So you wanna work in hockey... but you really dont have the skills to play the game! Each month we take you behind the scenes, off the ice and into the offices for a look at the opportunities available in the professional hockey world. This month, lakings.com sat down with Kelly Cheeseman, the Director of Sales and Services and explained his position within the organization.
As the Director of Sales and Services for the Kings, Kelly Cheeseman's job is like that of a hockey referree. With a successful event, all parties should be happy with the job he did, yet nobody should notice that he was doing it.
In most cases, Cheeseman is the man behind the curtain when it comes to Kings fans. While any fan with a ticket is indirectly dealing with him, most don't even know it.
Don't get the wrong idea. Cheeseman is a key player in the all-around success of the Kings organization. The fantastic ticket packages that offer great savings for Kings fans? The smiles on the faces of season ticket holders following another Kings win? All the responsibility of Kelly Cheeseman.
As anyone who has ever worked in sales can attest, the sales industry can be a ultra-competitive, high tension business. Constantly numbers driven, it is not made any easier when the salesperson is forced to start from scratch every few days.
"The toughest part of this job is the constant need to drive to a sales goal and always having to motivate myself and the staff to drive to these goals," Cheeseman said.
Admittedly, the job of Director of Sales and Services may not sound sexy (i.e. running sales reports, watching financial statements, reporting financial audits), but at the end of the day, it is Cheeseman who serves as the conductor between the Kings organization and its loyal fans/season ticket holders. Game time is often when he is busiest, interacting with Kings ticket holders and making sure each fan leaves STAPLES Center satisfied.
"(During games) I visit customers, monitor the traffic flow and the sales coming into the arena, get game financial audits and report the numbers to our Senior Vice President and President," Cheeseman said. "We sometimes have special events and dinners as well that I will host or attend with our staff."
While Cheeseman's number one concern is the guest's happiness, even he admits that there are certain requests that catch him off-guard.
"People asking to bring dogs into the arena has been weird," chuckled Cheeseman. "We are talking pets, not service dogs. We also get a lot of requests of people traveling into town for a game, they are big fans, and they want to know if they can swing by the locker room after the game for autographs. I can't (even) swing by the locker room after games. I guess it never hurts to ask. There is a perception sometimes that we hang out with the team all the time, and that isn't the deal."
As director of a sales team, Cheeseman, who was born in Michigan but grew up in Minnesota, can relate to Kings head coach Andy Murray. While not subjected to the public scrutiny that Murray sometimes faces, in a way, Cheeseman is the coach of his own team. With up to 23 full and part-time employees working on his sales staff, it is Cheeseman who serves as both director and mentor.
"I love being a part of a team and hitting (the sales) goals and having a successful event when fans and customers express how happy they are," Cheeseman said. "We have a very close staff from our Vice President to our sales reps, and some of us have worked together for a very long time. We spend more time with each other than we do with our family, thus we get along together very well, sometimes we have disagreements but we always know what it takes to be successful and this makes us a great family."
A graduate of Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Florida, Cheeseman came to the Kings via the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes minor league baseball team, where he served as their marketing manager. The 29-year-old joined the Kings as a Sales Account Executive, where he worked for close to two-and-a-half years in the trenches, servicing current season ticket holders and selling new season ticket packages. From there, Cheeseman moved up to Senior Sales Executive before being promoted to Manager of Ticket Sales in January of 2004, and eventually promoted again to his current position in June of 2005.
According to Cheeseman, a college education is certainly helpful for anyone looking to achieve the status he has attained.
"It is really important to have a degree, and specifically business related experiences to give you a knowledge of what it takes to run a business," Cheeseman said. "We also go through sales training two to three times a year."
As for any people aspiring to work in the sports industry, Cheeseman insists that the ability to separate business from pleasure is a key.
"Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up,' Cheeseman declared. "Set aside being a fan and understand what the business is. Being a fan has to always be second, because the customer is always first. Being a fan can get in the way of being successful whether you work for a team that you have enjoyed your whole life, or somebody new to you."