A Conversation with Daniel Parker, Vice President and Managing Director for Parker Executive Search Sports Practice

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By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden

Daniel Parker, Vice President & Managing Director at Parker Executive Search

Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Daniel Parker, Vice President & Managing Director at Parker Executive Search. After working at Nissan for ten years, Daniel decided to go into the family business. He was gracious enough to offer up his wisdom about transition and how being a relationship builder is a key component to success in the real world.

What has your journey been like going from a graduate of the University of Georgia to now being Vice President & Managing Director at Parker Executive Search?

Like most individuals coming out of college, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do. I went to work for an automotive company (Nissan) and had a great career in their sales and marketing division. I moved across the country to start my career in California then moved to Florida, Atlanta, South Carolina and then back to Florida and Atlanta to work in the corporate world for Nissan. I had a great career over those ten years but decided to make a career change after a great deal of thought. The opportunity to work at PES was just too exciting to pass up.

I started with my father’s business about four and a half years ago. It’s been a good change of course and something that’s incredibly challenging and exciting all at the same time. I have the chance to work with an outstanding team every day.

What was your transition like going from Nissan to Parker Executive Search?

It’s been a great transition. I worked in a large company where I was one of many in the organization and now I work at a family owned and operated business. We have about sixteen individuals in our office in Atlanta. I manage our sports practice but we also have a higher education, corporate and healthcare/health sciences practices. We have a great team of professionals we work with who all work well together. All of our practices contribute to making our business better. We learn a lot of things in each practice area that we carry over into other sectors. It’s a fast paced business. We’ll conduct about 125 searches out of our office this year. About 25 will be in the sports sector. The other 100 searches are scattered in the other three practices.

It’s a great environment. We travel a lot. We’re consultants. We work on projects. You have to be able to juggle a lot of balls in the air at the same time when you’re working with businesses and universities. It’s challenging but also exciting at the same time.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

The people I get to work with. Not only inside the company but outside. We work with a variety of different businesses and universities. We’re problem solvers. People come to us when they’re looking for a certain position and we’re always looking for that right fit. Not every position or job is the same. They’re all unique. We’re constantly looking for what’s the right fit for the organization and seeing the beginning, middle and closure of the search, staying in touch with those individuals, watching them grow in their position and continuing that relationship is enjoyable to me.

I don’t think any job is all fun but if you’re going to truly be successful at something you do, you have to enjoy it. There are parts that are certainly enjoyable like working with different types of clients is something I enjoy.

As Vice President & Managing Director, what is a typical day like?

We don’t have a typical day in this business. We’re working on projects, so at any time we could be working with different clients and partners. Servicing our clients’ needs is our number one priority everyday. We travel a great deal and are usually on the road a couple weeks a month. Every day is different and exciting and that’s what I like about our business.

What are some of the challenges that come with finding candidates for the jobs your clients need?

Trying to find the right fit for the organization. Relocation of family and compensation can be challenges. We make a lot of phone calls and go see a lot of people so we can find that right fit for the organization. We make a commitment to our clients to find a deep pool of diverse candidates for their consideration. We take a great deal of pride in our history of promoting diversity in our searches. Our track record on promoting diversity in our searches is second to none. It’s hard and challenging work. Not everybody is a fit for every job. You have to listen a lot in this position. We listen to our clients and candidates and then we try to match those individuals with the right opportunities.

What qualities should a person have to be successful in your job?

You have to have a willingness to work hard and have a positive outlook and attitude. You can’t be afraid of when people tell you “no.” You get up everyday and you’re going to face challenges at any job you do but it’s how you navigate around those challenges.

You have to be a great relationship builder in our business. You have to be able to establish genuine relationships with people that will last a long time. You have to be smart. I deal with a lot of smart, bright and articulate people on a daily basis and you have to be able to establish rapport and relationships with those types of individuals. That can be challenging but also extremely professionally satisfying when you build those relationships with these types of people.

What inspired you to work in the sports business profession?

As a firm, we never set out to be in sports. It’s just one of those things where you do good work and it will lead you into other sectors. My Dad and Laurie Wilder started out conducting corporate searches and that took us into higher education which eventually led us into collegiate athletics, and now we have grown into professional sports searches and sports business searches.

I think in any business if you do a good job, word of mouth is important and people will talk about you and you’ll network into other sectors. We never set out to be in the sports business. It’s something we moved into by hard work and by conducting really good work. We are sports fans and enjoy this business but it’s not the only thing we do. I think that’s a differentiating point with us. We’re not just a sports search firm but an executive search firm that works in a lot of different sectors.

Parting wisdom for somebody that wants to work in your field or the sports industry?

My advice would be to go work outside of executive search. Do what I did and work in the business world or sports world, on a college campus or for a professional sports team. Do that for ten or fifteen years to learn how to work in those types of organizations before you come into Executive Search. My opinion, It would be very hard for individuals right out of college to go directly into a consulting business.

I get calls every week from individuals who want to work in sports. It’s a very competitive market place. There are a lot of people who want to work in sports so you may have to take a job that’s an entry level position in a sports organization. You have to get your foot in the door. Most of the individuals that are in high level positions in sports now have been doing it for a long time and they’ve been grinding six or seven days a week for many years. It can be fun and rewarding but at the same time it is hard work and it’s a daily grind. You have to really love it and be passionate about it, and your family has to buy in to this lifestyle.

My advice is to follow your passions. Follow your dreams and do what excites you but don’t be afraid to get in the trenches and work hard. Go after it because it’s not going to be easy working in sports. There is much more to it than going to ball games. To start out, you may have to work for little pay at entry-level positions, but it’ll be rewarding in the long run for you.

We would like to thank Daniel for his time and insight and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors!

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here!