5 Lessons From My Early Sports Business Career

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I was working on a project over the summer, a personal one, where I asked some of my friends and colleagues to give me some professional feedback on my brand and my brand position.

One of the pieces of feedback that came back that I thought was interesting was that teams want more insiders and that I maybe don’t present enough of the fact that I had some formative experiences on the team and primary side.

So I wanted to take some of my early experience working on the team side and share with you a few ideas that still stick with me today.

Hard work counts for a lot:

Between hustling in nightclubs, running programs for the city, and doing game-day services for the Dolphins, 22 year-old Dave was quite busy.

In retrospect, I am not sure that I did any one job very well, but I do know that I got a lot of leeway due to the fact that I was a hard working mofo.

Why has this stuck with me?

Because I see through those people always looking for a hack to do something faster or with a short cut, but I found out early that you can work smarter…but there is a great deal of power in working hard.

This isn’t work porn or anything, but there is a lot to be said for being the person that gets things done.

Revenue will get you in a position and keep you in a position:

My ability to market and sell have made my career.

Full stop.

And, the thing is that many of the early roles I had were not revenue generating, but more focused on customer experience roles.

But the thing that shone through was that even in these roles, you could put your thumb on the revenue button by providing better service, suggesting drinks or food or upgrades that people might not have been aware of.

Being able to sell an idea falls into this category as well.

This goes without saying that being able to generate money or sell your idea is a winner no matter what role you are in.

Learning all the roles in the building is helpful: 

I will give you an incomplete list of the jobs I have done inside an arena, ballpark, or stadium.

Here you go:

  • Ticket taker
  • Concessions
  • Beer sales
  • Ticket sales
  • Marketing
  • Spotlight operator
  • Pressbox operations
  • Customer service
  • Security
  • Secretary

I could likely go on.

But the reality is that knowing all of these roles helps because you can pitch in and help everywhere without having to be guided or have your hand held.

Being a Swiss Army Knife is a pretty great way for you to provide yourself security.

Customer service is a great skill and it applies everywhere:

I’ve talked about being hired at the Paramount Theatre due to having a “friendly face” before.

But throughout my time on the team side, I did a lot of serving folks, helping them get to where they needed, get what they needed, and ensuring that they were happy.

Customer service fits into the role of revenue because most of the revenue generating activities you undertake have a great deal of customer service in them.

Innovation isn’t a huge event, but a series of small changes in most cases:

I know most people think about innovation as this huge thing that is like a big bang. But that isn’t typically the case.

In working through these first roles in sports business, I found out that innovation is a lot of small steps like a better way for people to enter the building, knowing how to get people into their seats faster, offering better service that is repeatable.

This might not seem like innovations on the surface but they can be to your guests.

I don’t do a lot of talking about my time on team side with the Dolphins, Gators, Seahawks, and Sonics, but each of these roles helped me learn these lessons and they still help me remember the basics to this day.

What are some of the things you learned?

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