How To Work and Succeed in Sports Business
By: Bob Malandro
Working in sports business is a popular passion; I discovered that same passion a number of years back, and was fortunate enough to build on a career that started in financial services, pit stopped in sports marketing, and now finds me running a Sports M&A practice, advising on buying and selling sports teams for our clients. But what is exciting for me may be unfulfilling for someone else, and vice versa. Thankfully, the sports industry now offers a multitude of opportunities that cross over from working for traditional teams and leagues to sports media, law, technology, finance, and hospitality, to name a few (of many). With Sport Management programs proliferating around the world, the competition has never been greater when it comes to finding an opportunity to a meaningful career path in the sports business industry.
However, whether you have successfully nudged the door open on the ground floor, or if you have navigated your way into your dream job, you still have a lot of work to do to put yourself in the best position to succeed. What are some of the best ways to do that? And are the skill sets and work ethic of budding sports executives any different from those in the traditional workplace? Obviously, every career will have its own criteria for success, but I believe there are some that cut across them all:
Professional communication – every (internal or external) communication is an opportunity to distinguish yourself in a positive manner. Among the things that can be consciously or subconsciously judged in a brief call or email are education, confidence, knowledge, preparedness, and sincerity.
Sports fan vs. sports business - know the difference. Unless you work for ESPN, no one is going to hold you in higher esteem because you watched every minute of SportsCenter that day. But come to a meeting with pertinent information from a sports business publication you read that morning, and you will stand out.
Assimilate into the company culture - or better yet, show a willingness to be part of (or lead in the creation of) an evolving environment. You can certainly bifurcate your work life and your personal life, but that does not absolve you of building relationships throughout your career development. Both your current peers and management can be in a position to elevate or obstruct you, either now or in the future.
Do what you say - build credibility through dependability. Credibility will open more doors and provide more access to the people who can help you build a career over time than even knowledge. Smart people are everywhere, dependable ones are not.
Run through those figurative walls - everyone says they will, but so few do. The legendary Marvelous Marvin Hagler put it best - "It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5am when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas.” - Put on the silk pajamas at your own risk!
Building consistently good habits will not only help you succeed in your field of choice in the short term, but will also play a role in a much longer game - establishing and enhancing your professional reputation.