true in the place we live. Everybody is slow to change, generally, because it’s uncomfortable, and you have to take risks. And baseball to me and I don’t want to make this and I and I haven’t noticed you doing that your business either. This isn’t a ripping Major League Baseball, but they are one of the slowest institutions to change and, and I think it’s one of their biggest problems. And they’re working on it at a snail’s pace. You didn’t do that. You went a different direction. And it’s a totally different thing than Major League Baseball. But I’m just curious your thoughts on innovation, because I think that most, in general, of us are a little hesitant to take those kinds of chances.
Jesse Cole 7:36
We were forced to, you know, when I was 23 years old, I couldn’t pay myself for the first three months because there was no money in the bank account. When you know, Emily and I bought Savannah, we couldn’t pay ourselves so and we didn’t have any money. We had to sell our house. So you’re forced to. But I think you know, the biggest thing that you know, I saw from when I started is is most people, when they get into the sports industry, whatever it is, they go into the way it’s always been done. You get your phone book, your sponsorship list, you start making phone calls, you start selling tickets, you start doing it in the way it used to always be done. That’s how it happened. That’s how you’re trained. When I took over the team in North Carolina, and then Savannah, there was no playbook. It was we have to do something different or we are going to fail. And we failed the most in Savannah when we did things like everyone else. We were doing social media like everyone else. Marketing it like everyone else. Selling like everyone’s trying to sponsorship. Until we finally said no. And the best lesson I’ve learned from from any person in business has always been Walt Disney. And everyone’s like, Oh, his vision, his vision. Oh, he’s got unbelievable vision. But what he did better than anyone else was he put himself in his guest shoes with every decision he made. And when every theme park operator expert told him he was an idiot for building a castle and doing landscaping and hiring all these people to clean the park and waste their money and only have one entrance. You need to have numerous entrances. He said, No, I want them to come in and feel like a movie. And when they walk in, then they see the castle in the distance. He put himself in the guest shoes every step of the way. And that’s what I do. And I don’t, I, the innovation came from not wanting to create a game where I was bored. I was a baseball guy. I still can’t watch a whole baseball game. I don’t care if it’s playoffs. You sit me down, I can’t do it. And if I can’t watch the whole baseball game, good luck to the average person. And so you have to look at that. And if I hate getting nickeled and dimed, pink ticket fees, and convenience fees, which are the most inconvenient thing in the world. Why would I do that? And if I go to a game, and I hear all these announcements and see all these ads around the stadium, why would we have ads around the stadium? And if I buy a $25 T shirt, and it’s $34.50 because of shipping, and then it gets there three days later? Why would I do that? Get free shipping. So just we just put ourselves in our customers shoes, and I think, I think more people can do that in every business they’re in.
Joel Goldberg 9:50
Yeah, it’s it’s an incredible lesson for anyone from a baseball standpoint. The word that keeps coming up with you guys is fun. And I’ll just tell anyone that’s listening to my podcast here, right? Now that there’s going to be a good chunk, they’re going to say, oh, yeah, the Savannah Bananas. I’ve seen them already. I’m going to see them next year. They’re amazing. There are others that maybe aren’t as aware, all I would tell you is, you know, go to the good old Google or YouTube, or whether you’re a TikTok person or not, just get on TikTok and follow the Savannah, Savannah Bananas, and just watch because you’re just gonna sit there. First off, you’re gonna go down the rabbit hole, and it’ll be a very entertaining rabbit hole, you’re gonna be entertained. The key word is fun. Everything that you’re doing is is fun. I thought about this, as I was thinking about this interview, Jesse, that the longtime General Manager of the team that that I cover, that I work with, the Kansas City Royals, who recently was let go. Dayton Moore, 16, almost 17 years as the GM and most recently the President. But the one thing among the many that he would always say, that stood out to me, and he was a great influence on me, and the importance of culture and people. But he would say to his players, I want you to play the game, the way you did when you were a kid with that, what that childhood innocence. Now, what gets in the way, is the business side, the pressure, the millions of dollars, the fans, you know, on and on and on and on and on, the media, everything. So it’s a lot easier said than done. There is a reason why Salvador Perez, who I think might be in the Hall of Fame one day, and I’ve been with him since day one, when he broke into the league in 2011 is one of the most beloved faces and people in Kansas City, probably number two after Patrick Mahomes. Why? It’s not because of the Gold Gloves and the the World Series and all that. It’s because no matter what he does, he’s always smiling and laughing and having fun. And oftentimes, people can’t even understand him because there’s a bit of an accent being from Venezuela. Doesn’t matter. He’s beloved, because he has fun. And it occurs to me that you have made it your mission, to have every moment of every game with your players and fans be exactly that that childhood innocence of fun.
Jesse Cole 12:03
Yeah. It didn’t start like that, you know, it’s harder by the integration, you know. But many players, they finish their career. And they walk off the field that last time and no one knows. And it’s not the way they envisioned it when they were a kid. Same thing happened to me. I was pitching it. So we were at University of South Carolina, number two in the country. Justin Smoke was the last out. I gotta change up. I felt good to get him out. And I walked up the mound, the coach gave me a hug. And we knew I was going to see Dr. Andrews to get surgery. And when I was done, nobody knew about it. And I think about that. You do something for 20 years of your life, and you just walk off that field. And that’s it. And when we started playing, we just kept playing in a timely manner. It was dinnertime, lunchtime, we just kept playing with our friends. We were playing with our kids, playing with our friends. And I think about that constantly. I want every player to have that opportunity. And, you know, to see what’s happened the last year Jake Peavy. A competitor. A Cy Young Award winner to bring his Gold Glove on the mound and he’s smiling when he’s pitching. To see Eric Burns sliding headfirst into third, see Jonathan Papelbon pitching in a kilt with his World Series trophy right behind the mound, were the biggest competitors ever. I felt so much joy because these guys that I watched growing up, some of the best players in baseball, to see them having fun. And we get to do that every day. People don’t realize the most contagious thing in the world is fun. You know, the challenge is negativity is spreading like crazy these days. On everything. On news and everything else. And so when you can spread that and so when I think about is our umpire, like everyone else know he should talk when he gets a strikeout call. All right, should we have a dance team? Yes. But they should be a senior citizen dance team should instead of a cheerleading team, we should have a male cheerleading team. Instead of just a regular pitcher, we have a pitcher on stilts, that’s the world’s tallest pitcher. You know, we think about all these moments when you’re watching what a normal baseball game would be to smile, to laugh and say I want more of that. And that’s our whole entire business model. We spend $0 on marketing, but we invest everything on the experience to make it fun for our players, our staff, and our fans.
Joel Goldberg 14:05
That’s culture by the way too. And the culture, the fun that goes with that culture, it’s infectious. It brings everyone and it’s not just about the play. It’s about everyone, including your staff. I saw in the documentary where it said that back in 2015 you were you were coming up with 10 ideas a day. Some good, some bad, some in the middle. And that’s, you know, the way he generated a lot of this. It made me think about a guy that I probably learned more about the game of baseball from than any one. Longtime Royals first base coach. He’s, he’s now on like, special assignment type of guy or a special assistant, but his name is Rusty Kuntz. Been around the game forever. And he would tell me that he’d wake up every day at Spring Training, and jot down 10 things that he wanted to learn or 10 things that he had learned the day before and can’t like, I mean, this is a guy that, this is a guy that broke in to the big leagues playing for Tony La Russa in the 70s for the White Sox, actually, in the minor leagues. And, and you know, in his late 60s or 70s, whatever it is, you still try to learn 10 new things a day. And, you know, some work, some don’t. I think it feels like that’s kind of what you did with those ideas. And I’m wondering if that’s still a thing for you?
Jesse Cole 15:12
Oh, geez, yeah. You just heard I started in 2015. So, yeah, so Oh, yeah, I do 10 ideas every single day. I haven’t missed a day. So I’ve come up with 20…20,000 terrible ideas over the last seven years. So yeah, the biggest key for idea creation for me is I have to come up with a theme is for the night before. So I write down the theme idea book. So when I get going right in the morning, I’ve already actually subconsciously thought about it the night before. As I’m going to bed and think about it gets me started. But yeah, 10 ideas every day. And I’m talking to all our players, you know, our players are now starting with ideas every day. And so we are an idea, culture, idea engine. I think we come up more ideas than any sports entity in the world. And we will test more ideas, we will try more ideas. And that helps us learn faster. Again, the key, you know, we don’t know, none of us know the answers. When we’re all, we’re innovating. If you’re playing the same game over and over again, okay, you have an idea of what the results are going to be. But we’re playing a different game, we invented a brand new game, to say the least. And now we’re building a game for what the future generations hopefully will love. We’re not building I always say I got I’m like, This is not your grandpa’s pastime. This is not baseball. This is the greatest show in sports. This is Banana Ball. That’s what we’re building. So we need to have more ideas than anyone else. And yeah, I love it. It’s it gives me energy every day, more ideas.
Joel Goldberg 16:27
But that’s contagious, right? When you’ve got everybody else thinking as well. And we say in baseball all the time. And I still don’t really know why that. You know, wins aren’t contagious, loss are. Everybody in the bullpen is struggling at the same time that’s contagious. Everybody in the lineup is hitting that’s contagious. And I don’t know if that’s true or not. But it would seem to me that if everybody surrounding you, in your work culture, and all of your employees are all trying to come up with new ideas that you’re pushing each other.
Jesse Cole 16:52
Yeah, it’s it’s funny. Ask a lot of people on staff to describe, how you strive Jesse? And they said a cup of coffee has a cup of Jesse when it wakes up in the morning, because I don’t actually, I literally don’t drink coffee at all. And that’s probably a good thing. But yeah, I mean, again, I think what happens a lot, now especially, is that people can sometimes get bored. And if you’re doing the same thing over and over, you can get bored. And I try to keep that, that’s a fear of mine. I never want to be bored. I never want to become the Harlem Globetrotters. I know people refer us to that. I have no interest. I would love to be the Globe Trotters in the 40s, 50s and 60s when they transformed basketball and a beat the Lakers. And they were the, you know, sold 75,000 tickets in Berlin and sold out Madison Square Garden twice in the same day. I would love to be that. But then after a point the reinvention and I want to continue to come up with new things and we want to surround ourselves with ideas. You know, what can we do next? I mean, literally, we’re talking about doing trades middle of the game, you know this coming season like literally one player from other team trades in the middle of the game. See what happens. I talked about putting a bull in the bullpen and a pitcher riding a bull from the bullpen into the mound. Players skydiving to their positions for the starting lineup. I mean, there’s a lot of ideas we haven’t even touched. But that, that gives, that gets us excited. Will it work? Will it happen? Will anybody get hurt? Hopefully not.
Joel Goldberg 18:08
Yeah, well, there’s something to be said about what works. But there’s also something to be said about sticking with it too long. Right? I mean, that’s that’s the problem that so many of us have. That’s the problem that I think Major League Baseball has had. One of my favorite quotes comes from the CEO of H&R Block. He’s out of Kansas City so I’ve had the good fortune of interviewing him on the podcast and getting to know him a lot. Former college baseball player, his name is Jeff Jones. And he said there’s a slippery slope between tradition and irrelevance. And when you stay stuck in the past, he said you have to honor the past, but you can’t stay stuck in the past. And I think that that can be the trap and, you know, to me you guys are obviously going the other direction. What, just out of curiosity, and I don’t know if it was a baseball dream or not growing up. I love talking to people about their dreams growing up as as a young kid and I think the New England area, what what were your dreams?
Jesse Cole 18:55
Oh, it was it was very simple. So my dad had a big job at Bradley’s before he bought a baseball facility. Became a part owner of the South Shore baseball club. And so Bradley was a sponsor of the Red Sox. So that’s how I get to be bat boy. When I was five years old, we went to games went to the bleacher seats were $5. So put that in perspective back in the day. And yeah, I had the dream of getting drafted by the Red Sox and I literally visualized it over and over again. And I think it was like, this was crazy, as in a 42nd round. The Boston Red Sox select right handed pitcher Jesse Cole. And like I pictured myself there. I was like, I’m not a top prospect. And you know, the Giants were at my first game in high school. I had the Braves out against high school and then obviously I had more when I got into college, but never the Red Sox. And that’s why it’s amazing that, you know, the Red Sox called six months ago about us, bringing the banana ball to Fenway. And while we’re staying in touch working on a plan right now to sell out Fenway Park with 35,000 raving crazy maniacs.
Joel Goldberg 19:52
I mean, can you even envision a world where your fans or maybe even your players are hanging on top of the green monster? You probably have envisioned it.
Jesse Cole 20:02
Oh yeah, I envision, I envision 35,000 Banana costumes on every single seat and Fenway in, the whole stadium yellow in banana costumes. I visualize the party animals rappelling down the green monster to surprise the fans to come out and play the Bananas. I mean, I picture our pep band much bigger, you know, 30, 40, 50 people doing a march around the whole stadium. Lansdowne Street in Yankee way, while 1000s of fans feed into a covenant stadium. And, you know, the crazy thing is, that’s all going to happen. Well, at least if they let us do some of that stuff. We’ll see what happens. If we’re allowed to we’ll we’ll make it happen.
Joel Goldberg 20:39
Yeah, there’s gonna be some negotiation there. But, you know, I hope you win every bit of it, because it’ll be one heck of a show. I know, well, the interesting part about this is this just started as a as a summer league team, which you know, very well from I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever played summer league, you’re
Jesse Cole 20:54
Right by the end any CBl and, yeah.
Joel Goldberg 20:57
It’s a huge thing. I mean, this is like, especially the way the minor leagues change now, and less affiliates. And it opened up some doors, and then probably opened up some doors for innovation for a lot of these cities and, and teams that thought we’ve got nothing. Now we don’t have an affiliation. And obviously, you did what you did. But I mean, this started really as, right as a team with kids hoping to sharpen their skills to live their dreams.
Jesse Cole 21:19
Yeah. What’s called Summer team, you know, guys hoping to get drafted. And, you know, luckily, we had more players drafted and won more games than anybody in the league and three championships in our six years. But yeah, that was the starting point. And that was I’m so grateful, we were able to learn there. You know, that’s where we had the breakdancing coach, and the pep band and the banana baby. And we tested all these things. But we still learned fans were leaving early. And that’s why we had to do our biggest test banana ball, which a faster game where fans don’t leave their seats, because they might miss something. That’s the future. And that’s why we’re going all in there.
Joel Goldberg 21:48
I’ll just tell people, if you want to know the rules of banana ball, just go online. They’re all over the place. And it’s incredibly fun and innovative. And, and there’s never a dull moment. And that’s that’s one of the beauties of this. Before I ask you my baseball themed questions, I want to ask you a business question. And it’s a simple one. What is the key and maybe we’ve covered it already. But I think a lot of people can learn from this, what’s the key to scaling a business the way you have?
Jesse Cole 22:12
I never tried to scale business. So to do the scalable unit, you have to do the unscalable first, and everything we do is unscalable. We traveled with 130 people and performers on the road, our pep band or male cheerleading team, our players on stilts, our DJs, our hosts, our two teams. It’s crazy. It makes no sense. But we believe in creating an experience that is unforgettable. And because of that, you know, we’ve now got a waitlist. And, you know, the six figures waiting to buy tickets all over the country when we announced our 33 cities. So I think asking the question how to scale a business is the wrong question. It’s the same question of asking how to how do you drive sales? How do you drive revenue? How do you drive profit? Those are questions that we never asked. A question that we always ask is how do you create fans? I’m not interested in being a billion dollar brand or a billion dollar business. I’m interested in being a billion fan brand. We’re on a march to 1 billion fans. And we’re trying to create one every day. And if you do that everything else will take care of itself.
Joel Goldberg 23:19
Profound. Yeah, it was trending that way. It’s amazing. Three baseball themed questions for you. The first one in terms of your business, your life, wherever you want to go with it. What’s the biggest home run that you’ve hit?
Jesse Cole 23:31
No, it’s my wife, Emily. That’s a no brainer. You know, it’s funny, I would take a second but yes, it’s an I don’t want to be that cliche husband. It’s my wife. It’s my partner. Anybody who knows Emily, and literally I got roasted on my wedding because everyone said like it was, I went way above where I should be going. And I was very fortunate to get her. So she’s my biggest home run by far.
Joel Goldberg 23:53
I would usually push back not not against anybody’s marriage, but because when I started this podcast five years ago, everybody answered their wife and I’m like, Okay, let’s talk business but in your case, it is. Because it’s everything.
Jesse Cole 24:05
Yeah, yes, it’s everything. I mean, again, I could go into my dad, to the way my dad raised me but it is. It is personal. Because from you’re raised and your support system, the way you were raised and your support system, the people around you have the biggest impact on what you end up doing. And I’m fortunate to have a rock and my dad and the heart and the glue and everything in my life.
Joel Goldberg 24:26
If everybody can be so lucky, that’s an amazing thing. How about a swing and a miss? And most people I interview will say well where do I start? But I would think someone like you that is coming up with 10 ideas a day 1000s of ideas you referenced bailing on them, you’re gonna have some swings and misses along the way. What’s the biggest swing and miss you’ve had and what did you learn from it?
Jesse Cole 24:45
Oh, geez, I mean, okay, go flatulence fun night. We could go slow to underwear night. We could go the living Zenyatta. We could go the halftime show. We could go the horse head race this week. I’ve had tons. The I get asked that question a lot about failure, not the biggest one, the biggest failure and I start Because I don’t think that way. I think about how many bats can we get? I want to keep coming up to bat, you know, how about I don’t, I don’t remember if I struck out the last a bat or what would bring me to my next at bat. But I will say the swing and misses that we had had have been when we’ve tried to do too much when we were selling sponsorships that we weren’t good at. When we were doing events like tap in the morning beer festival, a beer festival started at 9am. Because you can’t drink all day, if you don’t start in the morning. Great idea. 94 people showed up. So we eliminated all of our events. So when we were trying to do all these other things, now we are focused everyday on just creating the greatest show in sports. So when biggest swing and misses when I tried to do things that were outside of our sweet spot when we were literally swinging for too many pitches.
Joel Goldberg 25:40
So it’s, I love that. It’s so interesting, too. You can’t, you can’t get there if you don’t take a try. If you don’t try, keep on swinging. The last of the baseball theme question is Small Ball, what I wrote my book on. I don’t need to explain to you what small ball is in the baseball world. But to me, it’s a great metaphor for what makes teams and all industry successful. The little things that add up to the big results. What are what is small ball to you?
Jesse Cole 26:03
Well, you’re talking to a guy who literally eliminated bunts from banana ball. And there’s a rule no bunting, because we believe bunting sucks. And if you bunt you get thrown out of the game. So so I’m not a fan, not a fan of small ball. But I know what you’re saying. I’m a fan of, my dad who told me when I was a kid, just swing hard in case you hit it. And so that’s my mindset with everything, is swing hard in case you hit it. But in regards to the small ball. It’s not small at all. It’s gratitude. And in 2016, I started the thank you experiment. And every day, every morning, I get up and I’d write a thank you letter to someone who’s made an impact in my life. And I’ve now written 1000s of thank you letters, I’ve now transitioned to doing Thank you videos as well. If you can tell someone every single day that you appreciate them, that you care for them that you’re grateful for them, it’ll change your life. And that’s one little small thing someone can do every single day.
Joel Goldberg 26:54
I love that. I’ve had some other people tell me about that and the way it can change your own life and other people’s lives. By the way, remember, small ball is a metaphor, at least in terms of the way I’m using it. All you gonna look back to as we’re recording this again the other night that had a San Diego Padres bunting down in the ninth inning with one out and anyway. We’ll put that one aside. I know there’s a lot of probe on anti-bunt,, but you get the point on the small ball metaphor. And it’s an amazing answer about gratitude. I have four quick final questions for you as we round the bases and wrap it up. The first one is this. Yeah, I don’t have those hypotheticals. If you could go to lunch with three of you could go with it. Okay. If you could go to dinner with Walt Disney, PT Barnum and Bill Beck and invite one more person who would that be?
Jesse Cole 27:43
Oh. That’s so challenging. And here, here’s why. Here’s where I want to tell you where my mind goes. And I know I’m supposed to this really fast.
Joel Goldberg 27:56
You don’t have to.
Jesse Cole 27:56
The businesses that I learned the most from? I look up to the way they do business. But I don’t necessarily look up to the people. So like WWE, obviously, we know the issues with Vince McMahon. Cirque du Soleil, there’s been issues with their founder Bezos. There’s been issues with what the workers, Steve Jobs back in the day. So all those people that I look up to the way they did this, I struggle with it. Oh, geez. Ah, all right. Yes, this is gonna be a crazy one. Dave Matthews. And here’s why. Because one of the most prolific, they are still one of the highest grossing bands, I’m learning so much from them, they learned so much from the Grateful Dead, they have a fan base that won’t stop coming. They have over 100,000 people on their warehouse fan club. And they have built this unbelievable fan base. They don’t need to release CDs. They don’t even use singles. They sell out everywhere, because they do a show that’s very unique, very different. And they’ve been all about their fans since day one. So I’d be intrigued on having him at dinner and maybe play some music to him.
Joel Goldberg 28:53
I was gonna let you go without an answer. Because even what you said was good enough. But that took it to another level. So I love that. That’s really interesting. Second question as we round the bases, and I’m probably the 10,000th person to ask you this, but I’ll do it. Anyway, how many yellow suits?
Jesse Cole 29:09
I knew you were going to go to tuxedos.
Joel Goldberg 29:12
I’m like, Can I can I come up with a better way to ask that?
Jesse Cole 29:16
Yeah, there’s a bunch down there. So you don’t roll out of bed in them. Now that now they’re ready to go when it’s showtime.
Joel Goldberg 29:23
Do you think that do you think that the that the the yellow tuxes, the hat now you think that’s there forever? Or does it maybe change to something else one day?
Jesse Cole 29:31
I’ve got to ask that question when you’re 60, 70, 80 years old. Are you just this old man with a yellow cane?
Joel Goldberg 29:37
Oh, man, I just mean like, if Nothing ever stays the same, then maybe it turns into something else? I don’t know.
Jesse Cole 29:41
Yeah, I mean, I can’t say how it’ll. I’ll say, I say right now this is my uniform when I put this on at Showtime. And that’s, that’s who I am. And there’s a lot of there’s a lot of kids and people paying me for Halloween, which is really weird this year. So I’ll stick with it for a few more years at least see some other funny images of it.
Joel Goldberg 29:57
Yeah, fair enough. Third question is we were on the bases. You mentioned, some of the guys that are they’re starting to get involved in this and some of the former football players as someone that grew up in the game. I mean, to see Jonathan Papelbon on the mound had to been mind blowing for you. What what is, or do you have somebody that you have on your list that you’d love to get him you’re going to start to see a point where all these former big leaguers are gonna want to come because you know that they still want to play the game? They still want to be involved? They love it, they miss it.
Jesse Cole 30:24
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I mean, I grew up it was it was Pedro Martinez. And you know, Manny and Ortiz and those guys that I was watching a lo. Mo Vaughn back when I was even younger as all those Red Sox guys, Ken Griffey, Jr. You know, there’s so many of them I would love to have in their prime. You know, any guy that wants to play for us. I mean, Pebblemom was thrown in the high 80s. You know, Peavy was getting out, you know, Johnny Guns can still swing in and drive, drive balls into the gap. So, Josh Reddick hit a homerun in the game he played for us. So I mean, like these guys, Bill Lee’s getting out to 75 years old, which is amazing. So it would just be a guy that really understands like, I would have loved Ozzie Smith back in the day, Bartolo Cologne, Manny Ramirez. You know, just some of the guys that just knew how to have Sammy Sosa, you know, say what you want, but these guys had fun and they had a flair to the game. That would have been really, really exciting to have played with us.
Joel Goldberg 31:13
Can you get Manny at least to show up for the Fenway Park game and he can be like the honorary bathroom break guy out in the monster.
Jesse Cole 31:20
The monster, you know, Hey, man, he could still man he could probably still swing it a little good. Yeah, and another actually, Royal, Red Sox, Yankee guy reached out the other day we’ve connected with him as well. So there’s that there’s some guys that are getting in those late 40s But they could still swing it a little bit. So we’ll see what happens over the next year or two.
Joel Goldberg 31:37
All right, we’ll see if Johnny Damon is indeed going to be there. It could be anybody else. Johnny Gomez was won a world championship with the Royals as well. Okay, last question. As we round the bases or walk off here, I love asking this question to just people that do inspiring, important moving things. Is there a moment, I’m sure there are many, all you have to do is look at the face of a kid in the stands and see or the adults for that matter how much fun they’re having Is there a moment that pulled at the heartstrings that that gave you that? This is this is exactly where I want to be.
Jesse Cole 32:12
Yeah, there’s a lot of a very emotional stories I could tell. I’ll just share one quick one. That’s how we finish every single night. So we had our one city World Tour back 2021. Yes, we did a one city world tour, we went to Mobile Alabama, sold 7,000 tickets. 24 hours. It was crazy, night finished with the surprise firework show which I like to do once in a while. Greatest showmen soundtracks playing. One of our staff members walks down from the press box sees a mother with their two kids and she has tears coming down her eyes. She’s holding them. It’s really special. I’m running around like you know a kid just won the World Series get out into the front claws. So I want to make sure I say goodbye to every fan I can, to thank every fan. The band’s playing their music, the fans leave the ballpark when the when the fireworks ends, and fans won’t leave. And the bands playing and playing and playing and so I look over and it just the drummer doing a solo. All the trumpets, trombone, saxophones, they’re just they’re exhausted been playing for 45 minutes to an hour. They’re just non stop. And so finally, the trump the tuba player comes out, and he starts playing the opening beats of stand by me. And I watched the rest of the band comes out the players, the cast dancers, the fans, our staff, put their arms around each other organically and start singing Stand By Me. And I remember looking up I said there’s nowhere else in the world this is happening right now. We’re never going to stop. And since that moment and 2021 at end of every night for the fans that stay to the last song. You’ll see all the players, everybody on our team and staff with their fans arms around each other singing Stand By Me. And it is truly truly special.
Joel Goldberg 33:46
That’s beautiful. Among the many special moments. I appreciate you sharing that and, and everything. I know that you’re incredibly busy because there’s no such thing as an offseason when you have a business like this. And it never stops which is a good thing. Congratulations on everything I know so much, much, much more to come whatever that looks like. And I know it’ll be entertaining for everyone. Jesse, thanks for spending the time. Thanks for for all the insight the inspiration and the innovation shared and I really appreciate it.
Jesse Cole 34:17
A lot of fun. Thank you
Transcribed by https://otter.ai