Despite the restriction on baseball games amid the COVID-19 scare, the Savannah Bananas managed to become the most profitable team in 2020. Jesse Cole gives all the credit for this win to one thing: their decision to put steroids on their idea generation process. He shares how they reduced expenses, even with zero revenue and without kicking out team members, by going beyond the games and empowering their merchandise. They tried the craziest things to keep fans entertained and engaged, from starting a Facebook subscription to building a drive-thru for their Slippery Bananas drink. Jesse also shares the strategies their team utilizes to keep the ideas flowing and the momentum going, with reading books being their number one activity.
Listen to the podcast here:
Bonus #2 How To Pivot To Profit – Savannah Bananas Long-Term Lessons From 2020
I am back for another solo session. I am fired up to go back to 2020, reflect on the lessons that I’ve learned for myself, for our team, working not just with the Bananas but other businesses. There is much to take from 2020. Many people and companies are trying to run past, get away from 2020, get into 2021, get into 2022 when things “go back to normal.” Looking back on 2020, there are many lessons to be learned. I can say that in 2020 everything that happened was the best thing for our business by far because of what it built in our team, the resiliency, the grit, the persistence and the way it brought us together.
That needs to be highlighted. I’m going to share a few of the crazy lessons that we learned in 2020. The one question that I get asked for more business leaders than any other, every single virtual keynote I do on a podcast Q&A, I get asked a form of this question. I’m going to answer it a little bit more in-depth. Next, I’m going to go into some of the lessons that I’ve learned, which have been absolute game-changers. I haven’t thought about them as much. I’ve had some great mentors that have shared their lessons through this, which has helped me tremendously. Finally, I’m going to what’s next? We have a big announcement.
It’s something in February that will be coming that is going to combine a lot of effort from the Bananas, myself and all of our fans. It’s going to be a completely new way of doing things where I’m going to work together with you guys reading and everyone that I interact with to create something special. I’m going to tease that a little bit at the end, get mentally prepared for what’s to come. That’s going to be the show now. We need to start in 2020. I’m going to keep focusing on 2020. My goal as a leader is to continue to bring it up and bring up the lessons because of what happened and how we responded to it. That’s the key for the greatest leaders. We all have challenges and adversities but how we respond to them is the real true test of a leader.
State Of The Bananas
First, let’s go into the Bananas and the state of the Bananas. I am hands-on with this team. It’s my baby. I love it. I try to see everything and be the best leader I can for our team. I’ve learned a lot from the industry. Looking at the Bananas as a whole in 2020, we were a sports team. It’s still our sports team, more in the entertainment business but the reality is a majority of our revenue was based on live events, bringing people together, when you look at what happened in 2020 in the sports industry, that shut down for most teams.
When I was told, at the end of 2020, by our accountant that, “Jesse, I don’t know how you guys did it but you were profitable this year,” I was blown away, “What do you mean? You’re the owner of the team, you should know all that.” I’ve tried not to focus on the revenue as much. I’ve tried to focus on the strategy, the plans, the people and I knew that we were okay. I knew I wasn’t having to go into my pocket and put money into the team. To find out that we were profitable, he said, “You may be the only sports team in the country,” and that may have been the case for 2020 because it was challenging.
The reality is we still took a seven-figure hit to our business from our top line but we found a way to eek a little bit of profit. I don’t like talking about profit. I liked talking about impact. There are some lessons to be learned there because, in the sports industry, it couldn’t have gone any worse. There are a lot of industries in 2020 that shut down. Some are thriving. It’s fun to watch those but a lot got shut down. The event business was one of them.
I want to put a little perspective on where we were to what happened and how we did that because I know there are some lessons that hopefully we can grab from that and run away. Prior to 2020, we had four straight seasons in the Bananas and fortunate to sell out every single game. Around 125,000 fans per year, including playoff games and everything that we would play. In 2020, we had to cut our capacity in half. We were selling about 2,000 tickets a night but only 1,000 to 1,300 fans were showing up because, in the middle of a pandemic, that was their decision.[bctt tweet=”Responding to challenges and adversities is the true test of a leader.” username=””]
It went from 120,000 fans to only 40,000 fans. You’re cutting people in your stadium by a third. Prior to the season, we eliminated all of our sponsorship at the stadium. We went ad-free at the ballpark with zero banners, zero ads, zero program ads, which completely decreased a dramatic amount of revenue. We also didn’t have any concerts. We had some big concerts. Morgan Wallen was sold out in April with 5,000 people. We’ve had Kane Brown in the past, Luke Combs and Jon Pardi, those were eliminated. We had a giant amount of revenue that was gone.
When this hit us in March 2020 and we realized that this was starting to happen, the first step that we did, and I know many businesses did this, is we called every single vendor that we had and asked for help. Since we started Savannah, we’ve paid everyone on time. We paid early for almost everybody. We asked, “Can we have some help?” It was amazing. Every single vendor said, “Yes.” I remember some vendors even waived payments for us and said, “We got you guys covered. Don’t worry about this. You don’t have to pay this month.”
We started calling, myself, our director of finance, my wife, Emily, our president, Jared. It was like every day we were feeling like we were making sales and wins because they’re going to cut this in half for us. They’re going to push this until July 2020. They’re going to move this for everything from our phone service to our car leases, to talking to the league about their payments, we got a refund there, to the internet, to all of our food vendors. We looked at every single reoccurring bill and did this.
I don’t know if we ever did that in the previous years but we did now because there were no other options for us. We were running out of runway with zero ticket revenue coming in, zero sponsored revenue, which was a hard decision but all of that. We started making those calls and it helped tremendously. I remember T-Mobile, we almost saved $2,000 on T-Mobile, which is substantial. The first step is, how can you cut all your expenses? We did that without changing one of our teammates, our staff members’ pay.
On our first day, when we had to stay at home, my wife and I addressed that, “Guys, you’re all safe. No one salary is changing. We’ll find a way.” They believed us because years prior to that when we were struggling, we ran out of money, Emily and I sold our house. We emptied our savings account. We were not paying ourselves but we weren’t going to let our people go through that because we wanted them to know that they are safe with us.
We didn’t know all the answers but we said, “We’re going to try to cut every other cost we can but not cut our people in any way.” We stayed true to that. We got our expenses down but still with zero revenue, we had to start finding new ways. The next area we dove in on as a team, we said, “What are the new opportunities for revenue?” I remember two weeks into the stay at home, everyone working remote, it was our director of operations, who was with us for a few years, at that point, he said, “We have a bunch of liquor in our closet.” I go, “What are you talking about?”
He goes, “We’ve got a bunch of liquor in our closet. Slippery Bananas are our most popular drink. Why don’t we start doing a drive-through?” I said, “Jonathan, is that even legal?” He said, “Yeah, there’s a new law in Georgia because bars and breweries are struggling, they can do to-go drinks. Let’s do it.” We found a way. We made the liquor in mason jars. We bought it in bulk. We were buying at Sam’s Club and buying at Walmart to get mason jars. We did 100 mason jars the first Thursday. The first car was in line hours early and sold out. It went to 250 the next Thursday and sold out in 25 minutes. It went to 500 the next Thursday and that sold out. That all happened before the shelter in place was lifted in Georgia. It wasn’t huge but it brought in some revenue that covered the payroll. It was amazing. That was a new form of revenue but it showed that there was an appetite for something different from us.
The next thing we did, which we didn’t tell many people about because it was done privately, but we filmed an online course for an amazing group at MarketScale at Dallas, Texas. They filmed the Welcome to The Show program with us a few years ago and they want an online course for their clients. They came and filmed an online course and paid us to do it. That drove some new revenue that we never had before. That was huge.
The next biggest one was Bananas Insiders. We started questioning, what are all those things that we can do to entertain our fans? We felt held true to our mission. We developed a $5 subscription model through Facebook, where you could watch all of our games where we vowed to have drones and mic-ed up players, fans getting choose who’s going to pitch and who was going to hit and unique behind the scenes content. We did that.
We built a nice little base between 500 and 750 diehard Bananas fans who wanted to be a part of it. We never would have even thought of doing that in the past but that was, “We need to try to get our games in front of more people.” After the summer and as I mentioned on the first solo session released back on December 25th, 2020, on Christmas, was the Fansgiving Game. We decided we were going to try to see, can we do year-round games?
We hosted a game in November, which was ridiculous. We did a lot of things that were very silly and some bad ideas from myself, my wife and how we decided to starve our fans for 66 minutes and then have a giant feast in honor of the pilgrims. That game sold out in 24 hours. It was social distancing, so a smaller capacity but a huge new form of revenue for us. We announced our One City World Tour. We started selling group tickets to that in 2020, which was a whole new market that we never touched.
Those were the five simple areas of new revenue. That was huge in the scheme of things because none of that revenue existed prior to 2021. It wouldn’t have existed if we didn’t go through the challenges and adversity that we did to start March and April 2020 before our independence season. Finally, was a simple thing and we all do it is to improve your other forms of revenue that you’ve already had, your existing forms of revenue.
We looked at how we could improve every single area. It’s something that we do but we took extra strides in 2020, merchandise, every month we try to do something brand new we’ve never done before. That was huge. At the beginning of 2020, even before the pandemic, with our first-ever 24-hour drop shirt. We sold over 500 of those shirts and the servers shut down because fans were trying to buy them. That made January 2020 one of our biggest months. It’s usually one of our slowest months.
We started doing more timely shirts, Hawaiian shirts. We started doing a shirt that said, “This SHIT with an apostrophe is bananas for 2020.” We made a shirt highlighting the craziness of 2020 and sold it in two days. We started doing all these things, looking at our merch how to make it more unique, more fun and special. We had the impact of the TikTok effect. When you develop 300,000 plus followers on TikTok, new young fans, we had our biggest month ever in July 2020 because we were growing by over 100,000 followers in that month.[bctt tweet=”When you have a better customer experience, you will drive more revenue.” username=””]
Because we were doing new things and a new audience, new people were buying our merchandise. Our merchandise was growing at a higher clip than we’ve ever imagined. That was one big area in the merch and per cap in the stadium. For people outside the industry, you look at every one of your customers and what’s the average potential spend that they have. For us, in 2020, every single ticket was all you can eat. There were no other tickets.
Yet our per cap still went up to $2 per fan, $3 in merch. It’s a little less in the food but $3 in the actual merch at the stadium. We realized it was a better experience because there were fewer people so people could get food quicker. It was that simple. We had started having better signage. I remember we hung beer cans in front of different beer stations, so everyone knew when they were walking up what beers that they have. It’s a simple principle but an old stadium, we started looking at every single station and how do we make it better.
We looked at one station to the ballpark that was generating zero revenue, zero fan interest. We turned it into an alcoholic slushie station, which dominated. Jack and Coke slushies and all these other crazy slushies that people loved. It had finally developed a whole new station and that started developing revenue and making fans happy. Those three things sound typical in any industry. However, we put them on steroids in 2020.
Getting Out Of Your Industry
Number one, how do you lower costs in every area you can without hurting your people or hurting your vendors? We’ve built such a relationship with our vendors and because of our volume and because of where we were going, it didn’t hurt them. It was a short-term work with us. Number two, how do you always look for new revenue? Three, how do you continually look to improve and drive revenue for a better fan experience in every area in every department?
These three steps should be done every year, every quarter, every month, every week. Why did it have to take a potential nonseason and potential huge downfall, struggle and financial loss for us all to have to dig in to do that? That’s my fault as a leader. If you think about that, how are we constantly looking to improve every area, look at new revenue and continue to lower our costs that are not essential? It’s simple. A lot of businesses got into startup mode in 2020 and because they were trying to survive. I don’t like the term “trying to survive” but you thrive by looking at these three areas continually.
I remember a great story by Jim Koch, the founder of Samuel Adams. He was talking about when he first started Samuel Adams Brewery, he was going door to door trying to sell beer. He brought a couple of cases. He was trying to get Sam Adams. This was way back before craft beer wasn’t even a thing. Finally, he met the owner of Kappy’s liquor store in Boston, if I remember it correctly. He was talking to the owner. The owner said, “What if I bought a lot more cases than everyone else?” Jim was like, “Anything?” The owner was like, “Will you give me a better deal?” Jim was like, “If you buy a lot of cases, I’ll get you a better deal.”
He made a deal with Jim Koch of Sam Adams to buy 50 cases if he could get $0.75 off per case. Jim agreed, that was a no-brainer for him. Finally, the owner of Kappy’s liquor store said, “Jim, you don’t understand my business. I have the best prices and expensive rent but I still make more money than all of my competition.” He said, “Young man, I don’t make money when I sell the goods. I make a profit when I buy the goods.” I thought about that. I said to our team always, “We make a profit and have our financial success by how we are able to buy differently than anyone else.”
Often, we always look at what we intend to bring in revenue and in sales, if these many customers buy this. How do you hedge your bets as much as humanly possible? We were forced to do this when we first started Savannah and when our former team in Gastonia, where we had no money, we had to make every barter deal, every trade deal possible. We were able to do that in 2020, even more so by calling every vendor. You make your money when you buy, not when you sell. That was a big learning opportunity for our whole team.
The next lesson with that is the new revenue. I learned from Built to Last, a great book by Jim Collins about 3M, the company that invented Scotch tape and Post-it notes, one of the most innovative companies of our time. They have the 25% rule that they developed. It’s a simple concept. Each division in 3M is expected to generate 25% of its annual sales from new products and services introduced in the previous five years.
A new product experienced service that didn’t even exist five years ago, 25% of their revenue has to come from them. They even up that to 30% and made it every four years. When you look at that, it’s like, “Is the majority of your revenue more than 75%, 70% from the same thing that you’ve been doing for many years or is it something new?” Jon Spoelstra taught me new as a way of life when we look at those new things that we developed in 2020, the Off-Season Games, One City World Tour, Bananas Insider subscription business, Slippery Banana, new products.
We also invented a Banana cream soda, which we had an order of 404 packs and have been selling hundreds of those that didn’t even exist. We didn’t even think about it. It was such a small bet, we were able to spend very little on starting it, launching it, ship it out and see if it works. I challenged as we move into 2021, what are those new areas? When you look a few years from now, how many new products or services or experiences are driving your fan base, your customers and your revenue?
The final lesson from that is continuous improvement. We’ve been talking about revenue here because I’m trying to get a peek behind the scenes on how we were able to be profitable in 2020. When you have a better experience, you drive more revenue. It’s very simple. When you add more value to your customers, to your fans, you drive more revenue. Most companies have different metrics that they’re measuring, sales, revenue, profit, etc.
What if you looked at metrics that matter to your fans, to your customers? What we were able to do this past summer with a lower attendance, so it was easier to an extent but we focused on the speed to order, the speed of delivery. How quickly could our fans get their food? We were looking at how many orders could we process interactions, transactions at each station? How quickly could we take care of them?
By taking care of our fans quicker, making it easier in our merch store, to double our per cap in merchandise, it was very obvious. The merch store wasn’t as packed. It wasn’t a great experience in the past because there were many people in there that it wasn’t comfortable. By adding a whole other station, we had three merch stations in 2020 with third fewer fans. It all works out when you think about how do you make it a better experience, what are those metrics that matter most to your fans?[bctt tweet=”Ideas start with a leadership team obsessed with solving problems in their business.” username=””]
I always spend a lot of time there in 2020 but I feel there are many lessons. I usually talk about fans and customer experience but to dive into the revenue and how revenue growth happened this 2020, it was those three areas. It was a relentless focus on those three areas. It makes me smile to think that it worked out in the end. That we were profitable, even though I’m not focused on profit on a year-end basis, but it does give us the opportunity to be able to do more things for our fans and our people.
That’s 2020 reflection in the past. I shared on the previous solo session, our big vision for 2025. If you haven’t read it, check it out. It is a big picture thinking, which was driven by the book, The Vision Driven Leader by Michael Hyatt. It was inspirational. I’ve never had our team more onboard on where we are going. That was fun. This was a reflection on how the heck was the Bananas profitable in 2020? There you have it. Those were the three reasons.
The Most Asked Question
Now into the question that I get asked more than any other question and it’s not even close. I’ve thought about my answer over the last few years as I got this and started to focus on it as we’re going through this process. The question has been simple, where do we get our ideas from? That’s a question because creativity is something that many say is hard to teach. It’s hard to foster. If you want to come up with new ideas for your fans, new revenue opportunities, new all of this, you need to have ideas. Ideas have been a huge part of our culture.
Where it starts is a leadership team that is obsessed with solving problems in their business. When I think about 99% of our ideas, they come from a potential problem or a challenge that we have in our business. Reed Hastings with Netflix says, “You need to have relentless dissatisfaction,” which sounds terribly depressing and unhappy. I’ve shared before that Walt Disney said, “Whenever I used to go on a ride, I always ask what’s wrong with this thing? How can we improve it?”
You can look at that in a negative way or you can look at that as an opportunity way. For us, if you are constantly satisfied with everything you’re doing, you’re never going to push harder to come up with ideas to make it better. We are not satisfied with the status quo and being in a 1926 older ballpark, with no huge budgets, no digital scoreboards and not tons of sweets at our stadium, not the assets that billion-dollar, multi multimillion-dollar companies have. It’s easy to say, “We’re doing a good job with everything we have,” but then I still picture that first-person coming into our ballpark for their first time and feeling that I had a disservice because we didn’t spend enough time in detail on the experience and every single piece.
That starts the whole idea generation process is looking at every area of your business and start asking, “What are the problems? What are the challenges? What’s holding us back from an amazing experience?” I’m not a huge fan of surveys for fans, surveys for customers. I know some people do hundreds and hundreds of surveys. I don’t think in surveys you get a 100% honest answer. Not everyone does it. It’s very skewed. I am more of the train of thought from Henry Ford. If I ask people what they’d want, they’d say faster horses. I don’t think anybody ever said that they wanted an iPhone, an iPad, an iPod, an Amazon Alexa.
I don’t think anyone ever said that before they came out by asking, what are the problems? What are the challenges? What can your phone not do? Why is this the only way you can listen to music? Why do you have to have a desktop computer? Why can’t it go from a laptop to an iPad? By asking what are those challenges, how do you make them better, is how we come up with an idea. That’s a macro view. For us for 2020, in some of the areas I’ve talked about before, we had challenges and problems.
We had no way to serve our fans. We had inventory in our stadium like alcohol, the Slippery Bananas but we had no way of serving without having games. We said, “How can we serve it differently?” We question, “We have all these fans that now can’t come to our games. How can we show it to them in a different way and make it a remarkable, Bananas Insider?” Why do we not play year-round? Why do we only play for three months a year? If you get hit with a pandemic or get hit with challenges, you’re done for the year, unless you built a model where you can play year-round, that’s where Fansgiving developed.
Asking that question, there’s got to be a better way. When you ask them that there’s got to be a better way, it makes it easy and start asking the question, what if? That’s where the greatest innovation always starts. What are the problems in your industry? What are the problems in each department? What are the problems with how you are serving your customers and your fans? That’s how ideas start. You have to train that and I hate the word train.
I can’t believe I used that, but coach, teach, educate your team on how to be constant, seeking out and falling in love with problems for your customers. That’s why I hate talking about them so much but that’s why Jeff Bezos at Amazon, that’s why they’re doing what they’re doing because they are obsessed with finding a better way. I heard Jeff say in a book, he said, “Today will be the worst day of customer experience for our customers. Every day will be better.” You’re experiencing the worst customer experience for Amazon.
When you think about that, that’s how obsessed that’s how they’re going to get ideas on how to serve people better. Number one, fall in love with the problem. Number two, where do ideas come from? You have to get out of your industry. I am thrilled and honored to be able to speak to a lot of different industries. I don’t speak tons in the sports world. I speak in other industries because they see, “Maybe we can bring something from a sports industry and what they’re doing for the customer experience and not just focus on best practices but focusing on next practices.”
For us, reading has become huge. We have a big library at our stadium. I have a library here at my house, constant reading. First, we started with the BetterBookClub many years ago, where we’d pay our team to read. We still have that going. However, I mostly use it to do book reports so I can remember the lessons that I learned in each book. Now we read books as a team. That has been ten times more powerful because it gets us all on the same page, seeing from the same lens. Many companies do this but a lot of times it’s easy to push this to the side.
“We don’t have time to read.” We don’t have time not to learn from others outside of our industry. In my opinion, when we started in 2020, we started first with reading Nuts!, an old-school book from Kevin and Jackie Freiberg about Southwest Airlines and their story. I know everyone talks about Southwest but they have many correlations to what we’re trying to do, create love, a great experience, have fun and humor. We read that as a team to start in 2020.
We read a book about Virgin and started looking at some of the crazy things they were doing. We read a book about a brewery called BrewDog, which is fascinating. They’re still killing it all over. They’re starting to become global and about the underdog and fighting the macro beer business. Similar to us as an underdog, little small team in Savannah, Georgia fighting the way, MLB and baseball as a whole. It’s still too long, too slow, too boring and still too corporate. That’s what BrewDog was fighting. That brought our team together.[bctt tweet=”If you have a great idea, keep it going.” username=””]
We read The Road to Reinvention by Josh Linkner because we’re constantly thinking about how to reinvent. Finally, as a leadership team, we read The Vision Driven Leader. Those were the five books for the team. Personally, I’m reading 2 or 3 books in between all of those. That’s been huge for us to come up with new ideas because it brings a new lens, a new mindset to see how other industries are doing that we can take things from them and bring them to us.
It’s why we invest in new experiences. It’s why how crazy it was for us on March 1st, 2020, to surprise our team to go to Disneyworld. I’ve spent five days in Disney with our team and their spouses, significant others because we walked through Disney and we got many ideas that other sports teams aren’t doing, but it’s seeing the lens, seeing how they do openings of the park, seeing how they do the impromptu shows, and seeing how they handle the lines and how they have the food stations. That’s the biggest parallel to us.
We got out, going to another sports venue, we went to Disney. We’ve gone to cruise ships before and the same thing. My wife, Emily and I, when I was speaking last year in Vegas, we went to every show, the Blue Man Group but we also saw Absinthe, a cool circus show. We saw all these awesome shows. You better believe I had ten pages of notes because that’s where you can get some of the best ideas. We have to invest our time, our energy to put on a daily basis what am I reading that’s not in my industry, what experience am I having that’s not a typical experience.
Keeping Fans Entertained
It can be going to new restaurants and checking out how restaurants are doing things if you’re in the same business as us. That was huge. The third part of where do ideas come from, Ideapalooza jam sessions have continued to be huge. It’s something we’ve been talking about for years. Even in my first book, Find Your Yellow Tux, it was in that. Ideapalooza is usually on a monthly, bi-monthly basis. We ask ourselves a question something that we want to do, how can we entertain our fans 24/7, 365? What can we do to make our fans want to stay until the end of the game every night?
During the pandemic, we’re at home, how can we entertain our fans digitally? That would be unique. We ask these questions and we ask our team to come up with three different ideas. We have a whole pitch session where everyone pitches, it goes on a whiteboard. We have yes, maybe or needs work. We never skunk ideas or tell them it’s terrible. If it’s a bad idea, we try to figure out how we can make it even worse and start laughing. Something usually comes out of that.
Important, we say, “Who is going to own that idea?” We put initials next to it. We create an idea champion because if you have all these ideas but you have no one owning it, good luck, the idea is forgotten. It was talked about one time back in the day and then you never do it. That’s important for us as we’ve learned to put an idea champion on it. Finally, something I’ve started paying attention to, if you have a great idea, keep it going. It’s not by putting an idea champion. It’s to keep encouraging it.
What I mean by that is, a good friend of mine, amazing author, amazing speaker, Joey Coleman, wrote the book, Never Lose A Customer Again, we connected a few years ago. We spoke at the same stage and I was blown away. It was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. It was all about the first 100 days of getting a customer, how important it is to keep them engaged and to be there for them. If you are there for them for the first 100 days, the percentage of them that leaves are small. He’s noticed that from whether it’s banks, whether it’s cell phone companies, many leave within the first 100 days.
What are you doing for the first 100 days? That same concept applies to ideas. What are the first 100 days of an idea? Maybe it’s the first 100 hours. Maybe we even break it down even more. We talked about an outrageous idea, Bananas Bachelor in a jam session. We were laughing hard. When you start laughing hard, it’s usually onto something. It’s a little risky. It’s a little crazy. You’re scared to do it but you think it could be unbelievable then you know you’re onto something.
We were talking about this whole Bananas Bachelor idea. You could guess where we were going with this. Immediately after the call, I texted our director of video production, who was leading the discussion. I say, “What if we did this?” I started building more “yes-and” and building it up. The next day we texted a little more talking about it. The idea now is building momentum. That’s key, the first 100 days, the first 100 hours after you have a good idea with a team.
If you’re a leader, how can you encourage it more? How can you text and say, “I love where you’re going with this. How can you give me a call? I thought of another idea that could go with this.” Keep building it up. That is the key if you want to see great ideas implemented. I hope that’s more an in-depth answer to the question that I get asked so much. You overall got to work your idea muscle. For the people that work out regularly, I know gyms are different in 2020 but they’re working out at home. They’re going for runs.
If you’re running every day, you’re in much better shape. It’s that simple. It’s easier for you to run. I write down ten ideas every single morning. I’m constantly looking for ideas. I can see a lens of ideas. It’s not, “I’m not that creative.” No, you haven’t been working your creative muscle. You haven’t been working your idea muscle. What will it take this 2021 to write down a few ideas maybe every day, think of a problem that your customers are going through or your team is going through, a problem in your office, a problem with your online experience, the problem with anything and say, “What are some unique ways, unique things we can do?” Start writing it down and then encourage it, keep moving.
Two Quick Things
Finally, start shipping things because you don’t know until you start shipping them. That is the question I get asked the most. Hopefully, that helps. Finish here with two quick things, the lesson that I’ve learned. This lesson hit me right in the gut. We’ve been focused on our vision of where we are going, the 24/7, 365 brands that make an impact daily and hopefully year-round that I hadn’t focused as much on the who of the vision.
I bought the latest Jim Collins book, BE 2.0 (Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0) version. It’s a game-changer. The book is worth gold. Chapter two, where the title is Great Vision Without Great People Is Irrelevant. It’s true in many ways. He always talks about who, before, what. We’ve been focusing so much on the what. We have a great team, an amazing team but maybe we need to spend more time on the who. Jim Collins in the book says, “You need to track the number one metric. What is the number one metric?”
Even before this episode, we talked about how we drove revenue. We talked about some of the ways that we were successful in 2020. He said, “The top metric shouldn’t be sales. It shouldn’t be profitability. It shouldn’t be cashflow. The top metric should be the percentage of key seats on the bus filled with the right people for those seats. Stop and think about what percentage of your key seats do you have filled with the right people? If your answer is less than 90%, you’ve identified your number one priority. To build a truly great company, you’ll need to strive for having 90% of your key seats filled with the right people.” If that’s not a game-changing thought, I don’t know what it is because for us, it’s obvious. We get focused on the strategy, the what, the daily things to keep in front of our fans that often the big picture of the who is not discussed as much. He tells a great story about Jorge Paulo Lemann, who started 3G Capital. They ended up buying Anheuser-Busch, Heinz and Burger King.
Jim Collins worked with his team in the process before they were all doing that. He said, “We have too many good people. I have to give them an opportunity. I have too many great young leaders. I’ve got to get them big things to do.” Never underestimate the power of sustaining momentum. How do you build a team where you have many great people that you have to take on these big moonshots and buy companies like Anheuser-Busch, Burger King and Heinz? What would it take to build a team where you have many good people that you have to jump on every opportunity to be able to take care of them?[bctt tweet=”Never underestimate the power of sustaining momentum.” username=””]
That is the big lesson that I’m going to continue to look at as we build our vision out. How do you hire people and bring on people that are better and smarter than you? Mark Zuckerberg shared that on Facebook, “Hire people that are better and smarter than you and give them opportunities to excel in your organization and to thrive.” That was a big lesson for me. I’m going to keep looking at those opportunities and keep surrounding myself with better people and sharing that need that we might not have the capital or the money to pay someone big-time dollars right now.
As Southwest Airlines started with Herb Kelleher who said, “You’re going to get paid probably half as much as what you would somewhere else in any other airline but the opportunity is huge.” All those people ended up getting paid a lot more than they would have in the other airlines based on the stock options and the success of the company. That might be an option with us. Finally, finish with what’s next. We’re going to have a solo session next in February 2021. We’re going to announce something big. We’re going to be working with the Bananas, working with the fans, working with my readers, everyone in my ecosystem to create something special. I think it’s going to have a big impact.
It’s looking at a way that people have done something in the past and doing a dramatically different, openly transparent, putting everything out there and having fun. My word for 2021 is play. That sounds crazy. It doesn’t sound like a lot of play but for me, it will be fun. It’s a new way of doing something, which always excites me. I’ll be sharing that at the end of February 2021. Finally, one more thing, going into my inner Steve Jobs here, every single Apple talk, he finished with one more thing and it was this big thing to add to his announcement.
I want to finish with energy. I hear that a lot. Energy, it’s contagious. Thanks for bringing energy. Someone asked me, “How do you get energy?” I say, “I do things that give me energy.” If we want to be a great leader, we want to do business differently. We want to make a real impact. You have to have the energy to do it. It’s simple. One of my favorite books ever was The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. You’ve got to bring energy. How do you do it? Do an audit of what you’re doing on a given day. I call it my energy list.
I look at it. I know the things that give me energy are sharing, creating and growing. For instance, this solo session was sharing. It’s also creating something brand new and it’s also growing and learning as I’m going through some of the lessons that I’ve learned. This hits the trifecta for me. What are the things that give you energy? At the end of the day, you feel fired up. At 5:00, you want to do more of it. You’re not exhausted. Most people are exhausted at the end of the day because they’ve been running around doing things that take energy. What things give you energy?
I hope everyone can get started in 2021 by focusing on those things that give them energy, write them down, pay attention to them, do an audit. You’ll look back at the end of 2021 and say, “I made a bigger impact, did more things I ever imagined I would do and I was energized through it all.” That’s where it starts. I hope you have great energy. We’re already kicking off 2021 with a bang. I can’t wait until the next solo session, end of February 2021, for the big announcement. I appreciate you. Thanks for reading. As always, stop standing still, start standing out.
- Solo session – Changing The Game What’s New, What’s Next episode
- Built to Last
- The Vision Driven Leader
- The Road to Reinvention
- Find Your Yellow Tux
- Never Lose A Customer Again
- BE 2.0 (Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0)
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