Meet the Rising 25 Class of 2018: Joe Sullivan

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1. Tell Us About Yourself and Your Current Role

I grew in Wheaton, Ill a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan. I used to score games by hand in my basement watching games during the summer – and grew up doing Sammy Sosa’s patented “hop” in my backyard after hitting the whiffle ball over my neighbor’s fence. Ever since going to a Cubs game at Wrigley with my grandparents when I was younger, I knew I wanted to work in baseball one day. I never thought that my dream would one day lead to me cheering AGAINST my long-time favorite team in Game 7 of the World Series.

I played Division III football at Saint John’s University for all four years of college, but my career ended suddenly halfway through my Senior year when I separated my shoulder trying to run through a block. While obviously disappointed at the end of my career, I spent the time that I would have normally been practicing to apply to any and all sports related jobs possible. Luckily, the Cleveland Indians were interested in talking to me – and I was able to land my dream job of working for a professional baseball team.

As an Account Executive of Ticket Sales with the Indians, my primary role is to generate revenue through season ticket sales. Additionally, I sell group and premium rental spaces. For the 2017 season, the Cleveland Indians had the fastest growth in attendance in all of Major League Baseball – a fact in which I’m extremely proud of. I am also responsible for mentoring and developing our ticket sales Business Development Program participants – which is the internship program that I began my career in with the Indians in 2015. I also help teach and train The Indians Way to Service Excellence – focusing on making the fan the center of our day-to-day actions. When I’m not on the phone selling – or helping other people develop their own sales abilities – I’m at my desk dreaming of getting another shot at the Cubs in Game 7 of the 2018 World Series. And this time, the Tribe comes out on top!

2. Where do you see yourself in 15 years/dream job?

15 years from now, I see myself doing the same thing I am right now. While not necessary doing the same work – I want the same feeling I have right now about my career. I come into work every day excited to be there. I work with great people who share a common goal with me and we do everything we can together to get there. I get to coach and mentor and give back – both to fellow employees and the local community. I’m motivated every day to come in and do a job that everyone would love to do and not many people get to. No matter what I’m doing or where I’m doing it in 15 years, I’d love to still have the same excitement about my job that I have right now.

3. Who is your mentor at this point?

That’s the easiest question of all! My mom, Karen, is my mentor hands down. I go to her for everything. She’s a high ranking officer at Allstate Insurance and I strive to be like her in everything that I do. She’s a competitor, a relationship and team builder, a mentor, an innovator and a leader. And while doing all of that, she’s been a kick-ass mom. I go to her for everything and always will.

*Special shout out to my dad, Doug, who is going to read this and while he won’t be surprised I chose my mom, he’ll still be jealous. My dad is my hero and is an incredibly successful lawyer. He just can’t compete with mom!*

4. What’s one thing you’ve learned early in your career that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

The biggest thing I’ve learned since starting with the Tribe in 2015, is to expect the unexpected. Obviously, the baseball results on the field have a direct impact on the business results off the field, but the inverse is also true.

From a baseball perspective, nobody expected the 2016 Cleveland Indians to take the Chicago Cubs to the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series. 40% of our starting pitching staff was out for the playoffs. Our All-Star Leftfielder was out for the season. Nobody expected us to get past Boston in the first round, let alone to the World Series.

The run on the field led to a massive run of support from Clevelanders buying tickets for the 2017 season. That wave of support led to me working from my Dad’s office at home in Illinois on Christmas eve – selling ticket packages after we signed the best free agent bat on the market, Edwin Encarnacion. Nobody expected that either. That signing and others led to a 102 win record in 2017 – one of the best regular seasons in Cleveland Indians history.

We were among the favorites to get back to the World Series. But it didn’t happen, because, well… baseball. The Yankees played a better 5 games. All that being said, in sports and especially ticket sales – I’m at times at the whim of the way the team is playing on the field. My job is to do everything I can to take team performance out of the equation.

When I was an intern in 2015, I left so many voicemails. Nobody wanted to talk to the ticket guy with the Indians. But when the play on the field turned around, the hard work finally paid off when a large portion of those folks were calling me back to help with their tickets. Through the good and bad, (and luckily since I’ve been here there’s been a whole lot of good) hustle plays every day.

5. What does winning the Rising 25 Award mean to you?

I’m thrilled and honored to be included in this award with all of these 24 other talented individuals. I’m excited to be included in this group that will hopefully bind us together throughout all of our successful careers. I come into work every day with one goal in mind, to win the World Series. It’s a team goal, and it will take A LOT more than just me to achieve that goal. Being honored with this award is an awesome recognition of my own personal efforts and achievements as a push every day for that team goal!