Building upon success — an initiative that can be clouded by complacency and satisfaction — is fraught with challenges. When things are going well, the business is growing, employees are happy, and brand awareness is skyrocketing, new ideas can be risky. And no one wants to be the person whose idea knocks the company off its growth trajectory.
However, when the culture and goals of the business are understood from the top down, these risks and business decisions can all have the same fundamental goal and principle.
For the Savannah Bananas, a minor league baseball team revolutionizing the fan experience so much they’re enshrined in the MLB Hall of Fame, leadership has embraced change. The alterations they are making to their product, just one year after overhauling their business model to generate unprecedented success, are not only another all-in bet on growth. They are also sticking to their fundamental focus as a business — the fan experience.
Putting On The Show
“We know that if we create fantastic live events and fantastic creative content, this all leads to traffic to our pages,” said team president and general manager, Jared Orton. “When we see increased traffic to our [social media] and website, demand goes up. When we have the demand, we have the ability to create more live events. That’s our flywheel.”
Just last week, the team announced new events for the 2024 season. The Bananas will play at Major League Baseball (MLB) ballparks, including owner Jesse Cole’s beloved Red Sox’s home of Fenway Park. After a world tour around some of baseball’s largest stadiums, the team plans to set sail on a banana-themed Norwegian Cruise Line to conclude their 2024 season.
“We know that if we continue to create more fans, there is a dollar amount that comes out of that,” said Orton. “So we use that amount to reinvest back into creating those powerful live events, so it’s a huge focus for us.”
On top of new locations announced for next season, the Bananas have also announced a third team added to the teams that square up with the Bananas on game day. The Firefighters, with their fire red uniforms and mustache-wearing logo, provide even more of a marketing and branding opportunity to an organization whose largest strength is brand recognition.
“We know that if we continue to create more fans, there is a dollar amount that comes out of that. So we use that amount to reinvest back into creating those powerful live events."
President and General Manager, the Savannah Bananas
“Obviously, there’s ancillary revenue that is associated with that in things like merchandise and a bit of food and beverage on the road, but the live event, whether that is adding more teams, doing bigger tours, going international, we’re going to put some of our push into creating bigger and better live events so that flywheel keeps cranking out,” Orton said.
The Need for Financial Communication During Rapid Growth
Tim Naddy, the Bananas’ vice president of finance, manages the numbers of the team with a focal point on doing whatever the company can to leverage the current hot streak of notoriety. While making sure the “ebbs and flows of the cash” align with the companies timetable of growth expectations, Naddy and his team are focused on growing with the right people in-house, along with allocating in such a way that the company continues to be as vigilant as they are willing to put cash towards ideas that provide an enhanced fan experience.
Naddy, who has a side gig teaching at Savannah College of Art and Design, knows his finance role with the Bananas offers lessons for finance leaders and the classroom. While the institution he teaches at focuses on creative disciplines, Naddy’s course is designed to make ideas profitable and ripe for growth. According to him, it’s not just about having good ideas or being able to create something unique. The ability to communicate, translate, and implement those ideas in real time also is essential.
“We all need to be able to communicate and talk about the plans of our business,” said Naddy. “Even in finance, we don’t have to stay in the back room just flushing receipts and doing those sorts of things. [My students] are a bunch of creatives, they’re the idea generators of the future, but I teach them that no matter the level, you need to be able to communicate those ideas from a business perspective.”
“We as creators with ideas must be able to answer questions like, ‘What is the bottom line, how will this make money, how much is this going to cost, and what is the value of my intellectual property?’” Naddy said.
“We all need to be able to communicate and talk about the plans of our business. Even in finance, we don’t have to stay in the back room just flushing receipts."
VP of Finance, the Savannah Bananas
The role Naddy and his team play, especially in regard to communicating the realism and practicality of ideas, is essential when out-of-the-box ideas are needed, encouraged, and often implemented. While he knew of the team’s plans to build out an entire league of Banana Ball teams when he was hired, the journey to get there appears to only be partly charted.
While Naddy’s finance team’s role is absent from the twerks and antics of some of the other impactful people on the Bananas’ roster, their approach to communicating the ideas of finance, the business, and growth initiatives is a major contributor to the success of the brand.
“The accounting and finance function of a company is the underpinning of a business,” said Naddy. “And we all need to learn how to speak it if we want to grow to our fullest potential as an organization.”