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This is an excerpt from C. Ryan Shelton’s chapter in “The GM’s Handbook” which is available in paperback, Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is cited, indexed and professionally edited, providing perspectives from 16 MiLB C-Suite Executives on leadership, hiring/firing/interviews, merchandise, tickets, concessions, corporate sales and the business of sports revenue generation.

 

Multiple Stages Of A Career

It has been ten years since I broke into the sports industry. Currently, I am the President and General Manager of the Salem Red Sox, the Advanced-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox located in Salem, Virginia (not Massachusetts, New Hampshire or Maine as many assume). We are an interesting case. We were purchased in 2008 for player development after Theo Epstein pressed the Red Sox ownership to secure our future in the Carolina League. Typically in these situations the team is operated solely from the perspective of player development with business development not really being a factor. If the team breaks even, that’s a win.

In our case, we are largely owned and wholly managed by Fenway Sports Management, which like any business, prioritizes bottom line results, achieved by creating a memorable fan experience and outstanding sales and service. My role is to ensure we are creating the best environment for our player development staff while being a budget conscious revenue generator. This situation has been an amazing learning experience, having to manage so many different paradigms in order to achieve all of our stakeholder goals.

My career success during the years prior to joining Salem and particularly over the past five seasons since has been built on recruiting, hiring and developing a talented staff. It is cliché to say that an organization’s most valuable asset is its people, but I firmly believe that is true. However, with the limited resources available to a minor league organization managing this asset requires patience, inspiration, foresight and the wisdom of the stoics to keep everything moving forward.

The Phone Trenches

My career in sports began in 2008 when I was hired as an Inside Sales Rep for the then Florida Marlins. I was one of fourteen reps hired to sell season tickets and to a lesser degree, groups. We were given a week of “boot camp” training and then thrown on the phones.

We were, for the most part hired by the Director of Ticket Sales, though there was an Inside Sales Manager and an Assistant Inside Sales Manager. The week of training was almost entirely led by the director with the two managers observing and handling small groups. After that week, the training ended, we were off to sink or swim. Daily reports would be sent and if your calls dropped too low an encouraging or scolding email would follow. If you needed advice or a shoulder to cry on the managers or other senior reps were always available.

GMsHandbook
This is an excerpt from C. Ryan Shelton’s chapter in “The GM’s Handbook” which is available in paperback, Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is cited, indexed and professionally edited, providing perspectives from 16 MiLB C-Suite Executives on leadership, hiring/firing/interviews, merchandise, tickets, concessions, corporate sales and the business of sports revenue generation.

The program was 24 weeks and along the way a few had dropped off, choosing to go home, back to school or Enterprise Rent-a-Car. As we approached the end, the bottom half of the leader board, knowing they would not be offered a position, began leaving one by one for other teams in similar roles or internships. The top three or four on the leaderboard fought until the last.

I distinctly remember coming to work on the last day of the program not knowing if I would be offered the coveted Account Executive position or if I was leaving with my belongings in a box. There was great speculation among the leaders as to which of us would be going out for celebratory beers and who would be calling home to break the bad news.

Around lunchtime our curiosity abated as word began to spread who was staying and who was going. I did not receive a golden ticket that day. I finished second in ticket revenue despite having the most accounts sold. While we had been told for 24 weeks, clearly to keep us motivated, that the total ticket revenue would not be the determining factor, it clearly was.

The Leaderboard

The “winner” was not in the top five in accounts sold, but happened to receive a lucrative in-bound call the day after the Miami-Dade Commission approved the new ballpark at the Orange Bowl site. The caller was an original premium season ticket holder who had become disenchanted with the organization over the years. Seeing the future of a beautiful new ballpark in Miami, she wanted back in. She asked what it would take to get the best seats in the new ballpark. The answer, at that time, was to buy and maintain the best seats at then Dolphin Stadium. Boom, a $25,000 sale.

The next week the same rep received an in-bound call for a group sale upwards of $10,000.

After those two sales his spot in first place was fairly solid, though a couple of us made a strong run and got very close. At the end of the day he finished a few thousand dollars ahead of a close race for second.

We realized later that had management told us this job would go to the person with the highest revenue, production would have cratered the day after those in-bound calls.

 

This is an excerpt from C. Ryan Shelton’s chapter in “The GM’s Handbook” which is available in paperback, Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is cited, indexed and professionally edited, providing perspectives from 16 MiLB C-Suite Executives on leadership, hiring/firing/interviews, merchandise, tickets, concessions, corporate sales and the business of sports revenue generation.

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