I recently finished the book Fans First: Change the Game, Break the Rules, & Create an Unforgettable Experience by Jesse Cole. It was a book that was recommended to me by a colleague, and I must say it is an exceptional (and quick) read.
Jesse Cole is the owner of the Savannah Bananas and the book outlines their approach to creating a Fans First philosophy for the organization’s decision-making. If you’re unaware, the Savannah Bananas are an exhibition baseball team based in Savannah, Georgia. Over the past several years, they have risen to national prominence through their zany marketing and on-field antics. They were recently in Des Moines and played to a sell out crowd.
The book begins by saying, “Whatever’s normal, do the exact opposite.” Their entire business arose out of the concept of doing things differently. Through this thinking, they have transformed the game of baseball, from their marketing to the rules of play within the game that they have implemented. Everything the Bananas do is unconventional, and generally speaking, should not work. Sometimes their ideas do not work, but they have a “let’s give it a shot” mentality to nearly every idea, and it has paid off. Money does not drive their decision-making and they have rid themselves of all organizational policies. Rather, their thinking is always “Fans First” and driven by creating a great experience for their guests.
Without giving the entire book away (because I encourage you all to read it), one story stuck with me. The Bananas partnered with a food vendor for a promotion leading up to the game. Ticket buyers could receive a free sandwich prior to entering the game. It all sounded great until some of their staff were implementing a policy (they still had policies at this time) that no food could enter the stadium. As a result, families had to eat outside of the stadium, on curbed concrete in the hot sun, and went home with a poor experience.
This story is one of many in the book that points out how poor experiences can impact the way customers view your business. I am not sure that I am at a place where I can adopt some of their crazy ideas, but the book reminded me of the importance of putting our customers first and to constantly assess how our organization is meeting the needs of our members, investors, and community stakeholders. One of our core values is being customer driven and I certainly hope we live up to that each and every day.
The book touts that “Normal leaders read normal books and get normal results. But if you’re ready to change the game, break the rules, and create your own unforgettable team, then it’s time to go Fans First.” If you’re looking for a book recommendation, I certainly suggest this one and I look forward to talking with anyone who has read it.
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