By: Jay Stein, @JStein209
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Andy Dolich, a lifelong sports business industry professional. Mr. Dolich has held a variety of executive level front office positions within professional sports organizations including: Executive Vice President with the Oakland Athletics, President/COO of the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, and finally Chief Operating Officer of the San Francisco 49ers. He currently operates his own consulting business, Dolich Consulting, along with being the Managing Director and Head of the US Sports Practice with the International executive search firm, Odgers Berndtson. Mr. Dolich also teaches at the University of San Francisco, serving as the Director of Career Development for the Collegiate Athletics Master’s Program. Mr. Dolich was more than happy to offer up his time and insight into his journey in and throughout the sports industry, his view on networking and relationship building, and some general thoughts on the competitive sports landscape and what new opportunities may be on the horizon.
With your consulting business, working as an executive recruitment professional, and teaching a Master’s level college program; please elaborate more on your work and how you support the professional sports business industry.
First and foremost, I have my own consulting business, Dolich Consulting. I also have my job with Odgers, the London Based global executive search firm, where I’m the managing director and head of the US sports practice. I am the current Director of Career Development at the USF’s, new 100% On-line program in collegiate athletics. We focus on the business aspect of collegiate athletics, not the recruiting… [Collegiate Athletics is] one of the greatest, I think, areas of opportunity for people that are looking for careers in sports today.
It’s not just the 122 professional sports teams in the big four sports leagues, but the 100’s of colleges that have incredible opportunities and challenges in terms of how they can generate revenue… to pay for their facilities and run programs that can have as many as Ohio State with 36 men’s and women’s sports.
Also, I’m teaching at Stanford’s school of continuing studies in sports, covering different sports issues. I have taught six different classes, and will be teaching a seventh on the whole aspect of youth sports in this country and what some of the challenges are. I am also an advisor of several companies that are up and running or starting up, and finally, I’m the sports business insider for Comcast’s regional sports station in the Bay Area, Comcast Bay Area.
With decades of experience in the sports industry, what traits do you feel to be most important in a professional looking to work in the industry?
Using the sports analogy, its real easy to be the Monday morning Quarterback, and say I would have done this, that and the other, but having the benefit of actually going through this and having worked in the big four sports and in the old North American soccer league…the one general area that’s most important for anyone, is to be a lifelong learner! What I’ve seen is that many young men and women who have the desire to be in this industry have many of the same DNA aspects. They’re competitive, they’ve either been athletes… or been in a competitive atmosphere, either through sports, education, the arts, winning and losing, performing, getting good news, getting bad news, having to practice; that is what I always look for in a potential employee.
How do you feel someone can prepare for an opportunity to work within the sports business industry?
Sports doesn’t necessarily give you a track… meaning if you’re in the military you can start out as a private and you can be a four star general. Some businesses you start out in sales and you can be the CEO if you show certain capabilities. Medical school, intern, resident, doctor.In sports, not so much, so you have to create a game plan of your own. That comes back to the original point of competition, and constantly learning other skills. Getting in is hard enough, but lets say you’re in in one of these tens of thousands of jobs in the big four sports and college sports and major events… then its time to think, ‘I’m a sales person, or I’m in public relations, I’m in community, I’m scouting, I’m doing some production work, I’m working on the teams social media side, I’m working in stadium operations.’ That’s great, but is that where you want to spend 40 years? Now absolutely nothing wrong if you want to, but a lot of people, want to learn more and be more valuable to their organization…
Very interesting; so when planning to identify an opportunity in sports, should someone be targeting a specific area or profession or be more open minded when considering potential opportunities?
Let’s look at the numbers. If you say ‘I love city X’, it’s where I want to be, go through and see what is the highest amount of sports opportunities that pay a living wage in that city… if you just say you just want to stay here my whole life then that takes away a whole lot of opportunities.If you just want to work in one aspect of the business… you’ve minimized your opportunity. Then if you decide you want to work in one sport, further minimized… If in fact you choose in your mind as you’re starting, and you say ‘this city, this sport, this aspect of the job’, well that becomes difficult, if not impossible, to move up in an organization.
How important is relationship building and networking?
In terms of networking and relationships, its incredibly trite… Everyone likes the shortcut, the nano second magic wand… People ask, tell me what you know, the secret that we don’t know; well the secret is there are no secrets… and that happens to be the absolute truth.In networking, you have to work at it everyday as you would working out and keeping in shape… If you stop working on your relationships or stop networking… you’re losing out because somebody else is there… It can be a bit repetitive and can be bit difficult. The example I use, if you take a pebble and throw it in a very calm pond, and if it’s a very small puddle, the ripples only go so far. If it’s a bigger rock that you throw in a bigger pond, or if it’s a gigantic boulder that you drop from a machine in the biggest pond you’ve ever saw…I want to be in the opportunity to have the biggest ripples that I can… Just keep making those ripples and those ripples represent the relationships.
What do you feel to be the most important quality or trait for those looking to work in the industry?
In terms of traits, we’ve talked pretty specifically about the competitive DNA. Everyone talks teamwork, teamwork, teamwork! Aren’t we in the business of teamwork? Not everyone has to love each other, but you do have respect each other… in quality organizations everyone knows what they are accountable and responsible for…I also believe that…I like to look at people that have lost something along the way. Whether it’s a job or whether its something that happened in their life, that makes them that much tougher. Not people that have had everything come there way easy. There’s so many incredibly multi-tasking super smart young people, and it’ll get even more competitive… but even though you’re multi-task capable, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have you’re act together…The last part of it for me is having a well-developed sense of humor, which a lot of people have no idea, how to get one, how to use one, how to find it…
The level of competition is always going to be there, because there’s more people trying to get these jobs and move up then there are jobs, and so if you don’t have that competitive gene, you’re pretty much in a difficult position before you start. People are already down the track and you’re adjusting you’re starting block…
It is sports, it should be a three letter word, F-U-N, and not a four letter word, which is the world is coming to an end because our team lost or our player went to free agency or I can’t believe our GM drafted this player…again it is sports…. get a grip on yourself!
We would like to thank Andy for his time and insight! You can follow him on Twitter at @Koufish