Name: Brian Schackow
Current Job Title: Vice President, Sales & Finance
Company Name: Fort Wayne TinCaps
First sports job: Ticket Director, Beloit Snappers
College education: Ball State
Executive most admired: Mark Cuban
Brand most admired: Chipotle
This is my eighth year with the team and I’m currently the Vice President of Sales and Finance for the TinCaps. In that role, I oversee our group and ticket sales staffs, do some corporate sales and handle all of our accounting. Prior to my time with the TinCaps, I was the General Manager for the Beloit Snappers (class A, also in the Midwest League) for three seasons. I was also the ticket director as well as Assistant General Manager for the Snappers for parts of one season.
Tell us a little about your first job in the sports industry. How did you land it?
My first job was as ticket director for the Beloit Snappers minor league baseball team. I had interned the previous summer with the Rockford Reds and several of the people I worked with went there over the winter. Luckily they were looking for someone in that position when I wrapped up my degree in December and I started for them right after the first of the year. I wasn’t necessarily looking to get into tickets, but I was able to get my start and move around from there.
How does working in sports differ from working in other industries?
The biggest difference has to be the seasonal nature of the job. We spend seven months gearing up for the season, brainstorming promotions and doing the bulk of our sales work. Then once we hit April, we sort of flip the switch into operations mode and work on executing our game experience. Before you know it, it’s September again and we’re back planning and starting to gear up for the next season. It really separates the job into two distinct halves.
Additionally, during the season, there’s a real “marathon” type feel as we go through long home stands and long stretches. Then the team goes on the road and we all catch our breath and get ready for the next one.
What advice would you give to students looking to make sports their career?
Be willing to intern and be willing to do whatever it takes to prove you’re a hard worker. If you’re really willing to work hard, organizations will either try to find a place for you or go out of their way to help you find a spot somewhere else. Use your internship or first job to prove your value and you’ll do well. By all means, take the time to network with your fellow interns, classmates, co-workers, executives from other teams, everyone. Minor league baseball and sports in general has such a high degree of turnover, you never know where people will end up.
What advice would you give to people in established careers trying to make the transition into sports?
I think people from other career paths are usually floored by the number of hours during a home stand. If you’re okay with that, people from outside the sports world can usually bring a lot to the table from their other experiences. Again, it comes down to proving your value to the organization.
We all know that working in sports generally involves long hours. What are the perks that offset this?
We get to work with a lot of really good people and those long hours are usually a lot of fun. There is a lot of variety in that no two games are ever really the same. One minute you’re doing paperwork, the next minute you’re pulling tarp, and the next you’re lugging a keg down the concourse! All that said, it’s really rewarding to execute a great night of entertainment and to see people walk out of the stadium with smiles on their faces. I really enjoy coming to work 29 days out of 30. I don’t know many people who can say that. Plus, I get free soda and peanuts.
When hiring, what major traits do you look for in a candidate?
We tend to try and look for smart people who are willing to work hard. Those traits tend to show up on resumes and in the interview process. If you’ve got those two qualities, we can train you to do about any job here. Beyond that, we work in such a customer service oriented business that we really want engaging personalities and people who can problem solve quickly during the course of a game or event. The term “thinking on your feet” really takes on added meaning in minor league baseball when a promotion goes awry or a fan is standing in front of you with a complaint.
Where do you see hiring in the sports industry heading in the next 3 years?
I’ve noticed in my 13 years in minor league baseball that things continue to get more and more professional and “corporate.” It seems like every team is spending more time examining data and making smarter business decisions based on that information. I think the sports industry is only going to continue to get more scientific as we search for ways to increase ticket sales and enhance the customer experience.