Author - Megan Meisse

PS10: Top 10 Innovative Clients

As Prodigy Sports celebrates our 10th Anniversary, each month leading up to our celebration, we will be highlighting our “Top 10’s” of Prodigy Sports’ first 10 years.

This month, we are recognizing our Top 10 Innovative Clients. These clients have been in the forefront of the technology space, either with their companies, their stadium/arena, or their recent partnerships. 

Please note: the below clients are listed in alphabetical order.

Dallas CowboysDallas Cowboys – The Star In Frisco

The Star in Frisco is a 91-acre premier sports and entertainment district for the Dallas Cowboys. Built in 2015, The Star is headquarters for the Cowboys, but also offers corporate offices and their practice facility, the Ford Center, a state of the art indoor football stadium that hosts a variety of events, restaurants, shops, hotel, medical center and more. With 12,000 seats in the Ford Center, 30 meeting spaces and a 60,000-square foot gym, The Star in Frisco is estimated at $261 million for the headquarters. With AT&T, the Cowboys installed interactive video walls, multi-touch displays and the ability to stream up to 16 different video applications feeds at the same time.

Experience – Company WebsiteExperience Logo

As a rapidly growing company, Experience utilizes their fan engagement platform at over 300+ sports and music live event partners around the world and allows fans to personalize their live event experience right from their mobile device. This young, growing company has recently signed partnerships in live entertainment, like the NFL, Ticketmaster and Live Nation, MLBAM and, FELD Entertainment, Spectra, and Veritix.

Fanatics – Partnfanatics-logo-1erships

As the world’s largest collection of official fan gear from leagues, teams and players, Fanatics is the newest market leader for authentic, officially licensed sports merchandise. Fanatics operates more than 300 online and offline stores, for all major professional sports leagues, media brands and over 200 collegiate and professional team properties. Their latest partnerships include the NHL, MLB, NASCAR, NBA Store, just to name a few.

FAN MANAGERFan Manager – Company Website

With Fan Manager, sports and entertainment properties can understand who their fans really are. With offices in New York and Boston, Fan Manager, collects data from teams, leagues, social websites, mobile apps, e-commerce platforms and much more to identify key areas of fans to increase revenue. Fan Manager identifies fans who show specific brand preference, merchandise buyers, ticket and season ticket buyers, all to help teams and properties capitalize on these fans.

HeatMiami Heat – eSports Misfits investment

In early 2017, the Miami Heat acquired stake in multigame eSports organization Misfits. The Heat now assists in managerial duties around the brand, including a new rebrand to match the Heat colors, marketing, brand promotion and sponsorship. The Miami Heat taking on the dynamic world of eSports and hopefully expand the Misfits organization into a global eSports brand and company.

pgatourPGA TOUR – Skratch TV

Skratch is owned by the PGA and engages a younger demographic through digital content that covers the world of golf beyond the PGA TOUR and their competitions. Skratch features daily golf video comprised of original and curated programming, PGA TOUR highlights, and special production from events. “As younger fans find new ways to follow their favorite sports, it’s important to deliver great golf content to platforms that they use and in a voice that resonates with them,” said Tim Finchem, former PGA TOUR Commissioner.  “We believe Skratch TV will provide a tremendous new platform to effectively speak to this audience.”

sacramento_kings_logoSacramento Kings – Golden 1 Center

The Sacramento Kings were selected by Sports Techie as the most tech savvy team of 2016. This year alone, the Kings created a new standard with one of the most advanced venue, Golden 1 Center. The Kings debuted the NBA’s largest videoboard and the first to feature 4K Ultra HD resolution, development a dual-mode team and venue app and created a dual virtual reality broadcasts on emerging trends.

seatgeek_logoSeatGeek – Company Website

SeatGeek has recently been recognized by Glassdoor as Top 5 Best Places to Work in 2017. Not only is SeatGeek a leader in the digital ticketing space, but just recently launched a new way of giving ticket buyers a better sense of their seat with the 360-degree view of the empty venue, called Pano. With SeatGeek’s Open platform, launched in 2016, the company now entered the primary ticket sales space. With SeatGeek Open, venues can sell tickets directly from their own websites, apps and social media accounts, and wherever else they might want to sell online.

word-logoSportsdigita – Digideck

Sportsdigita is an interactive sports agency that specializes in digital sponsorship, ticketing, and fan engagement for teams and companies. Founded in 2011, Sportsdigita quickly grew a name for themselves, with their marquee product, the Digideck Platform. The Digideck is a cloud-based presentation platform that blends analytics, CRM integration and custom design to all branding and content needs. With their recent announcement with their new partnership with Learfield, Sportsdigita will now bring their Digideck platform to 120+ intercollegiate athletic department partners.

UntitledTD Garden – Arena Renovation 

New England’s largest sports and entertainment arena, TD Garden is home to the NHL’s Boston Bruins and the NBA’s Boston Celtics and hosts over 3.5 million people a year. From sporting events, iconic concerts, family shows, ice shows and much more, TD has hosted over 200 events a year. In 2014, owner and operator Delaware North invested over $70 million for an arena-wide renovation to upgrade the fan experience including redesigned concourses, new concession offerings and upgraded technology. The award-winning state-of-the-art TD Garden is a year-round, 19,600-seat arena, fully equipped with three private restaurants, 90 executive suites, 1,100 club seats, a multi-million-dollar high definition video scoreboard and complete 360-degree LED technology.

Stay tuned next month for our Prodigy Sports Anniversary Countdown for our

Top 10 LinkedIn Tips from our recruiters!

If you have any questions regarding our 10th Anniversary, please contact Megan Meisse at


PS10: Top 10 Resume Tips

As Prodigy Sports celebrates our 10th Anniversary, each month leading up to our celebration, we will be highlighting our “Top 10’s” of Prodigy Sports’ first 10 years.

In May, we are recognizing our Top 10 Resume Tips.  As leaders in executive search, we see 100’s of resumes each day. By using these simple tips, you can make yourself more appealing for potential job opportunities, thus landing that sought-after job interview.

  1. Provide basic complete contact information with accurate phone number and personal email address.
  1. Order your resume either chronologically and/or in order of importance; or both, when possible.
  1. Unless perfect, absolutely necessary, or done with a clear purpose, omit an objective or summary.
  1. Use bullets or other organization tools instead of lengthy paragraphs.
  1. No spelling issues or errors of any kind. Check your spelling and grammar and read over what you write.  Have someone else review it thoroughly.
  1. Be clean and consistent – check your spacing, margins, headings, font size and type, etc.
  1. Stick with the most relevant and recent content when deciding what stays or goes.
  1. Keep it simple – too many pages and people will stop reading.  Tell a story but don’t make it a novel.
  1. Blatantly showcase hard skills – technological, languages spoken; weave soft skills throughout.
  1. Accomplished professionals have goals and numbers – so share them! We want to see the work you have done and the accounts you are proud to share.  If not in sales, simply be specific and expand on the details.

Stay tuned next month for more of our

Prodigy Sports Anniversary Countdown!

If you have any questions regarding our 10th Anniversary, please contact Megan Meisse at

Blog Release


PS10: Top 10 Interview Tips

As Prodigy Sports celebrates our 10th Anniversary, each month leading up to our celebration, we will be highlighting our “Top 10’s” of Prodigy Sports’ first 10 years.

In July, we are recognizing our Top 10 Interview Tips.  As recruiters, these following tips are elements we experience every day while interviewing candidates. While there are many other tips and tricks to a great interview, these are the top 10 our recruiters look for and to keep in mind.

  1. Be on time! “On time is late, 5 minutes early is on time, and being late is unacceptable.”

If you are in fact running late, let the company and/or your recruiter contact know as soon as possible. Your punctuality says a lot about you and can ruin an interview from the start before even speaking.

  1. Do your research on the company and the interviewer(s) beforehand if you know who you will be meeting with (ask for an agenda if possible).

Check pronunciation on their name. Understand the company and their values, mission, overall direction, and relevant news. Most of the information you need to know is listed right on the company’s website or LinkedIn page if applicable. Show that you have done your homework by weaving that into your answers or questions.

  1. Practice interviewing at home. Prepare for the simple questions you know will be asked of you.

There are common interview questions that you can easily formulate answers for ahead of time. Aside from explaining your background, be prepared for questions like:  What are your key skills? Tell me about your greatest accomplishment?  What do you know about our company/this role? What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome? What have you learned from a mistake?

  1. Dress the part. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Men, suit and tie are a must and be clean shaven (trim your beard as necessary).  Women, dress formally and be cautious of too much, potentially distracting, jewelry.

  1. Leave your cell phone and other electronic devices in your bag, or better yet, in your car.

Imagine being in the midst of an interview with a CEO of a major company and a text comes through, hearing the chirp. If it is necessary to bring it in your bag, play it safe and turn it off rather than taking your chances on silent/vibrating mode.

  1. Make direct eye contact.

Show that you are actively and genuinely listening to what your potential employer has to say. Be engaged in the conversation, however, leave the (too) personal stories at home. Show your human side, to the extent you feel comfortable, but your weekend stories should not be addressed.

  1. If you are doing a video or Skype interview, test the camera before your interview.

Technology has a funny way of playing with us when we need it the most. Skype and other platforms offer test calls. Utilize those to test the camera quality and the sound that the microphone and speakers work property. Position yourself in a well-lit area with a blank (or minimally decorated) wall behind you. Even though you are not in person, act as if you are in your dress, mannerisms, and speech. And, dress as if you’re meeting in person – (See No. 4 above.)

  1. Sell yourself. If you are applying for a sales role, demonstrate your ability to close a deal.

Depending on the position you are interviewing for, think about what skills are important to look for and to have as a candidate for this role. For sales, have a comfort level with high-dollar amounts and explain your deep rolodex. For more marketing/digital roles, promote your creativity and establish your own brand. If you are a problem solver, show your ability to handle difficult situations efficiently. Tell your story, use detail and examples.

  1. Think positive. When preparing for an interview, it is common to feel nervous.

Don’t let that overwhelm you. Everyone has achieved their level of success through an interview and they have been through it all. Be confident in your abilities, think about the path that got you to where you are and reflect that in your interview. Take a deep breath, relax.

  1. Always follow up with a Thank You after an interview.

A simple thank you email or handwritten note (a lost art) is a must. Don’t overdo it with following up if the interviewer gives you a timeline on their process. Most likely, a company will be interviewing additional candidates as well so try to be patient.

Stay tuned next month for more of our Prodigy Sports Anniversary Countdown!

Contact Megan Meisse at


PS10: Top 10 Venues

As Prodigy Sports celebrates our 10th Anniversary, each month leading up to our celebration, we will be highlighting our “Top 10’s” of Prodigy Sports’ first 10 years.

In April, we are recognizing our Top 10 Venues, including first-class stadiums, arenas, and courses. These clients have gone above and beyond with their world-renowned facilities. Through renovations, upgrades, new construction, and incredible amounts of time put into each, these 10 facilities are just as impressive as the next.

Hard Rock

Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL

Miami Dolphins – In 2016, Stephen Ross, chairman of the Related Companies, acquired the Miami Dolphins, the Stadium, and surrounding land to go under a major renovation to the South Florida region. One of Ross’s goals was to make Hard Rock Stadium “the most innovative team in sports, serving as a cutting-edge incubator for introducing new technologies and other fan and media innovations for the optimal fan experience”. After completion of the privately financed major renovation in 2016, Hard Rock Stadium now seats 65,000, 32 four-seat pods in the lower bowl, with an additional 16 pods at the south end zone, featuring a living room arrangement, with premium furniture and television screens.

Golden 1 Center

Golden 1 Center – Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Kings – The Sacramento Kings were selected by Sports Techie as the most tech savvy sports team of 2016. This year alone, the Kings created a new standard with the opening of one of the most advanced, state of the art venues in sports today – Golden 1 Center. The Kings debuted the NBA’s largest videoboard and the first to feature 4K Ultra HD resolution, development a dual-mode team and venue app and created a dual virtual reality broadcasts on emerging trends.

NBA Store

NBA Store – Manhattan, NY

Fanatics – As the NBA looked to totally re-invent their NY retail space, they announced that Fanatics, an online sports apparel retailer, would operate its 25,000 square foot Manhattan flagship store. The NBA Store opened in 2015 and features digital displays highlighting product information, ticker with live sports scores, interactive games, and large televisions showing highlights and live events. Not only is the inside of the store a sight to see, but the stone and glass outside, brings even more life to busy 5th Ave.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs – Louisville, KY

Churchill Downs Incorporated – As racetrack home to the world famous Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs Racetrack is located in Louisville, KY. Opening in 1875, it held the first Kentucky Derby and the first Kentucky Oaks that same year. With the iconic twin spires at the top of the grandstands, the track went through renovations in the early 2000s and again in 2013, with the installation of a new video board, called “The Big Board”. Aside from this 171-foot-wide board, 750 speakers were installed around the track for up close and personal sound of these incredible races.

Warrior Ice Arena

Warrior Ice Arena – Boston, MA

Boston Bruins – The Warrior Ice Arena is an ice hockey arena and practice facility in Boston, which opened in September of 2016, and is currently practice home for the Boston Bruins. Aside from the practice rink, the 600-seat arena includes shops, a hotel, and hosts college, high school, youth and armature level hockey. With hospitality suites for corporate gatherings to public skating, Warrior Ice Arena offers a variety of events, as well as concessions with healthy food options.

TPC Sawgrass – Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

PGA TOUR – At the great TPC Sawgrass, the course closed for about six months as they went through a multi-million-dollar renovation, with enhancements both inside and out
side the ropes. All of the greens were rebuilt and resurfaced, practice areas redesigned, and new holes for more challenging shots. With some 50,000 fans a day for The Players Championship, spectators now have better viewing access of the greens.

Staples Center

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Kings – The Staples Center is a multi-purpose sports arena in Downtown Los Angeles. Opening in 1999, the Staples Center is home to the Los Angeles Lakes and Clippers of the NBA, Los Angeles Kings of the NHL, and the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. Outside the arena on the Star Plaza, stand statues of 8 greats in Los Angeles sports history. During late 2010, modifications were made to the arena, to the locker rooms, installation of a new high-definition center-hung video scoreboard, and new lighting throughout the arena.

TD Garden

TD Garden – Boston, MA

Delaware North – New England’s largest sports and entertainment arena, TD Garden is home to the NHL’s Boston Bruins and the NBA’s Boston Celtics and hosts over 3.5 million people a year. From sporting events, iconic concerts, family shows, ice shows and much more, TD Garden hosts over 200 events a year. In 2014, owner and operator Delaware North, invested over $70 million for an arena-wide renovation to upgrade the fan experience including redesigned concourses, new concession offerings and upgraded technology. The award-winning state-of-the-art TD Garden is a year-round, 19,600-seat arena, fully equipped with three private restaurants, 90 executive suites, 1,100 club seats, a multi-million-dollar high definition video scoreboard and complete 360-degree LED technology.

AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX

Dallas Cowboys – Home to the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium seats 80,000 with a retractable roof in the heart of Texas. With the assistance to naming rights partner, AT&T, the Cowboys installed interactive video walls, multi-touch displays and the ability to stream up to 16 different video application feeds at the same time. As the 5th largest venue in the NFL, the stadium has the one of the world’s largest high definition video screen that hangs between each 20-yard line. Aside from the incredible AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys also opened the state-of-the-art, The Star in Frisco in 2015. Now serving as headquarters for the Cowboys, The Star also offers corporate offices, practice facility, the Ford Center, and hosts a variety of events, restaurants, shops, hotels, and more.

Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium – Bronx, NY

New York Yankees – As home to the iconic New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium was built in 2009 to replace the globally iconic original Yankee Stadium. The $2B stadium is a block north of the original stadium and stands as the most expensive baseball stadium ever built. The cost paid off for this gorgeous stadium as it evokes elements of the original Yankee Stadium with its iconic roof frieze. The stadium also includes Monument Park, Great Hall, and The New York Yankees Museum.


Stay tuned next month for more of our Prodigy Sports Anniversary Countdown!

If you have any questions regarding our 10th Anniversary, please contact Megan Meisse at



RECENT PLACEMENT: Urel Martinez – Los Angeles Galaxy

Prodigy Sports is pleased to announce the recent placement of Urel Martinez as Vice President of Sales with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Martinez has been with the LA Clippers since 2005, serving in various capacities. For the past five years he served as Director of Sales after originally joining the organization in Inside Sales and being promoted to Season Sales Manager.

In his new role with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Martinez will be responsible for leading and managing all revenue lines of the club, including premium and non-premium ticketing.

About the Los Angeles Galaxy

The LA Galaxy, also known as the Los Angeles Galaxy, is an American professional soccer franchise based in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, California, that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS), as a member of the Western Conference of the league. The club began play in 1996 as a charter team in the league.

The Galaxy was founded in 1994 and is owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group. In their early years, the club played their home games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Since 2003, they have played at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The team holds a fierce rivalry with the San Jose Earthquakes in the California Clásico, and used to play the SuperClasico against city rivals Chivas USA before they folded in 2014.

In Major League Soccer, the franchise is one of the league’s most-decorated clubs, having won the MLS Cup on five occasions—more than any other club—the Supporters’ Shield four times, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup twice, and the old CONCACAF Champions’ Cup in 2000, being one of just two American clubs, along with D.C. United, to win the regional tournament.

Prodigy Sports welcomes Urel Martinez to the Los Angeles Galaxy!


CONTACT: Megan Meisse, or 732.303.9950.


For Immediate Release


Long-time veteran search executive Dan Rossetti to join Prodigy as President

(FREEHOLD, NJ) – September 18, 2017 – Prodigy Sports, one of North America’s leading preeminent executive recruitment firms solely dedicated to the multi-billion-dollar business of sports, today announced the acquisition of Ascension Sports Partners, a boutique search firm led by veteran Dan Rossetti. Rossetti, who has led Ascension for nearly 10 years, will assume the role of President of Prodigy Sports.

Carmichael (left) & Rossetti (right)

“As Prodigy Sports celebrates our 10th anniversary in 2017, we’ve continually explored ways to bolster our business and broaden our reach within the recruiting industry,” Prodigy Sports’ Founder and Chief Executive Officer Scott Carmichael said.  “By acquiring Dan Rossetti’s Ascension Sports Partners firm and folding his successful boutique practice and deep client base into our growing agency, Prodigy Sports is poised to continue its aggressive growth and expanding market share even further. I could not be more thrilled to add the talents of Dan and his firm into an already extremely talented staff here at Prodigy.”

Rossetti will remain headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, giving Prodigy Sports, located equidistant to both New York City and Philadelphia, a broader base across North America. Some of Ascension’s clients who will now fall under Prodigy’s already impressive list of partners, include Professional Bull Riders, USTA, Bellator MMA, Planet Hollywood, ISC Motorsports, Speedway Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Circuit of the Americas, and many others.

Dan Rossetti President

“We’re excited to join Scott and his diversely talented team at Prodigy Sports,” Rossetti said. “They have continued to prove themselves as one of the leaders in executive search within our industry. We share many of the same philosophies as it relates to taking care of clients as well as the candidate throughout the search process. I look forward to furthering the growth of Prodigy Sports into the future.”

In conjunction with Ascension’s clients, Prodigy Sports has longstanding partnerships with iconic organizations, including On Location Experiences, AEG, New York Yankees, TD Garden & Boston Bruins, PGA TOUR, Engine Shop and SeatGeek. Within their esports recruiting division, Prodigy most recently completed a Director of Esports search with Monumental Sports & Entertainment and is soon to be engaged with other esports teams on executive search projects.

About Prodigy Sports
With a staff that carries over 80 years of experience across multiple business segments, Prodigy Sports is a nationwide leader in senior-level executive search and recruitment. Prodigy Sports brings a personal touch to each search by adapting to the unique personality and culture of the client, knowing successful executive recruiting comes from thoroughly understanding the team culture, the intricacies of the sports business and the extensive professional qualifications and skills needed to fill a role. Founded in 2007, Prodigy Sports has grown into a nation-wide leader within the sports and entertainment industries.



RECENT PLACEMENT: Patsy Coyle – Monumental Sports & Entertainment

Prodigy Sports is pleased to announce the recent placement of Patsy Coyle as Vice President, Global Partnership Retention for Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

Coyle has been with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in various capacities since 2005, most recently she served as Director, Global Partnerships where she was responsible for driving innovation and growth across all MLSE properties. Coyle also previously served as Manager, Global Partnerships and Manager, Partnership Marketing.

In her new role with the Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Coyle will lead the retention and growth of MSE’s existing global partnerships, while focusing on renewals and renewal strategy. Coyle will also be responsible for establishing a game plan for individual account retention as well as overseeing the partnership activation team.

About Monumental Sports & Entertainment

Monumental Sports & Entertainment (“MSE”) is one of the largest integrated sports and entertainment companies in North America with one of the most diverse partnership groups in all of sports.   MSE owns and operates five professional sports teams: the AFL’s Baltimore Brigade and Washington Valor, NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and WNBA’s Washington Mystics. The company just recently purchased an NBA G League development league team, is co-owner of aXiomatic, which has controlling interest in global esports franchise Team Liquid, and also owns and operates Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Monumental Sports & Entertainment also manages Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the state-of-the-art training facility for the Capitals and EagleBank Arena on George Mason University’s campus.

In 2018, Monumental Sports & Entertainment will bring the Mystics and the G League team to a new state-of-the-art Entertainment and Sports Arena being built by Washington, D.C. and Events DC at the St. Elizabeth’s campus in Ward 8. The Wizards will also practice there.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment co-owns and operates Monumental Sports Network with the NBC Sports Group. Monumental Sports Network is the mid-Atlantic region’s top direct-to-consumer destination for exclusive fan experiences and original sports content across desktop, tablet, mobile and OTT streaming devices.

Prodigy Sports welcomes Patsy Coyle to Monumental Sports & Entertainment!


SBJ: Diversity: Front and center

Subject comes up in every meeting – here’s what firms are doing

By John Lombardo, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

The following was published in SportsBusiness Journal on July 31, 2017, Vol. 20 — No. 15, Page 24. Prodigy Sports is not responsible/attributed for the original creation of this article.

Longtime sports industry recruiter Buffy Filippell has spent decades handling countless job searches, and she knows all too well the challenge of bringing diversity into the industry.

Some years ago, she was hired by the LPGA for an executive placement but finding qualified female candidates proved difficult.

Progress has been made since then, but increasing diversity remains a major issue within the sports executive recruitment industry.

“The challenge for the recruiter is to take one more step and keep digging for the next diverse candidate,” said Filippell, founder of the TeamWork Consulting search firm. “Then there is the challenge of how do we keep them.”

Diversity has become such a priority that most search firms will recruit diverse candidates regardless of client demands.

“One of the trends we are seeing is more and more of our clients are asking us [to present diverse candidates],” said Billy Dexter, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles and co-leader of the firm’s diversity advisory services practice. “In taking on a search, we focus on diversity because of client requirements but in general because it makes sense. We are seeing barriers go down.”

Tying a recruiter’s compensation to their search for diversity is one method that is pushing search firms to boost their inclusion efforts.

At Diversified Search, managing partner Tracy Murdoch O’Such is evaluated on her diversity efforts with a portion of her pay tied to diversity.

“We have our own criteria and we as managing partners are graded by our firm on diversity,” she said. “Every search I do, I have to do a diverse slate when a client asks for it or not. Diversity is front and center.”

Search firms are devoting more research resources to increase their pool of diverse candidates through bigger databases while also increasing networking across the industry with the difficulty of a gender or ethnicity search depending on the type of position. O’Such said that female candidates for senior level technical jobs are a particularly difficult search.

“We have a robust database of names who we flag in terms of gender and ethnicity,” said Scott Carmichael, founder of the Prodigy Sports search firm. The company has nine staff members, including four researchers, whose duties include focusing on diversity efforts. “It is about going out and finding more people.”

It is also about the willingness of an organization to focus on inclusion.

“It takes top-down behavior modification,” said Michele James, founder of James & Co. search firm, adding that in the last 10 searches her company has handled for the NBA, seven of the placements were diverse candidates. “That comes from a culture that wants to mirror its fans through its brands,” James said. “It is good for business.”

The pressure to deliver those diverse candidate slates demands a deeper pipeline of diversity, part of the reason why CAA is planning to launch a new program next year to attract minority and women candidates.

“It is massively relevant,” said Joe Becher, who co-leads the recruiting practice at CAA. “It literally comes up in every meeting. We are launching a diversity effort next year to be a catalyst to bring more diverse talent to the sector from other businesses. The way to look at it is two-pronged: There needs to be a focus to bring in talent, and there needs to be a focus on nurturing talent.”

While increasing diversity is growing more important, it often means a more expensive effort.

“If you do a gender-based search, it is a smaller candidate pool and you have to cast a wider net,” said Becky Heidesch, a former sports marketing executive who is North American practice leader of diversity and inclusion for the executive search firm Stanton Chase. “It can be four or five times more exhaustive. You put more research into a diversity assignment, and it will be a lower return on investment.”

Heidesch cites progress made over the past few years, but diversity is still an issue plaguing the industry.

“It is changing, but there is a long way to go,” she said.

There is a greater need for midlevel diversity hires, particularly in sponsorship sales, according to Liz Boardman, senior client partner for global sports at Korn Ferry.

“There is a need for more women,” she said. “One of the things I am working on is getting midlevel talent to groom talent. It is very personal to me and important to me that I help with client diversity.”

SBJ: Biz side vs. performance side

Biz side vs. performance side: Why the searches are so different

An executive search on the business side is far different from a search for a performance-side position such as team general manager or head coach.

Turnkey Sports & Entertainment has worked on a variety of searches over the last 16 months in Atlanta, ranging from the Hawks’ general manager and chief financial officer to the head of business for Atlanta United FC to the athletic director at Georgia Tech. Each search came with its own set of nuanced challenges, said Len Perna, Turnkey’s president and CEO, and highlighted the differences between the searches.

For the AD job at Georgia Tech, Turnkey vetted 30 potential candidates, which represented a large pool to start with. From there, references and backgrounds helped Turnkey whittle the list to 12 and ultimately the final five who interviewed with school officials.

The Yellow Jackets eventually hired Todd Stansbury from Oregon State, giving the school a sitting power-five AD who also graduated from Tech and played football for the school.

The Hawks’ GM job was drastically different. Simply finding qualified candidates was difficult for one of the most demanding jobs in pro sports.

“It’s super-competitive,” Perna said. “When you’re a GM, you’re playing a chess game against 29 other teams. It’s multiplayer chess. Most of the candidates we talked to did not have the skill set to be in a game of chess with 29 other players. They know basketball, they know players, they know the salary cap, but to compete with 29 other clubs, that’s a level of expertise that’s really hard to find, and it’s slim pickings, quite honestly.”

Travis Schlenk, who spent 12 years at Golden State and apprenticed under GM Bob Myers, rose to the top of the Hawks’ list — a short list of only five or six serious candidates.

That’s different from the club’s search for a CFO, which resulted in the hiring of sports executive Thad Sheely, who subsequently was promoted to chief operating officer.

“We literally started with hundreds,” Perna said. “There are a lot of financial executives out there to talk to.”
Speed in the performance side search is also a defining factor.

“A search on the business side can take an average of two months to three months in order to vet, present and close,” said Scott Carmichael, founder and chief executive officer of Prodigy Sports. “That would be a lifetime in the world of coaches or general managers. The performance types are very fast because they need to be.”

Confidentiality is also heightened among performance side searches given the speed of the hires as well as the smaller pool of talent within the coaching and general manager professions.

“One of the tactical differences is that head coaches’ and general managers’ searches are very intensive,” said Liz Boardman, senior client partner for global sports at Korn Ferry. “Business side searches are intense, but it is more of a process. With a head coach or a general manager search, you have to act extraordinarily fast. If confidentiality is blown, the whole search can go sideways.”

But with coaching salaries at both the professional and collegiate levels skyrocketing, the use of search firms is becoming more prevalent on the performance search side of the industry.

SBJ: The new creativity in executive search

Zeroing in on culture, delivering diversity help drive the industry

Forty-five days later, Nolan delivered a far different-looking short list to the client, featuring candidates hailing from five countries, some of whom had no specific industry experience. Eventually, the hire was made from the sport of cricket.

The approach stemmed from what Paul Nolan, chief executive officer of Nolan Partners, calls getting under the hood of a client in order to match a company’s culture with executive skills.

“The business of sports has become more mature,” Nolan said. “In the past, it was kind of one-dimensional in the way they searched and appointed organizational leaders. They are far more willing to be imaginative now. There is competitive advantage in it.”

At Korn Ferry, Liz Boardman’s current search to find the right fit for the athletic director’s job at Fairfield University has meant multiple visits to the school, dinners and lunches with the school president and multiple meetings with the former athletic director, the associate athletic director and other executives familiar with the job.

“We’ve met with 30 different people and have been on campus three different times,” said Boardman, senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s global sports practice. “It is multiple reps for this. We really embed ourselves with the client and make it so we become part of a team. I have worked with clients that weren’t as interested, and the searches don’t go as well.”

Both searches reflect the changing approach in how executive recruiters fill jobs at teams, leagues, colleges and other sports properties. More than ever, the emphasis is concentrated on the importance of defining and matching corporate culture to qualified candidates. Firms must now provide deeper searches that include candidates from outside the sports business and are mindful of diversity, an issue that continues to challenge the industry. The focus on culture also has created more demands on search firms but also greater opportunity as clients increasingly look for more expertise in attracting top talent.

“The value proposition for executive search has proven to be strong, so that’s what has attracted so many firms,” said Len Perna, president and CEO of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, which has been in the search business for 21 years. “Ten or 15 years ago, there was this feeling that you could post a job and the world would beat a path to your door. That’s proved to be false. There are certain jobs you can post and ones you can’t because you have to — have to — get them right. Posting a job doesn’t get you the best of the best. It gets you the best of the people who are looking for a job.”

In many instances, even for the highest level of searches, finding candidates who fit the job description can be the easiest aspect of an executive search. Matching the candidate with the company’s culture can be far more complex.

“One of the things we are finding is that our clients are asking us to think outside the box,” said Joe Becher, who along with Asher Simons, runs CAA’s human capital division. “They want to see more people from diverse backgrounds. There is the continued focus in the sports industry on analytics, and it is getting smarter and being held to higher standards. Private equity and venture capital demand more rigor. They are much more open-minded.”

Methods to measure culture and ensure a good executive placement vary, driven mainly by the client. Some demand detailed quantitative testing in their recruiting, meaning search firms might use a variety of methods such as IQ testing and the use of industrial psychologists to measure personality profiles. Other firms rely on the interviewing process to gauge the best fit.

“You know what to listen for and what questions to ask, and it is a skill of listening and understanding,” said Scott Carmichael, founder and CEO of Prodigy Sports.

Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins used search firms in the team’s recent hiring of general manager John Hammond. Martins has also used executive recruiters for senior-level business jobs.

“The No. 1 priority is finding the right individual that is the right culture fit,” Martins said. “You look at the depth and the magnitude of the searches. The one thing they bring is the data and intelligence gathering. What are their relationships, and how are they able to secure a strong pool of candidates in a confidential manner, so that you know you can rely on them to bring you a depth of candidates you wouldn’t do on your own.”

But finding the proper match between candidate and company culture can be an inexact science. One search firm executive recounts a search in which a candidate moved from a high-level sales job at a large New York property to take a job at a small agency. The motivation for the job change was more about leaving a job where the executive was unhappy than it was about embracing a new opportunity.

“It was about getting out from underneath one extreme culture and going into a startup,” said the search executive, who requested anonymity because he didn’t want to talk on the record about his firm’s involvement in an unsuccessful placement. “It was less than a year when he landed back with another big firm.”

Many search firms also create their own research templates to measure culture. For example, Heidrick & Struggles has developed its Leadership Signature product to measure executive leadership skills. Spencer Stuart also has developed its own cultural assessment questionnaire that is administered to candidates.

But nothing is more important than the executive search firm’s ability to get access to their client to gauge the company culture.

“There are key culture diagnostics that are crucial and the need for quantitative data is critical, but it has to be supplemented with a boots-on-the-ground mentality,” said Jamie Crittenberger, co-leader of Spencer Stuart’s sports practice. “That is the only way that a client feels a sense of partnership.”

No longer is executive recruitment a purely transactional process where a search firm is simply selling an empty seat in an organization.

“We move far beyond that,” said Dany Berghoff, principal at RSR Partners. “We spend an extraordinary amount of time learning about our client. It is the only way to do the search well.”

 According to Berghoff, past performance of a candidate isn’t always a clear indicator of future success. It is just as vital to understand the motivation of the candidate, which he said is best measured through interviews.

“The easiest conversation is the competency part,” Berghoff said. “What is paramount is digging in and assessing for potential. Think of it like a scout operates in football. It is not about the obvious.”

As soon as Chuck Cain lands a search for his Harvard Group International firm, he calls his travel agent. While placements in the financial industry and other sectors rely on a battery of quantitative testing of candidates, Cain bases a sports executive search effort on interviewing the client as much as the candidate.

“We get on a plane and spend a day with the company,” said Cain, who is managing partner at the firm. “We request to meet everyone that touches the role. For a CMO search, we want to talk to sales, corporate partnerships and finance, and on the team ops side we talk to the GM and the coach and find out how they interact. It is much more about interviewing. Teams don’t do much testing.”

Search firms increasingly are pressured to match company culture with the candidate faster than in years past.

Last year, Tracy Murdoch O’Such, managing partner at Diversified Search, handled two sponsorship searches for the World Surf League with the expectation that she present an initial slate of candidates within two weeks. A few years ago, O’Such would have had about six weeks.

“The industry shift is that clients are looking for faster but equally high-quality solutions,” O’Such said. “Speed to solution is key, but at the same time it has to have quality. That wasn’t necessarily the case. Gone are the days of six-month searches. The stakes are so much higher and the money is so much bigger. It’s not just ‘Hey, what is your brother-in-law doing?’”