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Andrew Berlin: How I Saved the Silver Hawks

Andrew Berlin, CEO of Berlin Packaging, bought the Single-A baseball team a few years back. Here's how he turned around the organization.

This is the story of entrepreneur Andrew Berlin, as told to Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan.

When I bought the South Bend Silver Hawks--a Single-A team affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks--they had been losing money for years. I knew I had to create the best-ever ballpark to turn the team around.

At Berlin Packaging, we are big fans of the Net Promoter Score, which measures customer loyalty. You raise your NPS by looking at all the touch points in a customer relationship--are they positive or negative, and how can you improve them?

When I took over the Silver Hawks, we did a survey and determined that our NPS was just 13--a dismal score. We got to work.

We looked at everything. As you walk from your car to the turnstile, what do you see? Is there someone there to help you? What is the attitude of the person who takes your ticket? Is he or she friendly? What do you smell when you walk into my stadium? Are the best-smelling foods right at the entrance? As you travel down the concourse, what do you see on the video monitors? We identified 36 touch points from the moment you arrive at the game to the moment you leave.

We started in March 2012, and by June, we were rocking and rolling. We worked with the city of South Bend to change street directions and signage to improve traffic flow. We added golf carts to bring seniors and overburdened parents from the lot to the turnstiles.

We started spraying our mascot with cotton-candy-scented cologne. For the kids, we added playgrounds, three-story-high inflatable slides, and a giant splash pad with underwater jets and synchronized fiber-optic lights. For adults, we added a tiki bar.

At the end of our first season, attendance was up 68 percent. We saw triple-digit earnings growth. Our Net Promoter Score was 63. Unfortunately, in 2012, the team did poorly. The players are one thing I'm not in charge of. This year, we are doing much better. I always want the team to be in first place. But as a business owner, I care more about attendance.


From the July/August 2013 issue of Inc. magazine

LEIGH BUCHANAN | Staff Writer | Editor-at-large, Inc. Magazine

Leigh Buchanan is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.

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