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How The Bananas Do Culture With Marie Gentry

FFE 119 | Company Culture


Company culture is often a tricky thing to navigate because whatever that culture is – and every feeling your employees associate with it – it manifests in the way you work and the way your customers perceive you. This is why it’s important to take a long hard look at every aspect of the company culture you have at the forefront and see if it’s something that fits right with all of your employees. Marie Gentry is the Fans First Director of the Savannah Bananas. She joins Jared Orton for a frank discussion about the reasons you should constantly be reexamining your company culture. If you’re building a “fans first” experience, this is definitely one thing you should iron out immediately, so don’t miss this!

Listen to the podcast here

How The Bananas Do Culture With Marie Gentry

We at The Savannah Bananas are getting ready for our 2020 season and welcoming in thousands of fans to the ballpark. To do that, we’ve got to hire, onboard, coach, train and orient almost 150 hourly staff. Marie Gentry is our Fans First Director. You’ve gotten emails from Marie and you’ve heard her on different things. She is the brains behind this new and improved process that we’ve created to ramp up the culture and define what our culture is. She’s going to share the backstory behind this. For the past years, we’ve made this mission of Fans First, “Be entertaining and do what’s right for the customer,” but we’ve never defined what that means.

She’s going to take you through some inspiration we got from EntreLeadership on how to define that culture and how to share that with people, our teammates and hourly staff because we’re in a different scenario. We don’t get to have one-on-one conversations with our staff as they come on board with us. We’re having to quickly ramp up people in a short amount of time for a short time period of work. We’ve got to make sure that they’re ready to entertain thousands of people every single night for ten straight weeks and then they’re done. She’s going to walk us through how we’ve done that, how we’ve brought on these people, the changes that we’ve made, the decisions that we made and how we’re doing this in 2020. Here’s my conversation with Marie.

Marie, we are getting ready for the 2020 season. It is both our fifth season. I can’t even remember what it was like years ago. Going back to 2015, do you remember when we went to one of the office supplies stores and shopped for desks? We all tried out chairs together and that was a big decision.

We took turns sitting in different chairs and figuring out what was going to be the best ones.

That was a big decision for our office because we weren’t even in an office for two months. We worked out of a shed in the city. We came over to the ballpark and built desks together. We were acting like we were working.

Somebody went and got a six-pack. We ordered pizza and we stayed on a Friday night and put together desks.

That was our onboarding.

It’s a good team bonding, build a conference room table.

People see the Bananas and they see this level of service and experience. They think we have it all together. We feel sometimes we don’t have it all together, but we’re making strides year after year. We’re going to get into that on how we’re solely focusing on this Fans First Experience that we talked about over and over, but not for the customers and the fans. We are talking about building fans of our people. We got to go back to the beginning and give people your viewpoint of what our staffing, onboarding employee culture was like in those first few years.

People understand culture just by being part of it. Click To Tweet

In the first few years, we did a great job with communicating what our culture was for our new full-time hires and our new interns. People were here all the time together in seemingly endless hours. There was so much bonding that happened that people understood the culture by being part of it and by experiencing it for themselves, but we haven’t nailed down what that looks like for our part-time staff and/or our players. We ask a lot of the players and our part-time teammates, but we hadn’t figured out how to fully orient them and get them comfortable in what Fans First culture is.

You mentioned that the first year was almost high that everyone was on. We felt like we didn’t even have to like, “Share the vision. This is where we’re going. We’re all excited about this thing and work 100 hours.” It’s the startup mentality where you’re like, “This is awesome. We’re into this.” We then got into year two. I don’t know if we still felt that because the new people coming in and were like, “That’s cool. You already had figured it out. We’ll just ride along.” I don’t know if you felt that difference from year 1 to year 2, where year one was like, “Everything’s on fire,” and then year two was like, “What do we do?”

I’ll be honest, year one was a blur for me because I didn’t have a ton to do with our players or our part-time staff. I was doing our books and finance at that time. It’s a throwback to when we did sponsorship, I was handling sponsorship. My relationships weren’t necessarily with the individuals on our team. I don’t have the complete answer, but what I do know is that in 2016, nobody knew what they were doing. Everybody was figuring out. Everybody was understanding of the fact that nobody knew what was going on and that we were taking things by stride because all of a sudden, the first night sold out. The next night sold out and dominoed into an amazing season.

When we got into 2017, it was like, “We sold out many games in 2016.” That’s the expectation. This is where the bar is and we’re used to it. It was almost like we had become numb to the fact that it’s still a phenomenon. In a city where baseball had failed, people were coming back out to the ballpark and having a good time. Our staff felt that the same way. In 2017, the novelty had worn off. We were not supposed to be experts, but we were knowledgeable enough as to what we had done and what had worked that we felt like we were in so much of a better spot. We didn’t stop learning, but we almost turned the blind eye to, “We’re all still figuring it out.” It became, “I know what I’m doing. He must know what he’s doing. She must know what they’re doing and I’m going to stop asking questions.”

It is almost like anybody that comes on should know what they’re supposed to do as well. There’s this hot button word that we’ve used forever and ever, culture. Everything’s culture. How would you define our culture in 2016, 2017 and 2018? We can break it up. What was our culture for full-time people during that time if you have to describe it?

Culture is a tricky thing to define because you can say what your culture is all day long, but it is truly a manifestation. It has to be there and you have to have actual examples of the things that you’re saying for it to be true. That’s something that from a full-time standpoint and an intern point in 2016, we had preached Fans First to everybody. We all very much understood that even though it’s a broad concept. We hadn’t defined and we didn’t have our core values identified. Fans First is our mission, but we didn’t have our concrete vision as to what’s going forward. There was a general understanding of culture in 2016 but no hard definitions. As we moved into 2017 and 2018, we started to identify what had manifested in 2016 and put words to those things. 2017 and 2018 turned into, “We already have the Fans First Way to always being caring, different, enthusiastic, fun, growing and hungry.” It’s all fun.

You love defining things. You love the details and mapping things out. Why do you feel like that was an important shift from, “We’re Fans First,” and like, “Do things right,” to, “Here’s what Fans First means, enthusiastic, fun, growing and hungry?” Why was that important?

You can interpret Fans First in many different ways. That’s not wrong. That’s right. We want people to find their own interpretation of Fans First and to feel it for themselves. When you’re leading orientation and you’re teaching part-time teammates, which half of them were in high school when you were saying, “You’ll understand for Fans First when you experienced it.”

We said that. I’m guilty.

FFE 119 | Company Culture
Company Culture: Culture is a tricky thing to define because you can say what your culture is all day long, but it can only be exemplified in your actions.


It is like, “You’ll have your own Fans First moment and let us know when you do,” but we never defined or were able to say, “Fans First means to look for these things.” As much as knowing what Fans First is, you have to also be able to identify what it’s not. Having those six characteristics that are our core values and our Fans First way, that’s helped. Even those can be defined and used in different ways, the words growing and hungry. Hungry could mean, “I’m hungry,” or it could be like, “I’m chasing after something.” There are many different ways you can interpret things, but starting to define them, identify what it is and what it isn’t has helped us hone in on how to teach it and how to share the Fans First message, this Fans First meaning with our teammates.

David Jones said, “If you don’t define exactly the parameters of what you’re looking for, people will just fill in the blanks. They’ll make it up.” “Fans First means this and that to me.” Readers, if you have your mission statement, that’s amazing. If you’re not defining what you’re looking for within that mission, then people maybe will make it up as they go. You might get some good results or not, but you might not get to that point where you feel like, “We are hitting on all cylinders.” I want to speak to the Fans First way a little bit. For a while, I think people thought Fan First was, “Be nice to people.” When we defined it as caring, different, enthusiastic, fun, growing and hungry, it was like, “You need to hit on all six of these to be on this Fans First mission with us.” Did you feel the same way where originally, most everyone thought like, “I’ll be nice to people,” but didn’t define all those other characteristics?

I almost had an advantage in this standpoint because I was here in 2015. There are only four of us plus Emily and Jesse. The attention that I got and the learning underneath Jesse, Emily and you, who had already lived it and come up with what the culture was. I’ve got to see all of that firsthand and learn from the best and the creators of it. I don’t think I necessarily have the same viewpoint as to how to learn it as other people because I had a long onboarding process before it was like, “Here you go.”

Going into 2018, we ballooned. We had four people in 2016 plus Jesse, Emily, and I. We balloon in 2.5 years to fifteen full-time people. That’s when you started becoming passionate and diving into, “We’ve got to take care of our internal culture here. We’ve got to figure out personality types and what makes people click. We got to make sure we understand conflict and why people say things and Enneagram, personality test and these profiles.” We started trying to realize, “We can’t run this by the seat of our pants, shoot from the hip and say Fans First to people. Talk about how you started figuring out your ways throughout our culture as we started getting so much growth, bringing on many new people. Talk about that and what that struggle was like and how you start trying to manage it and get us in a better spot.

In bringing in a lot of people at one time, there are always going to have challenges. The fifteen doesn’t sound like a lot. It was a lot of growth for us in a very short amount of time.

We brought in inside and outside people, interns, people who’ve been in baseball. We brought in so many different people.

It was a huge mix of people coming from different backgrounds. Most people were there for the first job out of school, but some people it wasn’t. When we saw that coming in, we were good at selling this picture of what our culture was, but then when people got here, it wasn’t necessarily like we had said it would be. That’s 100% on us is we were only talking about the good things, but we weren’t doing anything about the not so good things. Defining and putting words to what we’re trying to do and identifying personality traits that thrive in this setting that accentuate those things helped us to see and identify all these good and the not so good things.

We had that conversation when we were at the workshop, where it was like, “It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You might just not fit here and that’s okay.” We identified that with the players. As we started bringing in these players, you were integral in that. People always ask us, “How do you get the guys to buy-in? How you get this buy-in?” I want to talk about that as well. We started testing this with the players and onboarding them in 2018 and 2019. Talk about the shift you saw from bringing in tons of players, letting them be a part of it, mapping out how we brought them in, how we shared the vision and how we shared the culture.

The players in 2016, were pretty autonomous in the sense that they felt the magic of what was happening the same way that our full-time and our interns did. They governed themselves and Sean West champion that with them that year. In 2017, the hype had already been there. People had this idea of what they were stepping in, but we didn’t do a good job of explaining, “Here’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.” In 2018, we made the shift to having that conversation with our players all at once. On Memorial Day, before Fanfest, they’ll have a two-hour practice. We’ll sit down. We’ll have lunch with them. We’ll share a lot about who we are as a company, what happened in 2015 and 2016 as we grew and how it’s changed since then.

If there's a blank, people are going to fill it in for themselves. Click To Tweet

We talked about why people show up. We have this hype from year to year, but people are coming to see the dancing players and tarps sliding in rainouts or wearing pills. They’re coming to see the players in the show. Players are a huge part of the show. We started there by talking to them through everything that was going on. Once that initial wave of players, our first roster was in. We started playing games. We left it at that and let the locker room teach each other when new people were coming in. It was still a lot better than the year before, undoubtedly. Fast forward to 2019, we made the shift of making sure that every single player that came in, even though we only have 25 to 35 people on the roster at a time, we had about 55 players come through the locker room in 2019 that were active on the roster.

We had twenty more people. We had everybody go through it individually as they came in. We did the first one. It was huge. As waves of players came in, sometimes it was 3 or 4 of them or 1 or 2. We had them go through the same orientation. They didn’t have the two our practice in the sit-down lunch. They had one on one time with either myself, Jesse or I don’t know if you did any. They had a sit down with somebody that was able to share the why of what’s going on, why their attitude and the way they show up is important. It was cool to see the team come together in 2019. From a team culture standpoint, it was more of a reflection of what happened in 2016 with that camaraderie that it was needed.

More importantly, they’re sharing the why behind why we do all this stuff. If you look at it from the outside, it’s a freaking sideshow. It’s a circus. They’re going to make me dance. They’re going to make me do all these crazy things, playing field and sign autographs, but then you hear the why behind. You hear someone like you go in there and share the story, the purpose, the mission and then that person buys-in. Gillman said this to some guys or you don’t, “You might not buy into this thing and that’s okay to go ahead and play for somebody else. No offense to you, but you might not fit in here. You might not become a Banana. We’re looking for people that are different.” The amount of “issues” that we had this season is minimal.

The desire to be a part of this from these guys that had come in and do anything for people was powerful. Let’s shift to our Game Day teammates. There are 140 to 150 of them. This is probably the most unique hiring, onboarding team culture situation that anybody deals with. If you’re a sports team or a seasonal team, you deal with this as well. This is crazy. What we do is crazy. What we try to bring on is a different world. Talk about the culture of these Game Day teammates early on in those first few years. What was the hiring process like that you remember? What was the onboarding process like? What was it like to bring on some of these hourly people?

Our Game Day staff are from all different kinds of backgrounds. We’ve got people who are retired that are working. We’ve got kids that are in high school. We have kids that come back to Savannah from college to work. There’s anything that you could imagine. There’s someone here on our staff that’s like that and doing that. From a hiring standpoint for the last few seasons, I wasn’t super involved with it. From my understanding, we have a rigorous hiring process on the front end. We ask for three main things, which is your video cover letter, Fans First way essay and a future resume. Those are the three things that we’re asking for on the front end. We were hoping that it would weed out people that wouldn’t be a good fit. We put so much stock in like, “If they’ve done these three things, then they’re good to go.”

The quality of those three things we don’t care about. We would get to this point every year where all of a sudden, we have events starting up and we still need 50 more people to work the summer. We need more bodies. If they can look me in the eye when I speak to them, that’s great. They’re hired. If they can show up to the office and their clothes are clean, you’re hired. We got to this point where we were taking who we could get. We were a spot where we needed to do that. We weren’t actively recruiting the right people. We’re doing it by the bootstraps and we pull it together, we pull it off, and we move forward. We just slap the Band-Aid on it and we’re going to go like, “We’re bleeding a little bit but we’ll cover it up.”

It was painful. We had promised these big Fans First Experience entertainment thing. To no fault of the people we brought on, we didn’t coach them through what they were supposed to do, how they were supposed to do it and what the expectations were. You’ve put a lot of stock into learning and growing as you’ve started to develop the culture, how we can onboard these people and hire the right people. Who have you been learning from where you’ve been like, “I love what they do, I love how they do it?” Where are you getting some inspiration from? We’re not experts at this, but we’re trying to find other ways that people have done it and then put our Fans First stamp on it.

That’s a challenging question in the sense of there isn’t anyone that’s doing things the way we are in mass quantity in such a short period of time. I feel like I try and learn bits and pieces from lots of different places. We heard a lot from John DiJulius about how they lead the customer service revolution. We’ve heard a lot from him. That was where ideas like A Day in the Life of a Fan or an always never’s list stuff that clarifies what your customer service expectations are for your teammates. We listened to EntreLeadership all the time. That’s not necessarily only about hiring or only about they cover every topic known. That’s where the idea came from for how we’re structuring our culture orientation.

Let’s get into that. You’ve put our team through this onboarding process. We feel like if you go back to what we’ve been hiring for some specific objectives, looking for specific people. We’re still doing the video cover letters the Fans First way and the future resume. We’re still looking for those things, but we’re trying to take the next step and say, “You can’t just put those things in and you get hired. You’ve got to go through these 3 or 4 things.” Let’s talk about this piece of the culture that we’re rolling out because this is powerful. It’s called the Savannah Bananas Culture Tree. It’s a picture of a banana tree. You got this from EntreLeadership. Maybe we can share this with people at some point once we put it out there, but talk about the inspiration of the culture tree to start.

FFE 119 | Company Culture
Company Culture: You have to put a lot of stock into learning and growing as you’ve started to develop the culture, and how you can onboard people.


The thing from EntreLeadership that I found online was a picture of a tree. It was a tree that you could see fruit on and see the roots. The diagram showed that your culture starts with your roots. That’s your core mission, your values and your vision. You then move your way up the tree. From the roots, you go to the trunk and that’s your operating principles. That’s how you do things. You had it to the branches. That’s the culture that’s starting to manifest. That’s the part that people can see and it’s the most eye-catching. Once all of those things are working together and they’re healthy, you have fruit. That becomes the measure of your mission.

We’re taking that image and turning it into an actual Bananas tree. We’re working off those same things. I divided up stuff that we already talked about in orientation. Nothing in 2020 is new information. It’s all stuff that we’ve talked about for the last couple of years when we would host an orientation. I started hosting orientation when Emily was pregnant with Maverick in 2017. I started using orientation in 2018, but that was the extent of my interaction with game-based staff. I showed up, I said, “This is our culture. We like you guys welcome to it,” and walked away. When things would be going on that are not good representations of our culture, I didn’t have relationships with them again, at least after we’ll say, “Let’s dive in on that a little bit.”

We had not defined exactly, “These are the yeses and the noes.”

People were able to say, “You never told me that. I didn’t know I couldn’t do that. I’ve been doing this and no one said anything.” This is not new information, but it’s clearer and more detailed. We’ve been dancing that line of, “We don’t want to give people too much information because we don’t want to overload or overwhelm people.” If there’s a blank, people are going to fill it in for themselves. We have to make it as clear as possible and say, “This is what we’re looking for, this is not what we’re looking for.” It’s a lot of housekeeping stuff. It’s a lot of washing your hands, don’t look at your phone and don’t eat in front of people. They’re those kinds of things that are basic and simple. When you don’t say them and one person does it, someone else thinks it’s okay for them to do it.

We have roots, trunk, branches and fruit. I want to go through it. What are our roots?

Our roots are who we are and why we exist. That is our vision. Our vision is to take Fans First to the world. Our mission, be Fans First, entertain always. Our core values, the always be caring, different, enthusiastic, fun, growing and hungry. It never changes.

You define and you would give examples of what is caring, different, enthusiastic, fun, growing and hungry to give people permission to not say these are words on a wall, which can happen. “Here are our core values and we’ll tell you if they change.” You gave great examples of what those are for people. Let’s go to the trunk.

The trunk is our operating principles. This is something that is new in 2020 in a sense of we’ve always said, “Always be on stage,” but we’ve never dug deeper into what onstage means or why do we think we’re on stage. We’re a baseball team. When most people come to work here, they think they’re working at a sports venue and they are. However, we don’t always define ourselves as being in the sporting industry. We define ourselves as being in the entertainment industry. That’s where the being on stage to show. That’s where that verbiage comes from. If you think about a performer getting ready to be on stage there, we’re going to go into it.

They’re wearing the right costume. They’re using the right language. They have a script. They’re also going to have the right focus. They know that they are the center of attention, but to provide an entertainment experience for their fans, that’s where we’ve adjusted it a little bit into diving in deeper. When someone asks us how we do things, that’s the foundation of it. That’s the base. The trunk is we’re always on stage. From that, many things can happen. With those three parameters, we’re going to have the right costume. We’re going to use the right language. We’re going to have the right focus. Those three parameters help identify, “That’s what onstage looks like at Grayson Stadium.”

Let your newer teammates know that they also have the right to speak up and make changes. Click To Tweet

We have this vision, mission and core principles that lead us to say, “Because of this, we have to be on stage. We’ve got to have the right costume, the right language, the right focus.” If we don’t get that, then that doesn’t lead us to the third part, which is the branches. Let’s go through some of the branches, concepts. This is another fun concept that you have created.

This comes straight from John DiJulius and his group coming up with this thing called the Always and Never list. They call it never and always but we flipped it to be positive before we were negative. One of our lunch calls during this COVID-19 stuff where we were all separated, Emily spat out the words ripe versus rotten. That concept stuck with me and I was like, “Let’s change those always and never because then we’re still eliminating the word never from what language we’re teaching and what language we’re sharing.” We came up with ripe versus rotten and we have a list of eight things that happen here in our culture. When we’re always on stage, which is the first ripe, these other things start to show, “This is our culture. This is the leaves on the banana tree.” Specific actions.

This is our active culture in a way where the roots and the trunk are like, “This is what gets us there.” These branches are those specific actions to get us out to the last point of producing fruit. We created the Reginald contract. Why give such a specific example like this?

If you’re not familiar with who Reginald is, he is an incredibly special person that has been working at Grayson Stadium for years. When we first got here, he called us weekly. He showed up at the launch party. He was at the name of the team. He’s at all those things. He showed up all the time making sure that he could still work here at Grayson Stadium. Through his attitude, his spirit for being hungry, being so enthusiastic, he’s always smiling. He’s got the right focus. He embodies what we’re looking for and what we’re asking of our teammates. That’s where using Reginald as that example came from. I don’t know that we could do that with anyone, but because Reginald is awesome, we’re able to do that and he’s able to be that for us is humbling. It’s the need to see him interacting with fans and teammates. He becomes a celebrity because we always sing his praises. It’s deserving.

I like how you said mission accomplished. It says the measure of our mission that we will be 100% of our teammates onstage 100% of the time. We can say that, but if we don’t have these parameters lined up, then we never know what we’re shooting for. We’re shooting for 100%. No less. Will we ever get there? Maybe not and that’s okay. Our goal is 100% of our people on stage 100% of the time. We’ve got to lay these the foundation, but also the action steps and defining what to look for so that we get to that point. I’m going to ask you a tough question. When we’re not hitting 100%, what do we do? We haven’t got there yet probably, but when these things go wrong, what do we do?

What we’re actively doing to hopefully be able to address that moving forward is that our entire full-time team went through this orientation. They had to go back and watch the origin story video. They walk through exactly what all of our new hires are going to be going through leading into this season. With that, they have the same language to use when addressing teammates. They have the same expectations that have been placed upon them. My costume might look a little different than our Game Day teammates costume or a player’s costume, but I still have to have the right costume on. By taking everybody through it again and showing them what we’re starting to share with new hires, they’re going to be able to feel like they’ve been in that person’s shoes, even though they’ve been here for a few years or their original orientation didn’t include some of the topics that we’re going over.

Whatever it may be, we’re going to have that unity in a sense of where Katie, our employee experience coordinator and Emily and myself are not the only three people looking for the good things that our team is doing and helping weed out the bad things. We’ll have this full force of Patrick and Barry when they’re working with the ushers. They’re going to be able to identify and use the same language that the ushers were taught. They’re going to be able to say, “This isn’t the right uniform or costume. This isn’t the right focus. You’re distracted.” I think that that’s going to be huge moving forward.

We haven’t seen that in action yet. It’s hopeful and I’m excited to see what happens. I’m sure that it’s not going to be perfect and that’s okay because we’ll continue to learn. What you’re saying with the 100%, if we’re not shooting for 100%, then that means we’re settling for being okay with something not being right. We learned that from the McClaskey Institute. You were talking about David Jones. They said, “If your goal is 95%, that’s still an A at universities.” If you’re in school, 95% is still good. but as an organization, if you’re saying to your teammates or your employees that, “You only have to be 95%,” then they get to pick the 5% they don’t want to do.

You wouldn’t tell someone that they can steal from you 5% of the time or like, “It’s okay. You can show up 80% of the time on time, 20% do whatever you want to do it.” It’s like, “No, it’s 100% and that’s what we’re aiming for. If you fall short, we’ll adjust, coach, teach, train and we’ll try and get things going back in the right direction.” We all agree that this is the measure of the expectation and we won’t sell for anything less. I hope and I want to end this because this will be interesting for us to learn. We’ve gone undercover as fans in the past and we’re going to go undercover frontline employees and frontline teammates. What are you looking forward to most about becoming a cashier or becoming a grill? We jumped in from time to time and do these things, but going through the process of clocking in and getting your t-shirt, reporting to your station. What are you looking forward to the most about frontline employees?

FFE 119 | Company Culture
Company Culture: You have your mission and your vision because of the core principles you chose to build your culture upon.


This is something that’s easy to do because we all do it regularly, but we get used to how things are that we think it’s the only way it can be done. What I’m most excited about is to go in to see maybe what frustrations or what friction points our teammates are experiencing, but they’re not voicing because they think that’s how it is. We want our teammates to know they can speak up and make changes as well, but sometimes, that comes with time and familiarity with the organization you’re working with. Going in with that mindset of like if there’s something that’s not firing on all cylinders or I don’t feel like it is, then I can raise that question or I can say, “What if we do this? What if we try something new?” We can turn around and ask other teammates, “Are you experiencing the same thing? Have you found ways around it?” Maybe they’re doing independently, but they haven’t shared with their cohorts that are doing the exact same role that they are. I think that that could be super powerful.

If you’re a business owner, go through the role of your customer and the role of your other employees. What’s your most recent orientation? What’s your most recent hiring process? What’s your most recent experience for your hourly work? Anyone else in your industry, it’s simple. I love that you mentioned that you will start realizing there might be friction points or frustrations that go on that they might not be voicing because that’s how it’s done here. We always walk backwards. We always yell at the customer’s leg. That’s not how it’s done here. There are things that we will find out that we will all report back on and hopefully, become better at. Thanks for hanging out.

It was fun.

It has been incredible to see the transition that we’ve made as a company over these years. It was so much growth at a quick time that we didn’t know what to do to keep up with it. We were shooting from our hip. Every cliché you can imagine, we were doing it to see what Marie and the team have put together to codify and identify this is how we have to share our mission, our vision and our core values. This is how we define it for people. These are the examples we give, not only this is what we give, but this is what it isn’t. Defining that also allows people to realize you’re either with us or you’re not with us. It’s okay if you’re not with us. As we heard in a couple of interviews ago with David Jones, “It’s okay if you’re not with us. You’re not a bad person. You might not be a fit here.”

We’ve been working through this as we bring on new people, bring on people from the outside and inside and bring on returners. We’ve got to push this mission forward and explain to people what it’s going to be like when you’re working with us because the fruit of being onstage and being 100% all the time for 100% of our people is remarkable. Our fans, the customers, when they get that type of experience from these people, they are going to go out and become our biggest marketers. You think of some of the great places that you go to, and it’s the people that you interact with that provide that experience for you. They believe in the mission, the vision, the values of that company. It’s because of that reason why you’re getting such tremendous experience in such tremendous service. That’s what we’re trying to identify here. If you have questions about this, get in touch with us. Email Marie and go on our website,

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About Marie Gentry

FFE 119 | Company CultureMarie Gentry is the Fans First Director with the Savannah Bananas. She’s been a jack of all trades for the company from the beginning, but has been instrumental in helping to develop and define the culture first set out by owners Jesse and Emily Cole. She leads the on boarding of almost 150 gamely teammates each season and also over 50 of our Bananas players to ensure that each person embodies what it means to be a Banana. Marie received her undergraduate and masters degrees from Gardner-Webb University. She is originally from Greensboro, NC and loves her pup, Koda.

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Jared Orton

Jared Orton

Because of a relentless focus on entertainment and ticket sales, the Royals were fortunate to see tremendous growth in attendance and revenue during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Jared is now taking those experiences, along with the experiences of Fans First Entertainment, to develop a value-packed, non-stop, entertainment experience for Savannah fans. Jared currently lives in Savannah with his wife, Kelsey.
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1401 E. Victory Drive
Savannah, GA 31404


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