Sometimes a Niche is All You Need, the Journey of Dan Rossetti

By: Joe Barca, @BarkyCat

 Dan Rossetti, President and CEO of Ascension Sports Partners, LLC

Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Dan Rossetti, President and CEO of Ascension Sports Partners, LLC. Dan’s journey to the Sport & Entertainment industry was not conventional but he continues to thrive today. He was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight into the world of executive search, how the recruiting process works and his advice for those looking to get into the industry.

Was Sports Business always the industry you wanted to get into?

I did not take the traditional path that many of the students and people in the industry took. I graduated from Wittenberg University, a small Liberal Arts/Division III school in Springfield, Ohio. Growing up in Atlanta, I was a huge sports fan, but like most students who graduated in the 90s, if someone would have told me that I could work for the Atlanta Braves or Falcons, I would have said, “Absolutely!” It was just never brought up. You didn’t see or know anyone that worked in sports because it wasn’t pushed in college. Instead, I chose to study Business Management and went into the field of IT recruiting.

What’s the story behind Ascension Sports Partners, LLC?

I spent five years working for a technical staffing firm called TEKsystems, which is a division of a larger company called Allegis Group, which is owned by Stephen Bisciotti, who is also the owner of the Baltimore Ravens. My first boss at TEKsystems, and still a good friend today, at that time (mid 2000s) was working for Turner Sports/Time Warner in Atlanta. At that time, they still owned the Atlanta Hawks, Thrashers, Braves, and CNN. He was doing some recruiting for the teams through Turner. He met a gentleman who owned another executive search/market research firm within sports and entertainment at a conference. That individual asked him, “Hey we’re looking to expand our head hunting business. Do you know anybody that is passionate about sports? More importantly, passionate about recruiting?” Thankfully, my friend thought of me. My wife and I moved in 2005 to Baltimore and then southern New Jersey for three years. In spring 2008, my wife and I decided we wanted to move back to Cincinnati where I then decided to open up Ascension Sports Partners, LLC in June of 2008. Seven and a half years later, we’re still plugging along…

What is Ascension Sports Partners, LLC? What does it offer?

I initially founded Ascension Sports Partners, LLC in 2008 to provide recruiting and executive search services to the sports and entertainment industry with a focus within the $50,000 to $125,000 range. When people think of executive search, they naturally think of C-Level and the Leadership Team. I have to be a VP or Senior VP to have a service like mine to help people out with their career choices. There was a gap that was missing in our industry. There weren’t too many companies that were helping out teams and clients within this space. Whether it’s a Senior Account Executive or a Manager of Ticket Sales, organizations weren’t focusing on them because they felt these candidates were a dime a dozen. I offered up a service option for them that allowed them to say, “It’s just as important and crucial to our success and future to find these candidates.” Truth be told, it’s more difficult to recruit these levels of positions sometimes because there’s so many more people in the potential candidate pool. I found that niche in our industry and ran with it. Since then, I’ve kind of covered the whole gamut from helping people obtain entry level positions up to senior executive paid positions. It’s now broadened out to the full spectrum of levels within the industry.

How does your recruiting process work?

When I’m hired on for a particular search, I’ll use an example of a Director of Sponsorship Sales, I will sit down with my client and not only identify the tangible, logistical things that this individual needs to bring to the table but also the soft skills they need to have to fit within the client’s specific culture. I really try to identify with my clients what the intangible skills are. What’s the makeup of this person that’s going to make them successful within your organization? Do you need somebody who’s more outgoing? Does this candidate need to have worked in the particular sport before? Do you need someone who can strike up a conversation with everyone from the CEO to the hourly staff? Do you work fifteen hours a day in the office? Do you need someone mature enough to work from the road or home? We discuss things that will identify the best candidate for their needs.

What are your main responsibilities at Ascension Sports Partners, LLC?

I am the Owner, CEO, Chief Revenue Officer, VP of Human Resources, Web Administrator, and Accountant. I get to touch a lot of different aspects of business which is great for me. I love owning a business because I don’t like getting stale in one form of fashion. No two days are ever the same and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that the core of my business is people. You’re never going to talk to two people that are exactly the same. I like the variety. I like having a hand in the marketing collateral. I like having a hand in how my website is going to be presented. I like having a hand in the Twitter feed, the posts that are going out there, and the blog. I cover it all.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

The biggest challenge for Ascension Sports Partners, LLC is continuing to build our brand and build our presence out there in the industry. Since beginning in June 2008, we have been involved in over 100+ searches. However, we are only as good as our last placement. I’m competing against pioneers in the executive search space within sports and entertainment and they all do a phenomenal job. So it’s positioning me consistently against companies like theirs and traditional major recruiting firms who have been adding sports to their industry focuses. Also, just continuing to network and meet the next generation of sports and entertainment professionals who will be shaping the industry in the future.

Advice for students/young professionals aspiring to enter your field?

I would tell you that this is, in my opinion, the most exciting, fast-paced sector of business that there is. There are over 300 Sports Management programs and thousands of jobs currently available on Work in Sports and Teamwork Online. Hence there is a tremendous amount of competition to work in our industry. However, if you truly want to work in sports and entertainment, you’ll get an opportunity. It might not be exactly the role you dreamed of initially but the first step in a long journey. It’s what you do with that opportunity that will set you apart.

Have you done well enough to be asked back by that organization? Or have you done enough where your hiring manager is going to suggest you for another role? Brand yourself. Find something that separates you from the rest of the pack. I review resumes all day. What makes you different? What makes you stand out to make sure I continue to move you along this process? Network, network, network. Also, while our business can be demanding at times it is also fun. Work hard and play hard and you’ll have a chance to go far in the industry.

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

You can follow Dan on Twitter here or connect with him on LinkedIn here!