What constitutes effective sales leadership? Lance Tyson’s guest is Greg Kish, Head of Revenue at SoFi Stadium. In this interview, Greg shares several insights with us that have propelled him to the top of his game. He discusses his view on the job interview, the importance of preparation in sales, and the impact of mentorship throughout your career to create a wellspring of confidence. If you listen closely, you’ll even hear sales advice that Bruce Wayne’s mentor shared with him in the movie Batman Begins, “Always mind your surroundings.” Give this episode a listen. You won’t go wrong.
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The Right Recipe For An Effective Sales Leadership With Greg Kish
I’m excited about this episode. This is one of those interviews that is Against the sales odds. I have Greg Kish, Head of Revenue for SoFi Stadium in Hollywood Park. Greg and I have been in multiple foxholes together over the years. I’m excited you’re on. Give everybody a flavor of what head of revenue is for this soon to be that a lot of people haven’t been to because of the pandemic. SoFi Stadium, Hollywood Park. Tell us what you’re in charge of, what you run.
First off, I’m still trying to figure that out myself, Lance. We can pick up things as we go. If you want to sum it up on the 30,000-foot view, any revenue that touches the stadium, not necessarily directed to any of the teams, the Rams or the Chargers, but talking through third-party events. We’ve got a 6,000-seat performance venue.
We’ve got 300 acres that we’re looking to monetize, and it stems away from the typical ticketing aspect and more into how do we bring awareness, revenue, and excitement into the retail, the performance venue, into some of the commercial spaces. We think about how we’re going to monetize data throughout 300 acres as we start getting the 30-million-person footprint per year that we’re looking for.
That’s more what’s on my mind day to day. I’m still figuring it out as we go. What’s great and what’s exciting about what I’m able to take on here soon is how much it has the potential to evolve and how fluid it can be. Being in the environment, we’ll get to this. We’ve always been in. I’ve certainly been, indirectly. Being fluid has just been part of my professional life, based on how we always operate. It’s an exciting time. We are months away from putting a charge into this place and getting some people in there. I couldn’t wait to see smiling faces as they walked through the gate.
That organization that reports up to you, you’re on the project, the sub stadiums out, you ran both teams, Chargers and in the Rams side of things. Your team sold the suite, seats, all the premium clubs, and things like that. This position is evolved. Which organization is underneath it?
What we’re looking at is heavy on probably four pieces. Legends is involved and have done an incredible job of hammering in some of the biggest partner deals in all of the sports and entertainment. One of the big facets is partnership marketing. I hate saying the word activate because anybody can activate. What we want to do is connect with the brands, and make them fruitful, and continue to find ways to grow with them, both from a relationship and monetization standpoint.
That’s one piece of a focal point for us. We have a continuing push on the partnership sales side. There are always opportunities with physical spaces within the building. We’re trying to get it done. We’re about to open a 6,000-seat performance venue, and then we’ve got the rest of the acres to utilize. Trying to figure that out from a partnership’s perspective is another piece to it. We do have traditional ticketing opportunities as we look into these third-party events.
We also have a tourism catered event program that Legends is running, which is going to be a fantastic program for us for years to come. We’re thinking through how we’re going to continue to work, and create, and grow certain revenue streams within there. We also have our performance venue itself from a ticketing standpoint that we’re working through. We have theater boxes, and club seats, and all of those types of things that we’re doing.
That’s the three traditional sales angles. The next one is going to be more data monetization. We have the ability and the platform here to create the number one data monetization platform in all sports entertainment. If you think about it, just with the acreage, with all the differentiation of how it’s going to be built up, and the different types of people that are going to be coming in at different times, we can build an extremely diverse platform, and anybody can collect data. We just got to figure out how to use and then monetize it. That’s our three-pronged approach. We’re in the very low-level emphasis stages of that. If we don’t take advantage of that, it’s a huge miss. That’s a real big focal point. There are going to be other things that potentially grow down the line with eSports opportunities and other things of that nature.
How do you land on the spot, to be the head of revenue, to drive these big projects? Some people don’t know you’re a California boy. You landed back home, got back to where you started. Only a couple of miles from where you grew up.
Every day I come to work about 500 feet off the property line, and I stare at the hospital I was born in, which was just insane to me. I grew up about 1.5 miles right down the street that dead-end into the property.
Where did you start your career? You come out of school, and you might want to mention that you’re an avid ballplayer. You played some college ball. Talk about that. Where did you start from playing sports to working in sales?
I do love telling this story. I was very fortunate to get a scholarship playing baseball. I ended up towards the end of that at the University of Hawaii. I got hurt. I tore my flexor tendon in my elbow. I wasn’t going to be playing much after that, I could tell. My coach asked me, “Do you want to be a second assistant coach?” I’m like, “Yeah, I love this game.” The very next year, I’m on board, and I’m coaching. I get in a situation where I realize I don’t want to do this. There’s a couple of reasons, and it pertains a lot to the business world as well.
One, not only did I saw the path of becoming a head coach, and the second assistant to head assistant, to head coach, but it wasn’t one that I just wanted to grind through. I loved it, but not that much. Two, I also saw the managing of your peers. If you think about it, I went from playing to coaching immediately following, and you’re talking to people who have been right alongside you in the grind. That was a difficult aspect. It was great, but it taught me a little bit more about humility and how to handle those situations. It became difficult, and it was a hard thing to do.
I had no career aspirations plans. I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do, but I wanted to stay in baseball. We fast forward. It’s August after I’m done with school and all of that. I’m done coaching. I go visit my wife now, and my girlfriend at that time. That was in Dallas, Texas, working for the Big 12 Conference. I went out there, and I was like, “I should look for jobs or internships.” I got guided towards Frisco RoughRiders in Frisco, Texas. That’s the Mandalay property. It was a well-known property from Los Angeles. Somebody gave me the advice.
By the way, this was a very hard trick back in the day to learn, but I learned it early. I found a way to get a president’s email online. I googled his name, and I found ways to use the website URL and put it in there. Nowadays, it’s everywhere. I was able to do that. I emailed him directly, and I said, “I’m looking for a position. Here’s my resume.” In my resume, I didn’t have crap on it. Let’s be real. It said college baseball coach. I was naive.
I’ve never heard this story.
I sent that email twenty minutes later, got a call from Matt Goodman. He called me. He’s the director of sales at that time. He says, “Can you come by tomorrow for an interview?” I was like, “Let’s do it.” I hang up the phone, and I go, “It’s August in Dallas. All I have is t-shirts and board shorts.” I don’t have any money. I go to Stein Mart. I bought a colored shirt, pants, socks because I don’t even have socks and these terrible boat shoes. I roll in the next day, and I get there. It’s an intense interview process that they ran.
No matter how good you are in certain situations, if you don’t have your management leadership team echoing what you want, you have already lost.
It was a full day. One of the things I’ll never forget as I sit down in this common room, you walk in, and they do the firing squad, the five people who are staring at you and the one seat. I went through that and, I swear, I met everybody in the organization. I came back. They asked me to come back to the game that night. They said, “Do you want a job?” I was like, “Yeah. What am I doing?” I had no idea, in reality, what I was interviewing for.
I just knew I was excited to be there. They’re like, “We have an outside sales position here. We want you to be a part of it.” I was like, “Great. I don’t know what that means, but let’s do it. Let’s sell some stuff.” I went in blind, and it was one of the best moves I’ve ever made. I had some of the greatest mentors, coaches, people who guided me in that year and a half at the RoughRiders they got me. One thing it taught me, and I’ll never forget to tell this lesson to every single person, is that mostly the interview is not necessarily about your skillset unless you’re going for a skill-specific job.
If you’re going for more of a mass job, especially in the sales realm, number one is you enjoy it. Are you comfortable? Are you relatable? It does make the person or the people hiring you want to hang around you all day. That’s the majority of it. For the rest of it, they can teach some of the technical stuff. I didn’t know it at the time. I was just happy. I thought that the conference room interview process, that boardroom style, the firing squad was the most fun thing I’ve ever done. I just enjoyed it.
We got some esteemed alumni that have been on this show, Brent Stehlik, who comes out of Mandalay. My VP of sales, Gina Beltrama, who you grew up in the business with. We have Kevin Rockledge. He was a Mandalay guy, but he was up Dayton. They ended up here. Mike Drake was here. That Mandalay crew was so.
That timing. How fortunate could I have been not falling into that but being in that right time, right place, and right reach out. Not only getting the job but being around those people you mentioned. It was so incredible. What a great experience to start my career.
You showed the ability to prospect, be entrepreneurial, and figure out how to get in the door, and definitely be bold. That’s something you’ve been your whole career. I know that there’s a couple of times I have to come and build this down. In the middle of LA, saying, “You got to be here now.” You go there and start to develop your sales skills. What’s the biggest thing you got out of the Frisco RoughRiders experience?
Tact and preparedness. When I got there, they got us all into a hotel for a week. We go through a day of training, and then that evening, they essentially hand us a book. This book is a 25-page pitch, and it’s word for word. They give it to you, and they say, “Learn this by tomorrow morning.” “What do you mean? Memorize a 25-page book by tomorrow morning?” They don’t expect you to be perfect, but they can see who’s preparing or who cares.
I learned a lot about preparing, videotaping, going back, and paying attention. What are you missing? Completely reevaluating yourself, that was huge. I had no idea what that was. Intrinsically I probably had a feel for it, but not the tact that was necessary to work with a 25-year-old kid, and sell him something and then a 70-year-old CEO where she’s extremely reserved and doesn’t want my energy.
It is kind of when it be buttoned up or when not to. Turn it on, turn it off. How long were you at Frisco Mandalay?
A year and a half.
What happened then?
I get the heads up that there’s a job offer at the Dallas Cowboys. I had zero desire. I’m enjoying my job. I love working in baseball and am happy. Brent called me after he had left and said, “You would be crazy not to apply for this. You don’t have the experience, but I will call.” Chad asked this and let them know to get you an opportunity, at least an interview. Walk into the job fair, 200 plus people. Jerry Jones is up there speaking and doing his thing to everybody. It was so cool.
It’s the same situation. I just rolled in, going, “What do I have to lose?” I love where I’m at. I love my job, and I go through the group interview. I get a call that I’m interviewing with Chad the next day. I’ll never forget the question he asked me. He goes, “I am hesitant to hire you because you don’t have any experience. You just don’t.” I don’t even know where this came from. I said, “Chad, if you think about it, nobody that’s doing what we’re about to do has any experience. We all are coming from scratch here.” After that, it was, “Let’s go, let’s get it done.”
You get on that project essentially to give everybody feedback. This is the new era of stadiums with the premium. There’s nothing else like it. The amount of suites, the PSLs, the pricing were through the roof. The thing closest to that, at that point, might’ve been the Lincoln at the Eagles a couple of years before, but that pale in comparison. You’ve been on the project. Go back to the RoughRiders. Where were you in sales? We’re you the number one guy?
Consistently top third. 1, 2, 3.
You’re up there, but you can’t claim that number one spot every time.
Gina kicked my ass several times.
You’re at least smart enough to know that there’s plenty of people that can confirm your bias no matter. When I had asked us on here when he worked at the Cubs, I go, “Were you the top guy?” He goes, “No, I was a solid 4 or 5 shifts.” It was there. You get on that project. Do you realize what? It was up there on the project. You’re on the stage.
I didn’t realize anything until I started getting down the line. I’ve always been brought up my whole life to just go to work, do your job, do it right. Frankly, it was totally awe-inspiring to be involved with not only the stadium that you just mentioned, which we were looking to break every sports sales record by 20X. The brand was huge. The polarization of the Jones family, and the leadership, they exuded right off the bat.
Right from day one was something that was inspiring, and it blew my mind. I didn’t think that would be the case, but at the end of the day, I had to reflect once I got closer to the middle, to the end of the project, to understand better that feeling of where I was. I was fricking grateful to be there. I wanted to keep my head down and work. For the first couple of years, that’s what I did.
Who do you report to?
You report it to Todd, and I’ve had flames on this? If I talk to Todd, and I’m having a beer with him, I said, “Off the record, how is Kish’s salesforce? What drove you crazy about him?” He says what?
Focus more on consistency than worrying about being number one every day.
I was too emotional at the start. I was doing this a lot, and it wasn’t overly affecting my numbers, but I would get so pissed off about the littlest thing that would happen. It would cause me to be pissed off throughout. He would have to come in and calm me down sometimes and be like, “What is the deal? You’re fine. Relax.” The second thing is because I have tunnel vision.
I didn’t have the awareness to the greater understandings, so I would be frustrated or push for things or try to get things done that didn’t have the overarching goal in mind. It wasn’t a personal thing necessarily, but it was more so like, “I see it this way. That’s the way it should go.” He’d have to pull me back and go, “It makes sense. However, you have to see everything.”
What did he love about you?
He loved the fact that I cared so much and because he did too. We got along well. Personality-wise, he and I got along regardless, and I’ll take that off the table. Obviously, we’re still very close. At the end of the day, it came down to that he understood how much I care and wanted to be a part of this thing. Whereas there were people there that had a job.
You’re there for the career.
I was there for two things. I was there for the career, but I was also there for the project. I wanted that thing to succeed.
You’re going to build the cathedral.
My first memory of you was we were in that old Cowboy stadium.
You were to the right, and I drilled in either you or somebody else and your crinkles on your face. I said, “If he got up right now, he’d fight me.”
You wouldn’t put it past you.
I remember I was brought in to dial in on you guys. I was brought to bring absolute heat into that room.
You made two people quit.
That’s right. That was my job, to be the cooler. I like to say it’s the cooler because it’s as many times as I’ve watched Roadhouse during the pandemic, I’m cooler. That project lasted how long for you, and then what started to happen?
Let’s say I got there at ‘07 and I left in ‘11. Four and a half years. What happened was I started garnering a little bit more awareness as to where I was, where I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do. There was a potential for me. I remember pitching Chad and Doug Dawson on a role that I thought was vacant in the organization, which was, we were getting all these new hires. They were constantly having me train and develop them. When I say me, it’s a group and me. I said, “Not only is that taking time away from sales for everybody, but why don’t we have this new hire manager to be a part of this?”
I remember sitting down and pitching them and then listening, and they’re like, “Okay.” I was like, “They’re listening, but I’m not sure. I’m ready. I’m going to start looking.” I started looking, and a premium sales manager job in San Diego pops up with the Padres. I’m thinking to myself, “Once it’s there. I’m going there. That’s perfect for me. I’m from LA. This is great.” I get the green light, “Please, go.” Interview, all this stuff. I’m on the plane to go fly to San Diego, my phone rings, and it’s Chad. He goes, “Have a great time, enjoy the time with Brent. Kick ass in the interview,” and all this. He goes, “Don’t sign anything if they tell you.”
I’m like, “What do you mean with don’t sign anything?” We figure that they’ll give you an offer. Don’t sign anything. I’m like, “Okay. Why?” He goes, “We want you to go to Santa Clara to manage the new 49ers Stadium.” I was like, “What?” “Yeah, we hadn’t talked about it yet, but we targeted you for that. Don’t sign anything.” I finally got there and got to the interview process.
I got to Brent’s office. He’s like, “Shut the door.” He goes, “You’re not coming here. What do you want to do? Do you want to tour the building or something? You’re not coming here. You’re in great shape.” I got lucky enough to be a part of that. That was the first real big project from a global sales perspective that Legends were able to land.
That was your first crack at leadership?
Correct. At that time, it was more management for me. I wasn’t quite there yet.
You had some touches helping train, so you’re in the development people. The project leaders, managers were you Drake, obviously running the project, Justin Belkhari. Am I missing anybody?
Three-headed monster right there. Take who you were as a salesperson. How does it make you a leader? What are you doing?
I certainly had to be as humble as possible when I went in there, because the first thing I realized was there were people in there that knew more than me. There were people that we were bringing on board that were older than me. I had never experienced that before. I’m relatively young for where I was at that time. Half my team was older than me and had a larger resume with better experience. They were better salespeople than I ever was.
How did you handle that? Did you assume the position or you let it bother you?
I loved it. I thought it was great. Where I had some trouble was in the beginning with a training perspective was trying to correct everyone in a way that was more my style, as opposed to understanding style, and then just correcting the little things that are more sales technique focused. That’s a little bit of what I was doing at Dallas that was trying to make everybody sell like me. I had to realize this quickly.
It’s going to look over coaching a little bit.
You were there. You know You were helping train me in that room while I was doing that. I definitely was. I wasn’t giving them the chance to make it their own in those environments. That was something where that might’ve been more of me thinking it was the right thing to do because of, “Maybe that they got more experienced, but I’m successful. I got to figure this out.”
You’re trying to establish credibility. You are trying to establish, “This is why I’m here?” A signature.
I am too hard a little bit but not in a malicious way, just in a way where I thought that was the right thing to do. That’s the biggest thing. I ended up getting in a situation where that was one. The second thing is that if you ask just random people on the staff. I played favorites in a sense. I certainly wanted to deal with the people that I got along with better. That’s a natural, personal thing as opposed to dealing with people that I didn’t get along with for whatever reasons.
Genuinely attack everything as hard as you can. If you do, you’ll never make a wrong decision. You’ll make a mistake, but you’ll never be wrong.
There’s nothing to prepare you for that. You have to do that to evolve as a leader.
You have to be called out for it.
You gravitate to the people. Your key person now, he couldn’t be more opposite than you. He couldn’t be more different than you and anybody. You don’t start to realize you appreciate that until you try to get everybody to do the same.
No doubt. That took some time, for sure. That took a lot of the run of that project for me to understand that and get that in, which I’m glad I learned. I got called out, there’s no doubt.
What was the one moment in that project for you? That lasted three years for you?
It was another four and a half. I saw the opening of the building.
I had to think through. They’re that much earlier because that’s when we were in those weird offices in that office building. What one memory do you have that defined first leadership job for you?
For that particular, I was focused on managing. I’ll give out a little credit on this, but being given the freedom and having the confidence and the backing that I can do more than what I was doing. When I was somewhat in this phase of, “Do I go to the next Legends project as this? Do I stay here?” It was a lot of back and forth. Al had made the transition to the organizational side. He said, “You’re the guy. I want you to take this thing over.” I was thinking to myself, “Do I know some of this?”
He just said, “You know more than you think you know, and I’m going to be hands-off. This is your deal. Go. I had total trust in you to do it. I know Legends does. I knew it.” That for me was like, “He obviously was paying attention to certain things that I was in my head about.” The confidence and the willingness to say, “Go,” and when he did that, it wasn’t like you say it, but you don’t do it and you’re still micromanaging everything. It was just, “Go, figure it out.”
Would you say that he declared, “I trust you?”
That meant a lot. Again, in that scenario, without necessarily knowing some of the streams that were happening, for instance, not only the suite side, which Mike Drake was running the entire time, I had to catch up to speed there. You always know a sale’s a sale, but there’s a lot of back work that goes into all those things.
Selling a suite is not the same thing. Selling suite is a capital investment, that’s to a finite art audience, it’s aim small, miss small. You’re not going to be very creative with that offering. It is this.
I don’t know. Mike Drake would beg to differ. He got creative with some of his offerings over there, but they’re still digging out of that trench. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, but that was a big one. You start thinking through I started overseeing catered events. I was helping oversee the tour program, and I was building these things from scratch.
We got to a point where the owners committee and I’ll want to oversee the restaurant group for a while and help with that project. We had to figure out how to make money with this restaurant group. There were just a lot of things that were, “I trust you, take this over, go figure it out.” That gave me confidence in a sense to say, “I can do this. I can figure it all out.”
At this point, in review, one, you didn’t even know you were going to work in sports. You played sports, but you get into sports. The RoughRiders are baseball teams. FYI, he got to work on the other side of that business. You go to one of the marquee projects in the world, AT&T Stadium, Cowboys. You go to now the next biggest marquee project in the world, which was being dumped at that time, the new Candlestick, Levi Stadium with the 49ers. In between that, you’re with this wonderful group called Legends that helped run that and then picked up by the brand. How long were you there? What’s that next move?
I was there until June of ‘15, and I’ll push it that far, just in case I’m not supposed to say anything prior to that. There was an understanding that if Los Angeles NFL ever became an option, that I’d want to be a part of it. That was a big understanding. I’m glad I had very supportive people all around me that knew that. Come June of ‘15, it started getting exciting and interesting for Legends in being involved in several aspects of the relocation of NFL teams to Los Angeles, and based on the stadium projects, and the two competing ones, which was the Inglewood stadium, which was the Rams, and the Carson stadium at the time, which was the Raiders and Chargers partnership.
In a similar vein, I’ll give Mike Ondrejko and us a lot of credit is, “We’ll we need to figure out a sales plan for both, and you’re going to be in charge of that. You just got to go, and you’re going to work with their ownership groups. They’re going to work with their architects. Be the one that to drive a lot of the initiatives.” I had great support from everybody on the Legends front to execute, but it was great getting the affirmation when I was sitting there, and I was like, “Who am I? Who am I to be a part of that?” Being able to put that together was pretty incredible.
It was great. I got to work on the back end of this project opportunity, whereas they had just started going with the design. They had just started better understanding how to sell this thing. It helped me realize why I know more than about building design and revenue-generating aspects of stadiums and things like that. I went through that, and then in January of ‘16, as most people know, the Inglewood Stadium was approved, the Rams were approved to move in. It started day one then, but we had been going, leading up to that. That day was the day where it was like, “We’re going, and let’s run.” We’ve been running ever since.
You’re involved in a lot of strategy at that point planning piece. Now you get a chance to get involved with the execution. Help the readers understand the sales team, the massive sales effort that you’ve put together to lift this new stadium project because of two NFL teams.
We had three sales efforts within, which was pretty interesting. When we first got there, it was just the Rams. The Chargers had a year to make their decision if they wanted to join the project or not, which was part of the deal of the Inglewood Stadium being approved. They wanted two teams in Los Angeles. Essentially, we had to fill the coliseum.
We thought to ourselves, “How do we want to do this? Do we want to hire salespeople now, but to sell maybe lower-level tickets?” What’s our thought process here if we’re just going to try to blitz through the coliseum? We have a deposit list, which was great, by the way. We set that up. Our deposit campaign went 50,000 strong for first season tickets to the coliseum.
We knew we were in a position where we were like, “We have the demand. What do we want to do?” We instead pivoted on what we would typically do. Lance, you know this is from a lender’s perspective, higher sales. We did the opposite. We hired service. We hired a very robust service team. I’d say we hired fifteen people, and we set up an online aspect or online component to purchasing season tickets at the coliseum. Obviously, I had to get some management in there, and I was able to steal Mike Forrester back, who worked with us at the Cowboys and was over at the Rose Bowl. We get him over to decide to oversee the management of that day-to-day.
We had a process. It was, “Let’s hire service people. Let’s do this electronically. Let’s build up the base, and let’s get the touchpoints in that are necessary with this group now because we’re going to have to sell them.” We took that approach. It was very successful from an online perspective. We sold out instantly. It was like nine total hours of online activity. We broke it up into certain chunks, but it sold out quickly. We were fortunate in that sense, but now we had that. We fast forward. We’re at January 13th, 2017, the night before, we don’t know what’s happening.
Chargers are coming, or they’re not coming, we don’t know. The very next morning, there was an article in ESPN that says they’re coming. As we started prepping for them not being there, but you had to do a whole other set of prep plans. Now we had to prepare again for a two-team stadium. Go back through our hiring process, how we want to structure it. You mentioned in the show about overseeing Rams and Chargers, and it was a unique structure for one entity to oversee two NFL organizational sales structures in the same building, no less, and utilizing the same sales center. It is a very interesting side of things to get that.
What was the size of those groups? What were the total salespeople? I’m in training. I’m trying to put my number.
We’re close to 100 in total.
You had to recruit, hire, train, onboard 100 salespeople one amount at a time, which is a Herculean effort.
By the way, which is even crazier, we had to do it within a six-week window because we didn’t get approvals until it was too late, essentially.
A hundred salespeople were recruited, onboarded, trained, executing in six weeks.
We got that. If you want to go executing, it was like 8 to 9. We probably have one at the bulk hired 70. We had a few others that were already there, and then some others trickle in right after, but the bulk was about a 75. I’ll give Matt Kittle, who is at Teamwork Online at that time, a lot of credit because he could have said, “We’ll go through our process.”
He said, “I’m going to do this myself because I don’t think anyone else can do this.” He took it on from a Teamwork Online perspective. We set up the job fair. We found a point. We just go. We pulled it off. I thought we got a very good mix of solid, diverse talent across the board, not only demographically but experience-wise.
You had five key directors underneath you, Hadley, premium side, Mike Forrester, Mike Brown, Solomon, Cam. That was way bigger than anything you had come from. You’re talking 2X, 2.5X bigger than what you had. We had some of our most interesting conversations around culture. What were some things that you had to do to get people buying into this? The culture of the Legends and all the things that Greg had done in the past is it’s a score culture. It’s not participation trophies. There’s a lot of integrity in what they do, but it’s score first. What were some things you remember about doing this culture?
Make sure you’re genuinely or intrinsically happy with the decisions you made.
First of all, we talked about this. Me, Mike, and Hadley when we were first on before we hired Mike, Cam, and Mino. We’ve got to hire the right people. The first thing’s first, no matter how good you are in certain situations at levels above, below, whatever, if you don’t have your entire management leadership team echoing what you need to echo, then you already lost. That was the first thing. That was important for us to hire.
You had an alignment in leaders.
I can almost speak for all of them to say that they were 100% aligned across the board. Those are the biggest thing. We were so focused on that. We went through a pretty exhaustive interview process on that side of things and went through a lot of background, referral checking, and things like that. That was a big one. We ended up getting the absolute three best we could possibly ever think to get in not only in skillset, in the difference in how they approached everything, but also in the fact they bought it 100% fully. That was huge.
Do you talk to your managers?
Management leadership? Yeah.
Mike Brown is in the Columbus Crew project. Cam is at Monumental.
Mino stayed here.
Mike Forrester and Hadley are still with us.
Every single one of them, especially the ones that are still here, is transitioning up into bigger and better things. There’s no doubt. We support all of that. That is a big one. The one thing you did mention, though, that I do want to correct, it’s important because this goes to the culture. Score first is important, but score the right way.
One of the things that we always talk about is more consistency than worrying about being number one every day. If you push for that, that’s fine. If you worry about it, there’s a problem. We always talk about being consistent and making sure that you go about the process the right way. Specifically, think about our environment. One big giant team also has to be separated.
There’s just so much red tape in how you operate, and data security and messaging have to be separated and differentiated. We needed people to focus on doing it the right way, just as bad as we did the score. That was one of the bigger messages that we hammered home. We can talk tactically about all the things that we did.
A very extensive and accountable training process that wasn’t just sales training. We wanted to mix in other things for personal betterment, understanding of markets, getting the right people in front of them to hear from them, and connect with them, other leaders in the industry, other leaders in business in Los Angeles. We did a lot of personal showcases.
We did what we called the shield, which is everyone had to come in and talk about certain personal things in their life in front of the group. You can say what you want from an HR perspective, but that was mandatory. We weren’t letting people hold back or get out of that because we wanted that connection. They don’t have to be friends, but they have to understand each other. You’re going to have your outliers, but we had so much buy-in, and we still do now.
I know you’re hard on yourself. I’m still not convinced I’d know the answer to this with you. I don’t know if you’d like to win more or hate to lose more. I’ll let that be up to you. When you look at salespeople now, and out of anybody I know, talking about investment in salespeople, just so you talk about, even with my own company that you’ve invested in new investment, making them better. I believe values sometimes come from the things that frustrate you most. When you’re watching people display certain things or behaviors that crossed their value line, and it ended up pissing you off, but what frustrates you that you see in salespeople that you either coach hard or don’t tolerate? What is it?
If there was a unifying answer, we’d have the best salespeople across the board in the world, and there’s just not, because it depends on the personality of somebody. For instance, I’ll answer your last thing is I hate to fricking lose. I’ve realized that about myself. I don’t want to be in a position where anybody can ever say I’ve lost at anything, or I’ve failed, or whatever the case may be.
Even if I don’t necessarily win, I’d rather be in the position where I don’t lose. I hate it so much, but that being said, unawareness, and I can explain what I mean by unawareness. This is the number one issue with people that don’t educate themselves about where they’re at or what they’re doing, don’t pay attention to the people around them.
I was that person. That’s why it’s a personal thing. I was that person when I first started that had no understanding and awareness of what was going on around me. I was just doing things and making decisions. To me right now is I don’t like when people who don’t think before they react, and they go because they’re not aware of who they are as a person. They don’t care to be aware of who they are.
That’s another thing. That’s a big one. Secondarily, that goes along with that is again, if there’s no genuine understanding of nature to a person, and they’re trying to put up too much of a front. Again, you don’t have to get personal, but they’re not being themselves. They’re trying to be someone else. They’re trying to act like someone else or just don’t care to be themselves around everybody.
When you came out of Mandalay Frisco, it was that awareness that you got. That’s where you are. You’re talking about what you started with.
I feel it every day when I’m in that environment, and I call it out. Not only do I do it necessarily, it’s not a negative reaction. It’s a coaching aspect. It’s a coaching opportunity to have them better understand certain aspects of awareness that are important, not just to this job. It’s in general, in life moving forward. It helps me be able to do it that way, then be like, “What the heck are you thinking?”
I’ve watched you coach your key coordinators on this stuff a lot now that I think about it.
It’s a big one for me.
Mike gives coach, there are things with Hadley you’ve coached, and you’ve spent a lot of time. There are things of that above, and alongside you, and frustrate you about that awareness. It’s interesting. I’ve never even thought about it.
Without kissing ass, especially yours, but I’ve had a lot of good people to help me throughout this. In all reality, people like you, Chad, Al, Bren, Doug, Todd, and all these guys have been part. Not just leaders, but I’ve had so many good people at the same level below, having that ability to have that trust and open conversation. I’ll give Mike and Hadley a ton of credit for working with me through this, and helping me get better, and understanding some of these things a little bit better, how to communicate, and what to say, and why to say it. They drive me just as much as anybody above in leadership or mentor. I look at them as mentors as well.
Last speed round. You bring this bird down to landing. One, without a cliche, your leadership style is?
Genuinely attack everything as hard as you can. If you do so, you’ll never make a wrong decision. You’ll make a mistake, but you’ll never be wrong.
Two, you were talking about your daughter before this. You’re heading to her soccer toward right after this. Think her back to 6 or 7. She says, “Dad, what’s success to a 6- or 7-year-old?” You say?
I know if you asked me that question, I would say it’d be defined with what you want it to be, but you can’t say that to a 6- or 7-year-old. If I was talking to her, and she asked me that, it would be to make sure you’re genuinely happy or intrinsically happy with the decisions you made.
It comes down to decisions again. Go back in time again. You got a big freaking deal ready to hit. You’re in your car, driving to that deal. What song are you playing to pump yourself up?
At that time, my walk-out song was Walk by Pantera. I had that thing going. I’d walked to home plate with that song going. That or some good hard rock and/or like South Bay, Southern California punk music. That’s fine.
Last question. Besides my book, what book would you gift the most?
I’m not the best reader. I’m a very experiential learner. I know that about myself, and I know that I can read books. I don’t get as much unless I could talk to you about your book for ten minutes and learn more than if I read it. I’ll tell you what I’m reading now. How about that? I’ve got Golf is Not a Game of Perfect. In all reality, it’s not about golf. It’s about business. If you think it through, it’s like play the shot that you have that day, and play it the way you know how to play it the best way you can. We’re all going to show up. We’re not going to be on every single day. You got to play the shot you have. I’m reading that right now, and I enjoy it. It’s a good read.
I just finished a book. It rides the same thing. It’s by Ryan Holiday called The Obstacle Is the Way. You’re not going to have a perfect scenario. You got to play the ball where the obstacle is the way.
I like that.
Great interview. I couldn’t wait to do it. I knew it was going to feel as intense as it always does when I’m around you, in a good way. I hope your daughter kicks some ass. I hope to see you very soon because we’re back.
I can’t wait. I know I’ll always enjoy our conversations every time we get together. Thank you for thinking of me, and you want me to be a part of this. Congratulations to you for all the success that you continue to have. It’s so much fun to be a part of it. It’s been great.
We’ll talk soon. I appreciate you. Thanks.