As Walt Disney once said, “Once you achieved success, don’t stop. Don’t rest on your laurels just yet.” This is the same mindset that the Savannah Bananas tries to emulate as it strives to innovate like the great Disney himself. As the story of Disneyland shows us, Walt kept plussing. He always added something new so that people will come back. He created unforgettable moments and that is what the power of plussing is all about. Join your host, Jesse Cole on how to look for those touchpoints that you can plus. Listen to some of Jesse’s experiences on plussing such as first impressions and last impressions. Listen in if you want to give your customers something to remember.
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The Power Of Plussing
How The Savannah Bananas Innovate Like Disney
It’s the final episode of season four. I am fired up to share one of the best lessons that I’ve learned, not only from the guests this season, but over the years in the sports industry. The lesson that has made such a huge impact on me has been the power of plussing. I’ve learned this from one of my biggest mentors, Walt Disney. As we know this past season, I focused a lot on innovation with some of the greatest innovators in sports and business and then a few episodes on some experts sharing the wisdom behind Walt Disney and how he creates magical experiences. I believe that plussing the experience has been the key to our innovation and fan experience here with the Savannah Bananas. It has become a term that is used daily here.
As many of the people that work directly with me in entertainment and marketing, I am constantly talking about plussing. That is the impact and the legacy of Walt Disney. Any great company that is trying to do things dramatically different and disrupt their industry has to be plussing at a faster degree than everyone else. I’m going to share the power of plussing. I’m going to share how Walt Disney shared this idea, mindset, and the lessons behind Disney and his plussing. I’m going to share how we learned to plus with the Bananas with every aspect of our experience, how we struggled at first, and where our experience was to where it was now by the simple act of plussing. Finally, I’m going to share how you can do it with your business.
I believe that if you are always plussing your experience, you will always stay relevant and most importantly, you will keep making a difference in creating fans. I believe you cannot create new fans if you are not plussing your experience. If someone sees something and it’s the same as it has always been, people are going to look for something new. We crave new experiences, memories, and moments that we can share with others. The only way you can achieve those if you are a business is constantly innovating, reinventing, and plussing the experience.
I want to go back and start with Walt Disney and where this idea came from because no one ever talked about the simple term of plussing until Walt Disney came around and started putting it into his everyday verbiage and what he shared with his cast members and Imagineers. A great quote from Walt, “We have to keep plussing our show. If we ever lose our guests, it will take us ten years to get them back.” That was an optimistic way of Walt looking because if you lose your guests, there are chances you may never get them back. That’s why you have to constantly be plussing.
Walt Disney And Plussing
Here’s a little background and some of the research and books that I’ve read on Walt Disney and plussing. I want to give the premise to where this came from. Sometime during the 1940s, Walt Disney coined this term plussing. He used the word as a verb, an action word. To plus something is simply to improve it, plussing means giving your customers more than what they paid for, more than they expect and then more than you have to give them. It’s easy to understand, but the magic comes in how you do it. Walt was interviewed by a journalist, Pete Martin, in 1956. When he was discussing Disneyland, he said, “The park means a lot to me and that is something that will never be finished. It’s something that I can keep developing, keep plussing and adding to. It’s alive. It will be a living, breathing thing that will need changes.”If your customers ever stopped coming, it'll cost you 10 times that much to get them back. Click To Tweet
The big difference was this is why he became so passionate about Disneyland and creating Disney World in his last years alive. He wasn’t even focusing on the movie-making business or the picture business as he called it because what he said is, “A picture is a thing that once you wrap it up and turn it over to Technicolor, you’re through. Snow White is a dead issue with me. The last picture I finished, the one I wrapped up a few weeks ago, it’s gone. I can’t touch it. There are things in it I don’t like. Why can’t I do anything about it? I wanted something alive, something that could grow, something I could keep plussing with ideas, you see? The park is that. Not only can I add things, but even the trees will keep growing. The thing will get more beautiful every year. As I find what the public likes and when a picture is finished and I put it out, I find out what they like or they don’t like and I have to apply that to some other thing. I can’t change that picture, so that’s why I wanted the park.”
That’s why I feel I’m so fortunate and I think all businesses are fortunate now. You can constantly plus, evolve, and change things. One of my favorite Disney books is Dream It! Do It! by Marty Skylar, who worked directly with Walt Disney for many years. He was talking about a piece titled Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. It was describing the addition of the great moments with Mr. Lincoln to the opera house when they were building that with Disneyland. It ended with these words from Walt Disney. “The way I see it, Disneyland will never be finished. It’s something that we can keep developing and adding to. Motion picture is different. Once it’s wrapped up and sent out to processing, we’re through with it. If there are things that could be improved, we can’t do anything about them anymore. I’ve always wanted to work on something alive, something that keeps growing. We’ve got that in Disneyland.”
You can see in every interview, everywhere he kept repeating and almost a frustration with the movie-picture business because he couldn’t do anything about it, but with Disneyland, the opportunity to plus. Marty ended up writing after that, “I’ve always thought that those lines truly expressed Walt Disney’s vision. His restless spirit of creativity and his enormous pride in what he and his team had already achieved in Disneyland’s first decade. It was also a repledging to the public that as Walt told his Disneyland and Imagineering staffs when celebrating those first ten years, ‘We’re just getting started. Don’t any of you start resting on your laurels.'” That’s something that focused here is it’s so easy to rest on your laurels when you have any success. It’s so easy to say, “We’re doing a great job. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing.” That’s when you start to lose fans. That’s when your business starts to slide when you start not pushing, plussing, experimenting, and testing.
The greatest example of this with Walt is it’s 1959 and they did a $6 million expansion of Tomorrowland. That’s when they started building the Monorail and the Space Mountain. They put in new rides and new everything. That’s when they did the Matterhorn at Disneyland. They were adding so much for $6 million. The park was built for $17 million. You can see they’re putting more than 33% in one year. After the $6 million expansion of Tomorrowland and with attendance at a record-high, Walt wanted to spend another $350,000 on a Christmas parade. The accountants and his top managers strongly advised against it because they saw it was for a parade. It wasn’t even another ride to generate revenue. They were like, “The guests will already be there. No one is expecting it.” Walt rejected all their arguments. He said, “We should do the parade precisely because no one is expecting it. We can’t be satisfied, even though we’ll get the crowds at Christmas time. We’ve always got to give them a little bit more. It will be worth the investment. If they ever stopped coming, it will cost us ten times that much to get them back.”
That right there was plussing to a T. It’s crazy to spend that kind of money on just a Christmas parade. I think about what we do here with the Bananas and the idea of spending $3,500 on something is crazy for me, let alone $350,000, but that’s how Walt thought about everything. That’s why now you have so many raving fans of Disney because you go and see new things that you’ve never seen before. You still have the familiarity as a kid. I remember this a little bit, but it’s even better. I remember when I used to see fireworks as a kid and I was blown away by the fireworks over the castle, but now they have a full picture light show in all the movies showing on the castle with the fireworks behind it. It’s absolutely magical and that’s a series of pluses. There was no way any of that was done years ago, but they have kept plussing. That mindset of Walt has resonated with everyone on their staff.
That’s the power of plussing. I think, “If they ever stopped coming, it will cost ten times that much more to get them back. We’ve always got to give them a little bit more.” I shared that in my book reports on Disney and the two authors I had earlier this season. That was a great point that was made and I think about that constantly. “What are we doing? What are we investing in that people aren’t expecting?” That is plussing from the Walt Disney perspective. I always stayed in that for a little bit, but you got to understand the context to why it matters. It’s not just, “Continuous improvement. Let’s do a little better.” It’s big and one of the reasons why Disney is doing what it’s doing many years after Walt’s death.
Plussing With Dancing
I want to share a practical with the Bananas. I’m giving examples. I’m a learner who learns from examples. I’m going to share a little bit about how we started doing this and putting this mindset of plussing. The first step is to pick one part of your business to plus. It’s very daunting to say, “We’re going to plus every aspect of our business.” I remember when I first started out in 2008 in Gastonia with the worst team in an all-college summer baseball was 200 fans coming to the games and $268 in the bank account that first day. I realized that the area of challenge for us was that we were a low-level baseball team. No one cared about us. No one wanted to come to the games and there was no reason for them to come to the games. I decided I’ll pick one part of the business and I thought entertainment. I go, “We can’t be in the baseball business. We have to be in the entertainment business.”
I always challenged a business to ask that question, “What business are you in or should you be in?” We shouldn’t be in the baseball business. When you’re the lowest-level baseball, good luck competing there. We said, “Let’s compete in the entertainment business.” I chose one area. It was one thing, “Can we try to do and plus a little better?” It was the on-field show. I was like, “Can we put on a better show?” I have to do something that’s going to create attention, be different, test it and try. That one area I chose was the player dance. I said, “We’re going to try a player dance.” We’ve never done it before. Often, plussing sometimes starts with doing something you’ve never done before.
I said, “Let’s do a simple dance, the Jump On It dance.” It’s by Apache. It’s an easy dance to learn. We had a dance instructor come anyways and taught the guys how to do the dance. They did that same dance for probably fifteen straight games to start the 2008 season. It wasn’t plussed at all, but fans enjoyed it and it was the first time the players were dancing. I was like, “Can we do the Cupid Shuffle? That’s another line dance that’s easy to do,” and then they started doing the Cupid Shuffle. I noticed the fans started reacting even more to that. The Gangnam Style song came on and they started doing that dance. We went back and did some old-school Cha-Cha Slide. We started doing it where fans never knew what dance was going to happen.
The reality is it was four basic dances. There was nothing truly special about it, but they were dancing. When we plus is when we brought on our break-dancing coach, we said, “Can you choreograph a new dance every single night that’s not a typical line dance?” I watched as first Darius and now Maceo with the Bananas started teaching these guys unbelievable hip-hop choreography. He was doing Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars, and boy band songs and even started using props, bringing out chairs, and doing Britney Spears. In his last game, they took a risk to plus it and started out a flash mob. They started dancing in the stands and brought it to the field. Being very open, it didn’t work that well because people couldn’t see them, but it was a new idea to plus.
When you look at what the player dance was in 2008 with the Grizzlies and even our first year in Savannah, where they were doing the same generic line dances to where it is now, it’s a plus and a moment where you watch. I’m in the stands. I watch fans. It’s now time for the player dance. You watch everyone focuses because they don’t know what they’re going to do next. That is so key on an experience to create something that fans don’t know what to expect. That sounds crazy, but don’t know what to expect in a good way. People want old surprises only when they’re good surprises and that’s what we try to create. The first step is to try something new and test it. The second step is to plus, add to it a little bit more each time, and push it. Sometimes it won’t work and that means you’re pushing it to the right degree.
Plussing With Bananas
I want to give two more examples here that maybe are more relatable other than a player dance and you’re like, “We can do a player dance at our grocery store or at our heating and cooling company.” It can’t happen. This is something that has been dramatically plus since day one, first impressions, the buying a ticket. We had a basic ticket software when we started. We printed our tickets in-house. There was no color. It was a first Gastonia Grizzlies versus so-and-so and very boring. When we got to Savannah, we plussed it and did a banana-shaped ticket, but the first shape of the tickets, the Bananas came in and they were two inches tall. They were the smallest tickets I’ve ever received. We didn’t check that one off that well. That was a big plus. We thought, “Could that be different?” Big, I use that jokingly. We were tiny, but it was a new plus for us.
The next year, we said, “Could we do scratch-and-sniff banana tickets?” Our team got scratch-and-sniff that smelled like banana tickets. We started plussing that first impression of the ticket that you get and now being open, we need another big plus. We went to digital tickets, which aren’t as sexy and attractive. I want the digital ticket experience to be a plus. That’s an opportunity for us. Our first impression, we said, “What’s the ticket?” To go over before that, the first impression of when you buy a ticket. When you bought a ticket from the Bananas at first, you bought the ticket and get a generic payment confirmation. That was the process. Now, as you buy a ticket, as I’ve shared numerous times, you get a video sent to you. We’ve done different variations of videos of us celebrating, having dances, and running to get your tickets ready. Each year, it’s a different one that we create for you.Plussing starts with doing something that you've never done before. Click To Tweet
We send a playlist of music for you to listen to on your way to the game. That has never happened and that was a new plus. We have the parking penguins out in front and now we added freezie pops for them to pass out to fans coming in. That’s all part of the first impression. We used to have the players pass out programs. We had people in banana costumes and they ripped your tickets. That was an okay first impression, but I knew there could be something more. We dramatically improved and plussed how fans see the show to start the game. We said, “The Bananas, we wouldn’t just open the gates or say welcome and do a countdown. That’s what we did for five straight years.” We thought about, “What are the unique assets that we have? Unique entertainers and performers. How do we use those to create something special?”
We came up with the idea of doing a march. We said, “Could our band play a whole song, march out, and have our players, Banana Nanas, Man-Nanas, and everyone greets fans before the gates open at 5:20?” How we got this idea, ironically, was the rope drop ceremony at the Magic Kingdom. Our whole staff went to Disney right before COVID hit. We surprised our team with it. The rope drop ceremony is a special moment. They have the characters out and make it into a big celebration. We said, “We should do the same.” We thought about all our characters. We started testing this in our Spring Series and Banana Ball and the fans reacted hugely. There were phones up left and right videotaping and people cheering. We did a big Hey Baby dance and opened the gates.
It has been good. Until five games ago, our Director of Entertainment, Zach, says, “We need to mic you up. People can’t hear you when you do the countdown.” They mic me up. We added another plus. Now, people can hear me and then we started adding our players. As soon as the dance finishes, they go and high-five every single person in line. We’re adding in our next game where they’re going to throw Banana balls with our logo on it into the crowd as they make their way out and all these little pluses. The other day, one of our operations interns said, “We got to do the countdown and open up. Shouldn’t our fans run through something and think about high school football running through a banner?” We were like, “That’s good.” Now, we’re looking into banners, “Can our fans run through a banner?” We said, “Shouldn’t we have streamers pop when the countdown finishes?”
It’s like Disneyland. We believe The Savannah Bananas are a living, breathing thing. When you start questioning all these opportunities, say, “That’s a good opening, but how can you plus it?” That’s when you create an experience that I believe is remarkable that people will never stop talking about. That’s what we’re trying to do, create those moments that people will never forget. That’s an example. I’m staying with this a little bit because I think you can lean in on how we focused on one area and we go deep on it. I just shared the opening of the gates. A lot of things happened there. The band plays their music. The players are high-fiving everyone through the line and they are coming in the stadium. The DJ starts playing music while the band gets set up to get ready to play. It’s all this fluid choreographed entrance. There are a lot of ways that we can improve it, but that’s how we do it. We go deep on one area.
It’s so important to share where we started with this pregame because that’s the start of our pregame. I got right here the 2016 script. I’m looking at it and laughing because it’s so different than what it is now. I’m going to share with you the 2016 opening night pregame script, the first game ever here in Banana Land and the first game ever of The Savannah Bananas because you can see the power of plussing just by the differences in the script on opening night to where it is now. The gates would open at 5:30, same time, just gates open. We’d have pregame announcements from 5:50 to 6:30. We’d mix in some other things. At 6:05, we announce the Facebook Fan of the Night, the best-dressed banana, and the best seat in the house. We had a banana eating contest. We did have some kind of entertainment.
We’d announce groups in the attendance at 6:30. At 6:38, we’d have a Little League parade from right field. At 6:43, I’d welcome the fans. At 6:45, we’d have a home run hitter where a little kid would get to hit a home run against the Bananas. At 6:48, we’d have our first pitch of the game. At 6:51, we’d announce the visiting lineup and then at 6:55, we’d announced the Bananas lineup. We’d have the national anthem and then the first pitch. That was it. For some pregame, there’s a good amount going on there. This is six years later. At 5:00, the Bananas’ DJ begins. At 5:25, the Bananas march. At 5:27, Hey Baby. At 5:29:50, the countdown from ten for gates open. At 5:30, gates open. Jesse, Bananas players, and Bananas cast welcome the fans.
At 5:30 to 6:00, the band is playing. At 5:40, fans can sign the fan wall. At 6:00, Shark begins with his opening announcements. At 6:00:30, it’s the Evolution of Grayson, which is our ten-minute tribute to the history of Grayson. At 6:11, Shark does his trivia for fans to win prizes. At 6:15, the Man-Nanas do their intro. At 6:17, we have the Man-Nanas pump up. At 6:19, our Princess Potassia sings through the crowd, Part of Your World, the song by Little Mermaid. At 6:21, Tyler, our host, does his stadium roll call. That goes ten minutes because we meet Bananas fans from the furthest away the best-dressed Banana fans. We have the largest family, which we feed with Garbage Can Nachos. We find out married couples who has been married the longest. That roll call is a lot of fun.
We go down to the field. At 6:31, we have the Man-Nana tryout, where we pick out a Man-Nana for the night. We have the first banana instead of the first pitch. We do Banana Baby. We have our home run hitter at 6:36. At 6:38, we describe Banana Ball. At 6:40, we have our player weigh-ins on the field, which is hilarious. Our president does with a Bruce Buffer, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” At 6:42, we do our parade through the grandstands with the entire cast, throwing beads into the crowd. At 6:48, when that’s done, it goes into the Can’t Stop the Peeling, which is our cast intro on the field. At 6:52, it’s time for Banana Ball, my intro. At 6:52:30, it’s the final countdown by the band on the field. At 6:53, it’s my pump-up where I tell our story to get everyone fired up. At 6:54, the Bananas line up. At 6:57, we have a national anthem. At 6:58 is the play ball all-star. At 6:59, it’s Jump Around where the whole stadium get on jumping around. At 7:00, the game begins.
The funny thing is I noticed there were three pluses from the last game that we’re going to add. We think the first banana is too normal now where they just throw a banana. We’re going to blindfold them and have the fans help them find the banana on the field before they can throw it. That’s a new plus to make something that we think, “We’ve been doing that for a while and it’s boring. Make it a little bit better.” That is the pregame. I went through the details because I wanted to share what plussing can do for an experience. I would argue that might be the most ambitious pregame of any baseball team in the country and maybe in sports.
I can show you it didn’t start like that. It started from us looking at what are those boring and dead-air moments, those moments that we can make a little bit more entertaining. If someone does get here in line, which happens every game at 3:30 to 4:00 that once they’re in the stadium at 5:30, the show begins for them. They don’t wait another hour and a half until our game. They deserve that if they’re waiting three hours in line to get into the ballpark. That’s our obligation to them. They deserve a plus experience. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Your Last Impression
The last example I’ll give is the last impression. This is something that every business can look at, whether you’re a restaurant, retail store, or a company that people can call or order online. Once they receive your service and their experience, what is your last impression? We struggled at this. I don’t think we even had people thanking fans in the first few years in Gastonia. That’s the easiest thing any restaurant in the world can do, have someone to thank you as you walk out. A simple thank you will turn someone’s experience to something special. It shows that you care. We eventually had people thanking, but that was it. In Gastonia and then in Savannah, we had our staff thanking our fans as they left. Over the years, we started saying, “How do we plus this?” We started adding our characters out at the gate and said, “Let’s have our characters to thank our fans.” That’s another touch.
In previous years, we added smores and started serving free smores at the gate, which I thought was a lot of fun. It’s challenging now with the crowds and the mass exodus, but that was something we plussed. We’ve done free popsicles. We’ve had cars be washed while fans were watching the games. We had a mobile carwash come in and wash some cars unexpectedly. All of those were part of the last impression. The biggest addition for us was adding the band, players, and whole staff at the end. These players for us are our superstars for our fans. If they can be directly connecting with them after the game, that’s special. We added a DJ. We all had to offset and go back and forth. Now, we have the band play three openers. The DJ does Cupid Shuffle, where all the players and fans do Cupid Shuffle in the plaza, which is a lot of fun.
We finish with what the players did organically. The band started singing Stand By Me as their last song. As they started singing, it first happened to the last game in Mobile, our premier team playing Banana Ball. The players and cast put their arms around each other and started singing Stand By Me. As that came back to Savannah, all the players joined in and put their arms around each other. The band joined in with them and now our fans and our cast. The night finishes with 100 plus people arms around each other singing Stand By Me. To me, it’s one of the most magical experiences that we have. It sounds so simple, but when you think about what it means, you’ve got all these people together with different backgrounds all over the country coming together. Different players, cast members, musicians, fans, and we’re all in this together.
I think about what we do and why we do it. It’s to bring people together, bring them joy, happiness, and fun, but make them feel like a family that you can escape, let loose, have fun, and be together. The belonging is so important to what we do. That’s how our night finishes. It’s so simple and easy, but that’s the last impression. The few people that do stay until that end of that whole setlist are a part of it. You see them with their cameras up and smiling that they were a part of something special. With that, as I was standing and watching the national anthem, I saw the whole team, band, Banana Nanas, and Man-Nanas. Our whole cast and players were on the first baseline for the national anthem. I thought to myself, “What if they all had their arms around each other? Wouldn’t that be a great start and complemented with the finish? We’re all in this together to start and finish.”
In the last game, we talked to the players and cast. They all had their arms around each other. It was a special moment and a simple plus. For the 4,000 fans watching, they may say, “That’s a nice touch.” If they happen to stay at the end and see it all together, maybe a few will recognize that. It’s more the feeling that we’re all in this together. I wanted to share those pluses with you because that’s how we do it and look at the experience. If you want to create that unforgettable experience, you have to look at every touchpoint and see how you can plus it. It starts with just one.Don't design anything for the first use. Design it for the 20th use. Click To Tweet
Idea Creation Time
The question I always get and come back to is, “How do you come up with these ideas? Not everyone can see that.” I disagree. I believe everyone is creative. If you open your eyes to thinking about ideas, seeing ideas, thinking about fan experience, and thinking about those moments, you will start seeing them. When I sold sponsorship back in the day, I don’t believe in sponsorship because we have zero sponsorship at our stadium. Everywhere I went, I saw billboards, heard radio ads, and saw newspaper ads because I was in a lens of looking for sponsorship ideas every single day. I don’t notice ads anymore, but I notice ideas, performances, and fan experience things because that’s what I look for every day. You have to look for ideas and the key is idea generation. If you want to start plussing, start coming up with ideas on a regular basis.
The one thing that we did here that I started testing and implementing is I’ve always had an idea book for years. I write down ten ideas a day, but that’s not scalable and not how you create a culture of ideas. As we were auditioning, our new Director of Entertainment, as soon as he arrived here in Savannah, I said, “Every day, we are going to come up with ten different ideas based on a theme. We’re going to do it in the morning first thing. We’ll start our idea with the creative juices flowing. I’m going to hold you accountable. You’re going to hold me accountable. We’re going to build them together.” Zach and I have done this for almost two months into the season. We do take off game days. We’re doing now off days.
We come up with a theme, whether it’s like St. Patrick’s Day theme ideas, grandma promotion ideas, kids’ promotion ideas, or Banana Ball attention-getting ideas. Whatever it is, we have a theme that we go in that morning and talk about those ideas. Having that idea partner is key. If you’re running an organization and you might be the general manager or the manager and you have an assistant or someone you work directly with, start doing it with them. Say, “Let’s talk about our first impression. Let’s talk about how people pay for our product. Let’s talk about our website and ways to make our website more fun. Let’s talk about our bathrooms. What can we do with our bathrooms to make them more unique?”
Pick a theme and start coming up with ideas. They won’t be good at first. Zach laughed at me because he said, “This one was hard.” We were doing St. Patrick’s theme ideas and he went, “I only got five. You got all ten.” I went, “Yes, but I’ve been doing it for years. There will be a year or so when you have an assistant or someone on your team and you’ll be coming out with ten every day and they may be coming out with five.” It’s because he’s only been doing it for a month or so. It will be hard at first, but it will be worth it for your customers, fans, and people to give you purpose on creating something that no one has ever seen before that will make a bigger impact. Start coming up with ideas daily, pick a theme for it, come up with an idea partner, and start going over it.
It’s looking at the idea for, “Once you do it, evaluate it.” As I shared with you our pregame script, I have notes all over it because every night after every game, Zach and I usually do 2 to 3 laps and we go over all of our notes. “What can we do to plus?” Not everything needs plussing, but we pick out things. “How can we plus it?” It’s usually 10 to 15 things we look at making better plussing or adjusting. If you start doing something new in your experience, you have to evaluate it. See how your customers and fans react, and then say, “What are we going to do differently?” Our team does pros and grows. That’s something that we talk about, “What are the pros and grows of anything that we do?” That’s a key. I’m going to finish this last episode with a lot of content because that’s what I’m going to do.
Looking For The Details
The next part of how do you do this is the details. You’ve got to look for the details. Even those arms around each other during the national anthem, that’s a little tiny detail, but it matters. I look at Walt Disney. He said, “People will visit this attraction again and again. Each time, they’ll see things they’ve never noticed before.” That was the goal. I was watching the Imagineering Documentary on Disney+, which is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s six episodes. It’s so cool in how they made the parks. It opens the first episode, you see Walt Disney in full color, walking the orange groves and saying this is where he’s going to put Disneyland. It’s fascinating stuff. One of the designers said, “I don’t design anything for the first ride. I design it for the twentieth ride.” You start thinking what is appealing that I want to ride on it twenty times. He would think about the details.
If you’ve ridden Pirates of the Caribbean, you notice something different almost every time you ride it. What makes those rides so great is that you can always see something different. How do you look at those details of your experience? There was a great story about when Art Linkletter met Disney for the first time. It was at a press conference for Fantasia. Walt was there early before everyone else and he was rearranging all the chairs. Art asked, “Why are you arranging all the chairs?” Walt said, “Because I like things just so.” He was obsessed with the details and where every little chair was on how they would see the press conference and his presentation. It mattered that much. The details were key for Disney.
I believe another lesson from Disney is, “Everything speaks.” This is from Dennis Snow, a past guest on the show in season three. He said, “Everything speaks.” That’s why we have yellow bases. That took three years. We always had white bases. “Why would we have white bases? We need yellow bases.” That’s why we have yellow bats. That’s why we’re looking into custom yellow baseballs. That’s why we want to build a yellow brick road around our entire stadium where people can walk and experience the Bananas. That’s why the details matter. We had a food and beverage operation consultant come in and he went to Emily. He didn’t tell me. He said, “The dress matters for everyone. Jesse has ink stains on his yellow tuxedo.”
Learn How To Be Embarrassed
It’s true. I’ve worn these tuxedos for a long time and they have some ink stains. He went, “That’s not the look.” He was spot-on. I found a way to get another yellow tuxedo that wasn’t falling apart and put it on the last game because the details matter. That is important in plussing. Everything speaks. If you want to plus, you got to look at the littlest details. They all matter. Here’s another little lesson. Be embarrassed. If you aren’t embarrassed with your first product or experience, you waited too long. As I was looking at that script from 2016, I was embarrassed. I went, “People must have been so bored to sitting there listening to boring announcements and music, waiting for the game.” I was embarrassed by our videos. If you think about some of the videos we did in our first few years, they were not that good. That means that we are constantly plussing and starting in getting better.
You don’t know anything until you do something. You don’t learn until you start putting it out. I was very embarrassed by most of the things we did in the first year, if you look back on them now. That means that you’ve created a culture of plussing. When I look back now one of the Bananas, not only was the show a lot more boring, but the way we did concessions was a disaster. I’ve shared that we couldn’t serve food. We had to cook so much food earlier. It wasn’t as fresh as we’d like it. People would wait for food and be sitting there for 2 or 3 hours. It was not the way to serve, but then a consultant came and helped us to put drinks first so people could put a drink in their hand and went and take 4 or 5 burgers, so we’d be out of food quicker. Stanchion was set up and flow. We looked at everything.
I’ve always focused on the show in the entertainment, but because we’ve built that culture of plussing the show, we’ve looked at every aspect of our business. The merchandise store and the way we had done merchandise, everything was shipped out of a regular USPS package. Now, it’s all yellow custom boxes, yellow delivered fresh stamps, yellow toilet paper, a custom letter, and a free koozie free decal. That didn’t happen in the first year. That happened in the 3rd or 4th year. We keep trying to improve it. Even in our merchant store, Jared was to sharing me. I spoke with our president. I said, “Jared, tell me more instances of plussing.” He went, “Think about the merch store. We always had a store with a counter and two registers because that’s the way it always was. That’s the way it had to be. If you think about any type of store, you always have a counter and registers. We never thought differently.”Nothing has a finish line. Nothing is ever done. Look for ways how you can plus it. Click To Tweet
We went to Paducah Bank. We were giving a keynote there and a workshop. They eliminated that belly-up counter system so they could have more interaction and connection with more people and they wanted no barriers. This was a bank doing it. We said, “Why don’t we eliminate it?” We got rid of it. Now, we have so much more interaction and better experience for our customers. It results in much better business. We do a lot more sales because we looked at that. Out front, we added a farmers’ market feel for selling more banana store and lighting. The reality is the customers’ expectations are increasing every single day. If they see your product one day and they see the same thing the next day, it’s a lesser experience. You have to look at that plussing.
Building It Into Culture
Jared, our President, as I talked to him, he went, “Most teams see the opening day as the finish line. They get to the opening day. Everything is ready and now we cruise through the season. Nothing has a finish line. Nothing is done. How can it be better? How can it be plussed? I believe the next game will always be the best experience that we’ve ever put on. Tomorrow night will be the best experience. I’m not saying last night was the worst experience, but it better be better the next night.” That’s how you plus and improve. I want to finish here with some ideas on how you can teach and build this into your culture and how we’re learning how to do it. If you want to create a business that’s different, innovative, and creates fans every day, plussing is the key, but you got to create a culture to do it.
How do you do it? Number one, you get in the fans’ shoes, your customers’ shoes. I’ve talked about this at length in previous episodes. The reason we do undercover a fan every single night is because we want to park, walk in, sit, and eat with the fans. We want to feel all the frustrations and potential friction points. We want to know what it’s like to be a fan. If you want to plus the experience, you have to put yourself in your fans’ shoes. Walt Disney said before he died, “Whenever I go on a ride, I always ask, ‘What’s wrong with this thing? How can it be improved?'” That’s the definition of plussing. He put himself in his guests’ shoes and figured out how he could get it better.
Next, go to where your fans or customers are. If you want to plus an experience, don’t plus it from your office, boardroom, conference room, or house. Plus, it from where your customers experience it. Jared and I, our merchant director Lizzy, and our team were talking about our merchandise in the office. Jared went, “Let’s go into the store.” We went into the store and started asking questions. “We’re low on inventory. Why do we have the same sizes covering the space?” I was like, “So we can fill it up.” That didn’t make sense because we were there and seeing it. We realized that a fan would go over there and say they want a bunch of these hats, but all we had was extra smalls of that hat. It’s those little things that we had to be there. We had to see, “This umbrella rack is blocking a pathway. That’s not good for a fan experience. Might as well have it outside and the merch stand outside anyways because that’s where the rain is happening.”
It’s these little details, but we had to meet. We couldn’t just talk about how to plus the experience until we got in that space. If you want to make your parking lot better, walk out of your parking lot. If you want to make your waiting room better, have the meeting in the waiting room. Go to where your fans are. Next, the third step on how you teach and build this into your culture is to shorten the feedback loop. It’s so key. Many companies have your annual review or quarterly review. It should be nightly reviews or daily reviews in regards to your customer experience. Not only do we go over the pros and grows from our teammate who went undercover, but every night after every game, Zach and I do laps around the field. We talk about all the areas that we can improve and how to get better.
How do you shorten that feedback loop? If you see something, don’t wait until the next day. “Let’s get it and move forward.” That’s how you start innovating faster and speed is everything these days, especially with customers’ expectations. Next, bring on outsiders. This was tough for me. We’re all proud of what we do and might have too much pride. We started bringing on some new consultants, especially in food and bev operations and staffing and people because we don’t know that. We just figured it out and still figuring out. Bring on some experts and invest in them. They will see your blind spots. Often, we don’t see those things like, “That makes sense. Why don’t we ever think of that?” We didn’t know any better. That’s important. If you want to figure out how to plus more, bring on some experts, people that know special areas better than you do.
Finally, go deep on one area. Pick one area. It is very daunting. I’ve talked about from first impressions to last impressions, to the show to concessions, to merchandise. You can plus every aspect of your business. Go deep on the one area that you think might matter most right now. For us, in the beginning, baseball was too boring and fans weren’t coming to the games. If we wanted fans to even talk about us, we had to plus the entertainment, so we went deep. The pregame was something we went deep in 2021. In the pregame, that an hour-and-a-half show was so important because I can visualize and picture fans sitting, having their burger, and waiting for the game to start. That’s a time to entertain them. We went deep on that and kept pushing the limits on what we could do.
That is where I want to leave us. I know it’s a serious show from the crazy guy in the yellow tuxedo, but it’s important. It matters. You can plus every aspect of your customers’ experience, employees’ experience, and teammates’ experience. Once you start thinking about plussing, you will never stop. That’s why you will never become irrelevant. You will always stay relevant, but not only that, you will be able to make a difference and an impact because you are continuing to plus. To finish out season four, I want to encourage everybody to start doing, learning, plussing, and creating some more fans. Thank you guys for all the support. It has been a fun season. It has been crazy. I’ve done this show now for four years. It has probably been the best learning experience of my life. I hope you guys keep learning. We’ll see you soon in season five.
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