There are few things more beautiful than freshly mowed grass and a mound of diamond-shaped dirt. Once again, the search for value within business continues, but this time my inquisitive eye takes me into the world of sports. I was welcomed for a visit to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes LoanMart baseball stadium this past week. Props, by the way, to the groundskeeper (a god on most sports fields) for the most beautiful minor league field I've ever seen.
First things first, I jumped down to the dugout where the players were prepping to demolish Lake Elsinore in Friday's evening game (final score: 7-2). Let's face it, when I was told my press pass allowed me access, I wasn't going to say no. Everyone, including the crowd, was in high spirits to have fellow Los Angeles Dodger, Carlos Frias, on the roster as starting pitcher. Although the dugout is a prime location for sports photography (one of my favorite hobbies), I didn't stay long. Defying traditional behavior, I left the players in search of employees to chat with. After all, my assessment of value demanded a look into the employee experience. Their attitudes and work ethic are directly linked to the fan experience. And that determines if they're target audience will continue coming back to the stadium for more games.
My findings were unanimous. Everyone loves working at the Quakes stadium! To cover my "bases," I spoke to almost every level of employee from seating ushers and food stand cashiers to radio broadcasters and stadium managers. Even the players, whose salary is distributed by the LA Dodgers, say they've always enjoyed their time at the Quakes' stadium whether it be for practice or actual games.
I've never encountered a scenario where everyone I spoke with loved their job. Is this even possible? There was so much positive energy in the air that I began questioning people's genuine response, "Are you getting paid to tell me this?" Assistant General Manager, Chris Pope, laughed at me when he heard. "We're all about family, friendly, affordable entertainment," he said. "I think it helps that we are all in agreement and are on the same page with that. Everyone helps everyone else out around here."
One of the easiest ways to create happy customers is to keep happy employees. To finally make me a believer, Operations Coordinator, Eric Jensen, used words I could identify with, "I don't feel like I work for them. I feel like I work with them." Jensen painted a picture of the experience the staff creates by pointing out fans in the stands. Kids were choosing to hold gloves rather than electronics (unless they were taking Instagram pictures like me: @JentleBiz), friends were chatting with one another, husbands had their arms around wives, mothers were holding their babies. "Even the baby is having a good time!" Jensen proudly exclaims. Pope agreed adding, "We're like Disneyland without the steroids. We have a lot less crying kids here."
The cost of this experience isn't anything to complain about either. For a family of four, the average spent on a major league baseball game day is about $200. On the minor league level, like at the Quakes, that same family will pay less for tickets and food than a visit to the movie theatre, which will only entertain you for half the time.
But the more people your business caters to, the more issues can arise. So what's the secret to the stadium's success? What is causing all these fans to leave smiling after every game? From an objective standpoint, I'd have to say hiring practices, understanding their target market, and maintaining a consistent value proposition. "No" isn't an option. They are "YES" people. Even the Quakes' dinosaur mascot agrees--yes to kids on the field, yes to dancing, yes to embracing a nostalgic American pastime.
I was one of the first spectators to arrive at the stadium and made sure to be one of the last to leave in order to observe as much of the staff's daily process as possible. Pope stopped assisting the cleaning crew to walk me towards the exit. His outlook on work is exactly why the stadium will continue being successful. "You work every weekend. You work long hours. But you get to interact with fans and come up with promotions. And when you see thousands of people enjoy that promotion, you get to say 'I did that.' They are all having a great time because of an idea I had, which is one of the coolest things in the world. The thrill is knowing that we provided a great experience for the fans who have chosen to spend their evening here."
A big thanks to the stadium staff (shout-out to Mr. Dave Vaughn) and the players who took the time illustrating that business doesn't have to be all work and no play. Once again you succeeded in creating a positive experience for a sports fan like myself, and I'll be visiting again soon.
Don't forget to follow me on Facebook & Instagram @JentleBiz. Giveaway coming!
Want to join me for a game? Check out the website of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes for game schedules and other baseball news. Listen to the games live on Fox Sports 1350 (KTDD-AM) Riverside, San Bernardino or follow on Facebook & Instagram: @RCQuakes.
Photos by: G. Onyango
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6 August 2015 - LoanMart Field