Thought of the Day: Personal AND Professional Development!?

I'm big on fit. I'm even bigger on finding a fit that allows for both personal and professional development. I've always said that when you interview, you should be interviewing your perspective employer as much as they are interviewing you. However, make sure you're still going the extra mile to understand how the role you're entering will allow you to grow in a variety of ways.

That's it. Just a quick thought.

-Alex

Building a Business Intelligence Team

What goes into building a successful business intelligence team/ unit/ department? I wrote a post earlier about what business intelligence is as it relates to the sports industry. But how does such a department find success? Certainly, there are many variables – let me run through a few that I see as imperative to finding success.

Good People

They say you’re only as strong as your weakest link. I think the same goes for personnel. I like to think that if I happen to be the smartest person in the room, I’m in the wrong room. As a manager, I have always strived to hire individuals that cannot only be coached and developed, but that have complimentary skillsets to those around them. Having good people who make the room smarter raises the bar for everyone.

Resources

It’s obvious, but not always the case – having resources at your disposal is vital. If you’re the worlds best racecar driver but you don’t have a car, you aren’t going to be successful. This isn’t to say you have to have a license to spend a lot of money, but you have to be able to operate within a solid foundation of tools and resources to make you and the organizational teams around you better.

Buy-In From the Top Down

I cannot express the importance of this. How often in your life or in your career have you had what you thought was a great idea, only to have someone above you or empowered to help you realize your idea, not be completely sold or convinced it was as great as you thought it to be? It sucks right? It sucks because that is a huge roadblock in being successful or in bringing an idea or program to life. When those above you give you the go-ahead and all buy-in on the same unified goal, the sky is the limit on what you can accomplish.

Unified Goals

Speaking of having buy-in from the top, having unified goals is another major component in building a strong foundation from the start. I’ve written about it in the past, but I’ll mention it here again for good measure. When I’m working, I ask myself if what I’m working on does at least one of the following – is what I’m working on 1) build the brand, 2) build the database, or 3) build revenue? If what I’m doing doesn’t do at least one of those things, I closely examine why it is I’m working on it. I also tell my staff something similar, and I do it because it helps us continually ensure that we are unified in our approach. Certainly, we get more granular on tasks and objectives on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis, but the overarching goals are the same. It should be this way across your organization, top to bottom, left to right.

Communication & Transparency

I’m a huge proponent of efficiency. Ask anyone that has ever worked for me. I preach efficiency and am always open and willing to change processes if they make my team more efficient. Change is not a bad thing, quite the opposite. That is why I have never understood why communication & transparency should ever be a major factor in improving efficiency. These are fundamental core components to any well-run organization, yet I often see individual, teams, and department struggle as a result of bad communication and not being transparent enough. Not being able to be successful as a result of not having the right people or right tools in place is one thing, but not being able to be successful as a result of not communicating or being clear seems crazy to me!

Measure Twice, Cut Once

It may seem like a no-brainer, but taking the time to survey the surrounding landscape, considering the various variables that may be in play, and developing a strategy based on the information you have available, goes a long-way in creating effective change and effective impact. There’s nothing wrong in moving fast and quickly, but taking an extra moment to consider the moving pieces around you (whether it be hiring new personnel, signing a vendor contract, or implementing organization wide strategies), is a sound practice.

A good manager and an effectively structured business intelligence unit should have control or influence over each of these variables.

-Alex

4 Years In

Wow, I am quickly approaching the 4 year mark at Monumental Sports in a couple of weeks. Similar to years’ past, 4 years in, 4 more lessons learned.

Good Work for the Sake of Good Work

Wanting credit for everything you work on is a natural feeling, but it’s not always going to happen. Here’s a quote I’ve always loved:

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford

I went through a major departmental change this past year as our organization realigned many internal silos. It was a good decision from a data perspective that I was on-board with, but there were moments in which I wasn’t sure whether the work I had tirelessly worked on was known or fully understood during the shifts. I had a few choices in the moment – focus on the high-profile work that would be quickly realized, or focus on the work that may not be as recognized, but was arguably the most imperative for future business operations. In the end I chose the latter and I’m glad I did it. It may not have been the most glamorous or “in-the-spotlight” work, but it meant focusing on the right things that lead my department to having a tangibly successful year.

Do good work even if it isn’t always going to be recognized.

Find the Right People

I’ve had good fortune in my career to work with a lot of hard-working individuals. Each bringing their unique strengths and perspectives to the business challenges in front of us. This past year I transitioned into a larger opportunity in a centrally focused revenue building position, and was able to hire a new team while building out a new department. Needless to say, I was in need of superstars, and superstars is what I hired. I’ve always thrived on the idea that if I’m the smartest person in the room, I’m in the wrong room. Rather, when I’m being pushed and learning from those around me, that’s when I’m at my best. The team I’ve been able to build here compliments one another well, and we’ve been able to accomplish more than anyone expected. The secret? It started with finding the right people.

Don’t Be a Pushover

What type of person do you want to be at work? Is it the hard-ass who will fight for every inch of ground throughout the day? Is it the strategic thinker that recognizes some battles must be lost in order to win the war? Is it being the type of boss who rules in love or fear? Likely, it’s somewhere in-between all of these things.

Regardless of whomever you are or choose to be, don’t be a pushover, stand-up for yourself, those around you, and don’t be afraid to stand your ground. Now what exactly does this mean? It could mean just about anything depending on the context.

Time Teller or Clock Builder?

 I heard a great analogy just last week that I immediately adopted and want to write about here.

If you had the choice, would you rather hire a time-teller or clock builder?

A time-teller always knows the exact time down to the second at a moment’s notice. A time-teller is the knower of everything. They are the smartest person in the room at every meeting and behind-the-scenes. They can make the right decision in any moment and lead the team and organization in the best of ways. Eventually however, a time-tell dies, or as it relates to business in this analogy, they move on to another job or career, retire, or simply move on to other ventures.

A clock builder on the other hand creates a mechanism in which tells accurate time, down to the second, to everyone, even long after the clock builder moves on.

From a business perspective, a clock builder is an individual who lays the groundwork and creates a path for success that anyone can follow, even long after they are no longer at the firm. A time-teller may be equally successful while employed, but they aren’t the individuals who help create long term success for firms through installing best practices that can be repeated after they are gone.

I recommend striving to be a clock builder.

With a major year of internal organization change behind me, I’m left with greater insight into the components of what it takes to be successful. Speaking of which, how does one define success…

-Alex

The Game Within A Game Within A Game

Recently I was pulled into a meeting to discuss a new project that I would be leading that I never in a million years thought I could be working on. The meeting was to discuss me working on developing a rate card for a mix of on court NBA LED assets. Nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact that it was to develop the rate card for LED assets that would be present in an upcoming release of a video game.

Let’s take a moment to consider that. Developing a rate card for LED assets within a video game that will be viewed and played by hundreds of thousands if not millions of people around the world. It feels a bit like the movie Inception – an asset, within an asset, within an asset. Pretty cool.

Not only is this incredible to think about how our industry and partnership assets have progressed over time, it is an incredibly exciting and challenging assignment. There are many different ways in which this opportunity of defining a rate card can be approached, and I’m excited to be leading the charge for our organization. It’s also astounding to think that at some point in the near future, gamers across the world will be playing a game in which advertising will be seamlessly inserted the same way it is during live NBA games. It’s even more incredible that this has become a sellable asset. It is truly an opportunity for partners and sports organizations alike.

-Alex

Partnerships & Dynamically Pricing

Dynamic pricing. It’s a term used throughout many different industries, airlines, example2, example3, and sports to name a few. Typically however, dynamic pricing when it comes to sports is applied to ticket sales. Depending on what a variety of variables look like (opponent, day of the week, inventory levels, etc.), pricing on tickets can change hourly. Oddly enough, you don’t see much of this happening within corporate partnerships – at least not yet. Why? I’m not totally sure. As such, I’ve decided that it’s my next big project at work. There are certainly many different ways in which we could go about this, but let’s walkthrough a few different ways I can tackle this relatively quickly.

1)      Price based on peak times

2)      Price based on demand (inventory level)

3)      Price based on inventory level and time (decay model)

Price based on peak times

First, let’s define what a peak time is. For our purposes, let’s define this as a time in which we can confidently predict substantially increased impression traffic. This could be during rush hour, or more specifically to that of sports, the hours leading up to and after an event occurs. As an example, let’s consider Out of Home boards – for those of you that don’t know, these are the huge LED screens that you may see outside of some arenas or stadiums. The look something like this:

These type of boards typically run throughout the day, and play host to many different clients that pay to have their creatives shown. As you can imagine, clients are paying for these creatives to play on these boards in the hopes that a large number of impressions may lead to goal conversions (this may be increasing brand recognition, increasing awareness of a new product, or an actual purchase of a product). Regardless of the goal, dynamically pricing these boards higher during peak hours makes a lot of sense.

The problem as it relates to our business model is that at this point in time it would be a logistical nightmare to sort through. Many of our contracts are structured in such a way that would not allow us to pull clients from certain hours in order to run a different set of clients during these peak times. That, but logistically stopping a current playlist of creatives and running a new set may be too taxing to take on with current technology and personnel bandwidth. For now this may be out of the question, but certainly something to look towards the future with.

Price based on demand (inventory level)

Create a straightforward supply and demand based model that sets price levels based on the amount of inventory available. The concept is generally the less inventory available, the higher the price. The reverse is also in play. Potential problems with this method is that the model doesn’t factor in the many variables that exist and come into play.

Price based on inventory level and time (decay model)

How about a hybrid to the former? Instead of pricing dynamically on the asset and its past historical data, the goal should be to minimize the amount of time inventory is available. Simply put, the strategy is to determine the optimal price point based on a mix of variables that includes both the amount of inventory available and amount of time the inventory has been available. The other key is to set a price floor. What are potential variables to consider?

·       Amount of inventory available

·       Amount of time it has been available

·       Seasonality/ time of year

·       Number of projected events (i.e. peak times and events)

·       Pending contracts

·       Upcoming Area events

Creating this model is more complex than it sounds, but not by much. The biggest challenge in building out this type of strategy is having both the granular data to allow for inclusion of variables such as time assets have historically been available before being sold, and having enough of it. Ideally you would want several years of consistent data to comb through. In our case we have nearly 3 full years, so although not perfect, at least there is a basis to base recommendations off of.

So which is the best route to go? Let’s not kid ourselves, there are a lot of different ways in which one could approach this problem of dynamically pricing assets. Above a few of them are outlined. The best route to go should be determined, in part, by the amount of data you have available. The flexibility you have in controlling the assets themselves is also very important, as factors such as existing contracts could add difficulties to implementations.

For our business practices, I’m building and implementing the latter. I’ll keep this group updated as to how that ends up going.

-Alex

Valuation Spotlight: Social Media

It’s hard to believe that social media has been around for over ten years now. Over this time many platforms of home come and gone and others have undergone many versions and updates. If there is one thing that has remained relatively consistent, it has been the question as how to effectively value social. Beyond simply determining how to tie value to posts, another major question that needs to be answered is how do you then turn these valuations into actual dollars and revenue.

Certainly there are many different ways to do this – let me share how I’ve approached the problem.

At Monumental we use a couple of different tools to help us with our social data.

Blinkfire Analytics (https://www.blinkfire.com/landing): Blinkfire tracks logo/graphic placement and provides an approximated value in respect to social media posts. The tool tracks all brand mentions, tags, and logo/graphic placements in social media posts, photos, and videos to estimate the value of that post for a brand. To get that value, they compare the visual or tag with the impressions from the post (retweets, likes, etc.) to give an estimated value that brand received from social media posts over a certain span of time. It can break the reports down by social media outlet, type of social media, and brand.

 TrackMaven (https://trackmaven.com/): TrackMaven is a marketing analytics and attribution software. Simply put, it’s a powerful social listening tool that allows individuals to track, benchmark, and improve their digital footprint through actionable insights. These actionable insights help the digital marketing identify engaging topics and tactics and benchmark content performance.

Between these two tools, we have a lot of data on each individual post we put out as an organization. The major different when it comes to data between the two is that Blinkfire is able to provide accurate valuation data, while TrackMaven is able to get more granular with detailed post metrics.

Step 1 – Marry the Datasets

It’s great to have valuation data and it’s great to have granular post data, but unless you can marry the two together, each are limited in the amount of value and impact they can provide. This was our first step, and once we had the two data sets united, we had a deeper understanding of what type of value we were generating as an organization in a variety of different ways. No longer were we limited by valuations per each post, but were now all of a sudden able to calculate valuations based on the day of week or time of day across each social channel (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and media type (text, image, video).

Now the blinders were off. We could pivot on any metric and have a valuation associated with it. The partnership team was ecstatic, then it happened, they asked a question about how to use the data to make more money.

Step 2 – Determine How and What you Sell

How do you sell social assets? Do you sell posts individually or by series or by both? Knowing how and what you sell is going to be key in how you set up your data in the next step…

Step 3 – Identify the Low-Hanging Fruit

You know what you’re selling and you have the valuations to go with it. It’s now time to expose and identify the opportunities for your partnership team. One way I approached this was by creating a list of all available sellable content and sorted this in descending order to create a list, in order, of highest to lowest valuable sellable content. From here I applied an additional filter to separate already sold content. Viola, a list of the lowest hanging, most valuable content was ready.

Step 4 – Continuously Re-evaluate and Test your Assumptions

The fun doesn’t stop at producing data and delivering it to your sales teams. It is vitally important you continue to update the variables in your valuation and monitor how engagement with your different types of posts changes over time.

This method as it relates to our business operations has started to have major impacts throughout our organization with a number of different departs. Our marketing team has deeper insights into their content, and our partnership division has become empowered to have more engaging and knowledgeable conversations with their clients at every stage in the sales cycle. This information is being leveraged from pitches to end of the year recaps and every step in between.

-Alex

A Whole New World - My Bigger Better Survey Idea

For anyone who knows me and the work I do professionally, knows that I love data and analytics. In fact I love all things mathematics, data, and optimization/ strategy focused. One of the responsibilities that I have looked after since day one of working at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, has been the oversight of our consumer insights initiatives (surveys, focus groups, other empirical research). Although this is only one of the several major responsibilities that I look after, I have always wanted to implement a new model as to how to survey more efficiently, but even more important, accurately.

Everyone has taken a survey of some sort, I’m sure of it. Do you know what one of the major problems with surveys are? Although things like unrepresentative samples, measurement error, sampling error, and survey bias are all major pitfalls to avoid, it’s not what comes to my mind first. To me, it’s the fact that many surveys are snapshots of sentiments at a single point in time. For many institutions this might be okay. But in an industry like mine, or any industry in which seasonality plays a major factor, this is inherently problematic.

Every year my organization asks me to put together our annual brand study. Simply explained, our brand study is the big gigantic survey that goes out to a large portion of the contacts in our database asking a multitude of questions across a wide variety of topics. We try to be smart with it – we send it before the season begins so that any hot or cold start that the team has isn’t included, and whatever heartbreak the season before ended with is in the rearview mirror. However, if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, this isn’t an ideal situation to be in. Surveying on major topics that we then use the data from to implement new strategies. The results generally aren’t ready until we’re already in season a few months later and at that point, implementing anything new is nearly impossible. Then the season ends and the data we collected is outdated.

Another example. We surveys our season tickets holders this past year on their likelihood to renew their tickets at the end of the season – a pretty typical survey that all teams send out in some way shape or form. The only problem is we sent the survey the week before our team went on a 18-0 home win streak. The week prior to that 18-0 home win streak… team was one of the worst in the league. As you can imagine, the perception of the team, and thus the data we collected would have been totally different had we waited six weeks to send it out. That being said, it wouldn’t have been good timing to send it six weeks later since feeling and emotions about the team would have been overly inflated at the time – also problematic.

What if however, we created a survey method that was able to combat this? Recently I have been able to start the implementation of an idea I had several years ago – high frequency surveying across multiple dimensions and topics. The idea here is to create a view of consumer data over time, rather than having data snapshots of a single moment in time. The ability to report on data throughout a season would help standardize data points and offer valuable insights into how seasonality influences different data.

The beauty of all this is, of course, the ability to understand how certain times of the year (or in our case the season) affect feedback and scores. As it relates to sports, much of the data may still highly depend on how the team is performing at any given moment (individuals tend to give higher scores across dimensions when the team is doing well and lower when the team is performing poorly in the standings). Because of this, data living in the peaks and valleys of trends is often hard to act on. However, tracking these peaks and valleys and how attitudes move over time will allow us to better understand where the underlying data and tendencies actually lives, thus allowing us to more accurately identify the levers we can pull to enact effective and meaningful change.

So what do we need to do to do it? For one, a great deal of preparation and organization is required. One would have to determine and build out survey topics in advance. You’d need these questions and topics to be standardized in order to consistently collect and analyze data. You’ll also need to sort out your segmentation practices far in advance. However, these are all things that are possible with enough preparation and time spent.

What do you think? What am I missing?

-Alex

S&R Goal #3 Complete: Identifying the Low-Hanging Fruit

I recently wrote a post that speaks to a new and greater opportunity at my organization that I have been presented with that offers a set of unique challenges. Within this post I outlined three major goals I was seeking to solve or fix this season. Earlier we solved both the first and second of the three major goals which you can read about the first here, and the second here. Recently, we solved the third and final one.

Step 3 – Identify the Low-Hanging Fruit

Once we know what our environment looks like (step 1), and once we’re able to report accurately on it (step 2), it’ll be time to uncover opportunities and create efficiencies across our sellable assets. Step 1 and 2 required.

What was the issue?

We had clear visibility and insight to the landscape of inventory and contracts around us, and reporting to help us understand the data. The final piece that was missing was identifying where to send and direct our sales staff.

How did we solve it?

The good news was that all of the data we needed existed and was available. The bad news was that it lived in a couple of different places. The solution? Joining multiple data sets on a single golden record and criteria. Joining multiple data sets allowed us to mesh our valuation data with our engagement data, thus giving us the ability to provide insight into the best performing and highest valued assets.

It’s been a quality year. We’re entering into the beginning of 2017 and we’re hit our primary departmental goals. We celebrate for a day and regain our focus on how we improve on what we’ve just accomplished and created. Meanwhile, we’ll start to asses what our primary goals are for the next year, and how to start positioning the necessary resources to set ourselves up for success.

-Alex

Internship Pitfalls

At this point in my career, I have had the opportunity to work with and mentor dozens of interns. Some I’ve hired, others I’ve helped gotten hired, and many others have done great work and would get a great recommendation from me if they ever needed it. However, I’ve also encountered situations that left me less than impressed. I bring this up because although it is disappointing to an employer, it can be incredibly damaging to an individual’s career – although generally speaking hopefully not. I say damaging because if you leave a bad impression with an employer, you likely aren’t able to get a good reference, the connections you make won’t be all that powerful, and a bad reputation could end up following you around. Below are some mistakes I’ve seen interns make over the last few years – they should be avoided at all costs.

Lying on Your Resume

This should be a no-brainer but I’m always surprised by how much individuals either embellish or flat out lie on their resumes. I’m generally able to weed out candidates that have embellished qualifications during the interview process. It’s even more disappointing when you hire someone only to find-out they aren’t able to do the things you hired them for.

Checked-out Towards the End

It’s always hard to watch someone work hard and find success, only to see all the momentum sputter at the finish line. Additionally, I try to time the conclusion of projects to last through an interns’ final day. That means if they check-out right before the finish line, a lot of work, important work, goes unfinished. Leaving a sour taste in your managers mouth is not the way you want to be remembered.

Quit Nearly Immediately

I once had an intern quit less than 10 days into the internship because they didn’t feel as though they could make the commitment. Yikes. Do not ever accept a position if you aren’t sure you can make the commitment. This was a disaster for our department.

Spend the Day Completing Homework

I like to think I am one of the most flexible and understanding managers that my staff will ever have. I expect a lot from them, but I also try to be a manager who would go to the end of the Earth for his team. So it’s understandably frustrating when work that is assigned is put aside for other tasks. I’m all for people finishing their school work if it’s a light day or if there isn’t a lot on the plate, but to come in and get paid hourly for doing school work when there is other meaningful work for the firm to be done, is dishonest.

Not Being Accountable

We once had an intern who routinely came in late, took multi-hour lunches, and generally had very little accountability. Despite being talked to multiple times about this, accountability never got to where it needed to be. In retrospect, we probably should have cut ties after no improvement. The kicker to this example is about a year later, a job opened up that would have been this individuals dream job, and they reached out to me about it. Their skillset was exactly what I was looking for. However, given the issues in accountability we had when they interned, I couldn’t in good faith recommend them for the position.

Being Above the Work

Nothing makes me shake my head more than when an intern makes comments or complains about the work given to them because they feel as though the work is below them. Ask anyone who has ever interned for me, one of the first conversations I have with them once they start is to develop an internship plan that touches on an assortment of projects that will help them develop both personally and professionally. The caveat I always layout though, is that there will be times in which busy work will be assigned and need to be carried out. I also always go on to explain that everyone on my staff, including me, all do busy work. I’m not sure whether it’s because some candidates are getting advanced masters degrees such as their MBA’s and they aren’t used to being part of a staff rather than having their own, or whether it’s something else entirely, but being too good to carry out certain tasks is almost always an immediate ticket to being in my dog-house. I look for people to join my team who can do exactly that, be a part of a team – and sometimes that means rolling your sleeves up and doing the dirty work every once-in-a-while. Stay humble.

Consider internships as a multi-month interview. It’s an opportunity to truly stand out amongst your peers. It’s also an opportunity to really shoot yourself in the foot and tarnish your brand if you don’t try your best. When new positions open at my organization, the first people I think about filling those positions with are the interns who stood out. The interns who stand out are not always necessarily the most gifted or brilliant either, but they are nearly always the ones who were the most accountable, the ones that worked the hardest, and those that demonstrated a desire to develop themselves both personally and professionally during their internship.

-Alex

S&R Goal #2 Complete: Reporting

I recently wrote a post that speaks to a new and greater opportunity at my organization that I have been presented with that offers a set of unique challenges. Within this post I outlined three major goals I was seeking to solve or fix this season. Earlier we solved the first of the three major goals which you can read about here. Recently, we solved the second.

Step 2 - Set-up Reporting

How are our assets performing and which ones provide us with future opportunities to take advantage of? Proof of play and valuation reporting has been done, but it’s been on an ad-hoc basis. Pulling an end of year report on a particular client across all of their contracted assets can literally take an entire day. Pulling for several clients could literally take a week of focused effort. The data exists, but getting to it is inefficient and no real foundation exists to allow the process to be replicated efficiently. So far it’s also pretty clear that we’ll have to solve Step 1 before we can get to Step 2.

What was the issue?

A phrase I have probably uttered more than some of my colleagues care to recall is “If we can’t report on it, it’s as though it didn’t exist.” In some instances we weren’t able to report to the depth in which we wanted to. More so was the inefficiency involved in getting data reported. Simple data reporting and recaps took hours to compile and make presentable. Reporting on trends and being able to developed strategy based on data analysis was nearly impossible in some instances.

How did we solve it?

Blunt force… in many ways that’s not far from the truth. We had a lot of data combined with many moving parts. Nothing in and of itself was impossible to solve – it came down to being incredibly organized and diligently chipping away at it.

Fortunately for us, we never lost sight of what the end goal was. As it typically goes during the season, many fires came up that had to be put out in other areas and it was easy to get sidetracked and have to turn focus towards other projects temporarily. But over time through great dedication to working towards installing solutions that would set us up for inevitable success, we got there.

-Alex

S&R Goal #1 Complete: Trafficking

I recently wrote a post that speaks to a new and greater opportunity at my organization that I have been presented with that offers a set of unique challenges. Within this post I outlined three major goals I was seeking to solve or fix this season. Recently we solved the first of the three major goals.

Step 1 - Apply Trafficking Across All Assets

In many ways we’re flying blind when it comes to traffic management and inventory. If a question comes up as to whether or not a certain asset is available to see, dozens of contracts and phone calls need to be made to answer the question with any real degree of certainty. Although a few assets have been entered into internal trafficking documents, nearly 80% of what we sell isn’t. Priority one will be to get this situated so we can better understand the landscape in which we are operating.

What was the issue?

Despite there being a few isolated spreadsheets that accounted for select assets and when they were supposed to be up and running, our organization had no real in-depth insight as to when and where assets should be running without having to rely on either 1) remembering to do something, or 2) dive into dozens of contracts and other related documents to determine whether or not what we had been executing as an organization was accurate.

How did we solve it?

A lot of people say showing up is half the battle. If that’s true, I think most of the second half is being organized and diligent in what you do. The solution here was very straightforward.

1.       Identify every type of asset we sell

2.       Categorize and organize each of these assets into buckets

3.       Create documentation that allowed for insight

4.       Apply upcoming season data and contracts

5.       Share with constituents

6.       Continuously and vigorously update

Each of these steps required an incredible amount of attention needing to be paid to detail and unparalleled amount of organization. Fortunately for us, after we had a roadmap in place, we had the right staff in place to be able to execute successfully on this day-to-day.

-Alex

S&R 2016-17 Season Goals

Recently after internal alignment of data and strategy focused departments and divisions, I received additional scope and responsibility over larger revenue generating portions of our business. One major addition has been the strategy, research, trafficking, reporting, and pricing optimization responsibilities as it relates to our corporate partnerships group.

I’m incredibly excited for this opportunity to be centrally focused on such a large revenue generating division. My group and the work I’m doing remains as a separate department – as I often describe it, we’re the internal consulting division to the rest of the organization.

Off the bat, I see three major opportunities for improvement that I am looking to solve during our 2016-17 season.

Step 1 - Apply Trafficking Across All Assets

In many ways we’re flying blind when it comes to traffic management and inventory. If a question comes up as to whether or not a certain asset is available to see, dozens of contracts and phone calls need to be made to answer the question with any real degree of certainty. Although a few assets have been entered into internal trafficking documents, nearly 80% of what we sell isn’t. Priority one will be to get this situated so we can better understand the landscape in which we are operating. [POST UPDATE: Completed October 2016]

Step 2 - Set-up Reporting

How are our assets performing and which ones provide us with future opportunities to take advantage of? Proof of play and valuation reporting has been done, but it’s been on an ad-hoc basis. Pulling an end of year report on a particular client across all of their contracted assets can literally take an entire day. Pulling for several clients could literally take a week of focused effort. The data exists, but getting to it is inefficient and no real foundation exists to allow the process to be replicated efficiently. So far it’s also pretty clear that we’ll have to solve Step 1 before we can get to Step 2. [POST UPDATE: Completed January 2017]

Step 3 – Identify the Low-Hanging Fruit

Once we know what our environment looks like (step 1), and once we’re able to report accurately on it (step 2), it’ll be time to uncover opportunities and create efficiencies across our sellable assets. Step 1 and 2 required. [UPDATE: Completed March 2017]

These are my 3 major goals for the 2016-17 season. In many ways it may be biting off more than we can chew, but I’m also confident that so long as we put our heads down and work towards the goal with a measure twice, cut once mentality, we’ll be successful. Even if we aren’t able to completely solve each of the above, laying a foundation to set us up for eventual success may be just as important. There’s also a lot more out there to work on, but if we can solve the above in our first year, not only would that be a huge success, but it’ll lay the groundwork for everything else that could use efficiency building and streamlining.

-Alex

What is Strategy & Research?

Strategy & Research. That’s the department and group I oversee at work. Sounds straightforward enough. But what is it we actually do on a daily basis, and how does it make the organization better?

The Strategy & Research department that I oversee is largely in charge of two major buckets. Consumer insights and business strategies for our corporate partnership team. There are many details when it comes to each of these:

Consumer Insights

Our team oversees all consumer insights operations (surveys, focus groups, empirical research) across Monumental Sports & Entertainment (NHL’s Washington Capitals, NBA’s Washington Wizards, WNBA’s Washington Mystics, AFL’s Washington Valor, AFL’s Baltimore Brigade, eSports Team Liquid, and our venues in the Verizon Center, EagleBank Arena, Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and the new facility we are building in SE Washington). Within each of these properties we work with each department (marketing, sales, corporate partnerships, etc.) to help them meet their insights needs with a blend of quantitative and qualitive approaches.

Corporate Partnership Business Strategy

Think of my team as an internal consulting department to our corporate partnership team. In particular, we oversee and execute on the following major components:

1.       Trafficking

2.       Reporting

3.       Pricing

4.       Revenue Supporting Practices

I enjoy the combination of micro and macro responsibilities. It allows me to keep a general pulse on the organizations health as defined by our fans and consumers, while pulling the levers that have direct impact to our corporate partnership bottom line.

-Alex

What is Business Intelligence?

The rise of Business Intelligence departments in the sports industry is the new sexy, and I can totally understand why – I’m part of ours.

As data becomes more and more important in every business decision in nearly every industry from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo, properties throughout the sports industry are starting to form data & strategy departments, many of which are adopting the name “Business Intelligence”. A simple formula for what business intelligence units are, are centrally locating the departments and entities from around an organization that are heavily involved in data. Simply put, business intelligence departments are the data departments of organizations, and being used much like internal consultants to the rest of the organization in developing strategies that are ground in data in some way shape or form.

I’m a bit biased of course, but these make a ton of sense. Historically, in my opinion, one of the major problems has been the siloed nature of data throughout organizations. This breaks down many of the barriers that existed before and let the entities work together toward one common goal. Supply Chain 101.

-Alex

Maple Leaf Adventures

I had an interesting experience recently when I was laid over in the Istanbul airport on my way to Bulgaria for a friend’s wedding. Generally speaking I think I’m pretty easily identified as being American when I travel. It’s not that I’m overly loud, boisterous, or any of the other American clichés - I just think there are subtleties to the way one dresses, moves about, etc. This can have its advantages and its drawbacks depending on where you are sure. The conversation I ended up having though, was much more interesting. It went something like this:

I’m sitting at a bar in one of the most frequently trafficked part of the airport getting in some quality people watching while feverishly writing work emails and scribbling notes on my legal pad. I’m sitting alone at a counter facing the pedestrian airport traffic when a complete stranger sits right next me. He has a shaved head, long black beard, lower lip piercing and tattoo on his throat. “Stan” he says in a thick accent as he extends his hand. Five empty seats to my right, six to my left. “Buckle up” I think to myself as I’m left wondering what is happening. Instinctively I casually wrap my foot around my bag under the table and check that my wallet is still in my front pocket. This guy “Stan” was definitely about to try and rob me. Stan asks me where I’m travelling to and whether or not I was meeting friends during my travels. I start answering his questions and responding with a slew of questions of my own – where is he from, why was he in Istanbul, etc. Maybe I’ll rob him instead.

My initial tension starts to subside after a while, but I still wonder why Stan keeps going on and on. We talk about his Belgium girlfriend, and his work as “the machine implementation guy” for his company. I still never fully understood what kind of work he did, other than he “installed machines” all over Europe. He starts dogging on the USA and Niagra Falls, mentioning that the Canadian side of it is much more impressive and beautiful – I agree as I recalled seeing photos from friends trip there years ago. We talk about our favorite places to travel. I tell him about my trips to Ireland, Budapest and Tanzania. He tells me about his love for the south of France and his passion for anything extreme sports related. “Do you speak French?” he asks me at one point before launching into French sentences. I stare blankly and mutter the only French phrase I know, followed by laughing at myself. “Oh, you’re not one of those” he says. “What the hell was that supposed to mean?” I think to myself. We go on for the better part of an hour – Stan buys me a beer and a hamburger. Just two old friends catching up.

I eventually close my work laptop as I realize I’m not going to get anything productive done. Work emails can wait a couple hours I uneasily tell myself. I still wonder why Stan keeps going on and on as it was obvious I was in the middle of something – I had a laptop out and had been in the middle of scribbling notes down when he approached. As I’m thinking about this some more, Stan asks me a question – “so, where in Canada are you from?”

“What?” I reply utterly confused.

“I said, where in Canada are you from?”

“Oh man, I’m wearing my Canada hat aren’t I?” I think to myself. Yep, I sure was.

Long-story short, one of my favourite (see what I did there) baseball hats is a Toronto Blue Jays hat with a huge red Canadian Maple Leaf on the front – I’m not sure a more Canadian looking hat exists actually.

Embarrassed I laugh a bit and tell Stan that I’m in fact not Canadian, and I’m American. “American!? No way man, you are from Canada.” I laugh, pull my passport out of my pocket and slide it over to him – wait, wasn’t this guy trying to rob me a minute ago? I casually grab my passport back and stuff it into my front pocket again. “You’re too nice to be American, and no way have I come sit here if I know you are American.” Curious, I ask him why. Ah, Canadians are the best, nicest people to talk to when travelling. You always got to be nice to a Canadian guy, you know? “I’m a nice guy and I’m American” I protest. “Yeah, but it’s not the same you know?” He laughs after saying this and we continue to chat for a few more minutes. The tab comes and in insists on paying. “First time I buy a hamburger and beer for an American” he mutters to himself while smiling. “Always buy a beer for a Canadian” he goes on. I don’t really know what to do, so I apologize for being American and thank him again for picking-up the tab. We’re both laughing and having a good time with it – we shake hands and we depart in opposite directions.

When I finally arrive in Bulgaria, I meet up with my other friend’s also out to attend the wedding. I recount my story, and to my surprise, two friends tell very similar stories about times they travelled and were accidentally mistaken for Canadian – one of them even ended up being invited to stay at someone’s home free of charge for the week! Again, no real point, but next time you travel, don your best maple leaf hat and see if you end up having some interesting stories you wouldn’t have had otherwise – maybe Stan will buy you a burger and a beer.

Also, if anyone has seen my credit card, please let me know.

-Alex

Title vs. Money vs. Function

As you navigate your career in or out of sports, you’ll be presented with new and exciting opportunities both in and out of the industry. At times you’ll have to balance major factors such as Salary vs. Title vs. Job Function. The right answer for one person could be the wrong for another. There are many factors that go into making job decisions. It’s hard for me to comment when it comes to salary based decisions. Everyone wants to make more money. The question becomes more complex as you add more variables into the mix – do you have a family to support, etc. Here are a few things to consider asking yourself:

When it comes to salary             

Do you need more money, or do you want more money? Everyone wants more money. Are you in a situation however in which you need more money? Perhaps you have a family you need to provide for. Perhaps you’re later in your career and need to start focusing on retirement funding. Typically when you’re younger I’ve found that you’re generally more able to sacrifice salary for opportunity. It may make sense to take a job that gives you a great skillset or experience and exposure over a better paying job. Depending on where you are in your career or in life, you may have flexibility here.

When it comes to title

Does a title give you more responsibility or translate into future opportunity? Title and Salary typically go hand-in-hand to a certain degree, but not always. Does a title come with more responsibility? If it does, is that responsibility something that will help you grow personally or professionally? If it doesn’t, are you still able to grow personally or professionally in other ways? Title bumps are great – they generally show promotion and increased responsibility. Make sure you’re avoid putting yourself into a position where you’re no longer growing and developing.

When it comes to job function

You’re not always going to have your dream job – it just doesn’t work that way. But that doesn’t mean you have to hate what you do. Certainly there are jobs out there you would love to have. There are also certainly jobs out there that you would hate to have. Shoot for ones you would love to have and avoid the ones that you would hate. If you don’t get your dream job to start, hopefully you land somewhere that is somewhere in the middle that you don’t hate that develops you personally and professionally. I cannot believe the number of individuals I come across who are in jobs they hate, and knew from the start they were probably going to hate them, just to get their foot in the door, or because it was going to pay them more money, or the job title sounded better. Why would anyone do this to themselves if they could help it!?

When you consider all of the variables in play, it can be a hard task to sort through and figure out. There are exceptions to the rule and circumstances in life that may negate the advice I lay out above. Having a good salary, with a good title, with a job function you enjoy to boot is a slam dunk. However, the trick is balancing between short-term and long-term goals, either of which can carry different weights depending on your circumstances. By no means do I proclaim myself to be an expert on correctly navigating and sorting through every possible variable, but typically I’ve found success in taking a step back and trying to methodically consider the trade offs and their impact on short and long-term goals. Hopefully you’ll find success too.

-Alex

3 Years In

The original premise for this blog was to keep track of my journey into the world of sports. Overtime it has naturally moved into other spaces – it’s my website, I’ll do what I want with it. However, in honor of my 3 year work anniversary this past week, I thought it made sense to continue the annual tradition of major lessons learned along the way. Since it’s my 3 year anniversary, I’ll talk about 3 lessons.

Be Adaptable
This could probably qualify more as a life lesson than anything else, but of course applies to your job. The reason so many people end up becoming replaceable over time generally has something to do with not having adapted to their surroundings and environment. You see this all the time with businesses, and unfortunately even more so with personnel. Another unfortunate side-effect are those in stable positions who do not adapt to new environments, and thus create a world of inefficiency as a result. Being adaptable means a lot of things – technology might change, best practices might change, your job responsibilities could change, etc. Be the person who adapts – those are personnel that are highly valued and difficult to replace.

Your Attitude Drives Your Success
It’s nearly impossible to have a great and positive attitude about everything you do in life, including work. Crappy things are bound to happen at some point or another. You’re not always going to remain positive, but you should try to see the positives that are presenting themselves – there’s almost always a few of them. You might not always like what you have to do, but

Show Gratitude
Again, probably more a life lesson than anything else, but don’t forget to say please and thank you. Let people know you appreciate them and what they do. It goes a lot further than one might think.

Still going strong 3 years in!

 

-Alex

The Art of an Informational Interview

One of the lines that sticks out to me from one of the hundreds of informational interviews that I conducted while trying to break into the sports industry is “once you break in, make sure you pay it forward” – the context being that once I broke into the industry, make sure I make the time to speak with individuals on the outside looking in. I took that to heart and since breaking into sports full-time in June 2013, and I have fielded hundreds of requests for informational interviews since.

Some have been great, and others not so great. When individuals come up to me and ask what will set them apart and be the x-factor for them breaking into sports, I often tell them it’s the informational interviews they have with individuals. Similar to my post about having genuine conversations, only a small few will actually go the extra mile in scheduling informational interviews. I find this to be absurd. I’m sure that if I guaranteed a job to any aspiring student who wanted to break into sports by saying, “if you do X, Y, and Z, I’ll hire you”, nearly all would do X, Y, and Z. So it’s crazy to me that when I tell students or anyone else who seems desperate to break into sports, “if you do A, B and C, there’s a great chance (nearly 95% let’s say) you’ll get a job in sports”, only a very small few actually end up doing it.

Here are my three thoughts or steps on how to approach the informational interview:

1)      The Ask

If you’re a student, this is pretty easy. Send an email, give them a call, but the message should be similar, “Hello, my name is Sam and I’m a masters student at North America University trying to learn more about the sports industry. I see that you work in XYZ department at ABC team/ company. If you had the time, I would love the opportunity to pick your brain about your work and the types of projects that you focus on”. If you’re not a student, that’s okay, you can follow a similar guideline.

2)      The Call

Sounds dumb to say, but be prepared, and have some idea of what you want to talk about. I’ve had several bad calls, but one sticks out to me more than the others. Someone once reached out to me and set-up a call. Once our scheduled time rolled around, I called them and they sounded surprised to hear from me – they had completely forgotten we had a call! Okay, no problem, everyone makes mistakes, so we set-up a second time to have a conversation the following week. When we finally connect the following week, they are totally unprepared. They have no questions or any ideas on what to talk about. At one point there was nearly :30 seconds of silence on the phone, followed by a comment on whether or not I had questions for them. The kicker to the entire situation is that months later they came and asked me to hire them. What chance of hiring (or recommendation from me) do you think this individual had at that point? Be prepared. Don’t waste someone’s time – it’ll bite you.

3)      The Follow-up

Nothing major, but send a quick thank you plus anything you discussed on the call that you promised to follow-up with. If anything interesting regarding your call came up such as an interesting article, include a link and reference it. Take the opportunity to stay in touch and engage again if you stumble across something that you find applicable to your previous conversation. It calls attention to the fact that you were listening and did some critical thinking beyond the call. But listen, a simple thank you is totally okay – don’t over engage if there’s nothing to talk about.

4)      Staying in Touch

This one is a bit trickier and does not apply to everyone you speak with. Some of the contacts you speak with and conduct informational interviews with are going to be more valuable than others – that’s just how it works. But staying in genuine contact when appropriate goes a long way. What I mean by this is if you come across an article or something else that you believe is interesting to someone you spoke with, send it their way. Don’t over do it, and don’t feel as though you need to do this to everyone you spoke with. If they respond and engage, great, you’ve reminded them that you exist. If not, not a problem, people are busy - avoid continuing to send them material if they continue not to respond.

So where does this all go and lead to? Hopefully a job in sports. The idea here is that you’re creating a bunch of meaningful and genuine relationships. Relationships that will then make you aware of openings on their own, or that may serve as allies to you when you apply to jobs.

In conclusion, if you really want to work in sports, I would start by first asking yourself why. This, in and of itself, is something you need to be completely honest with yourself about, and something I talk about in another blog post. The second thing you need to do is really commit to it. I promise you, that to date, not a single individual or person that has taken this advice, did not eventually land a job in the industry after taking the advice and guidelines that I talk about above to heart. If it’s your ambition to work in sports, you can make it a reality. The sad truth of the matter is that most people don’t really have the fire or the passion to make it happen for themselves. Instead they sit and wait for something to happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re an undergraduate student, or a masters of sports business student, or an MBA, JD, or PhD – these things mean absolutely nothing unless you are willing to put in the time to network, meet people, and conduct informational interviews. Yes, some may get lucky and meet that perfect connection that ends up helping get them a job immediately. However, the general candidate gets and finds a job through hard work and outworking the 80% that say they want a job in sports, but in reality only kind of want it.

If you want it, you can do it. You have the tools outlined for you on what it takes to be successful. Get after it.

-Alex