Does he have the best job in Sports? Most people will say yes! What does Eric Oberman Do? Find out!

In this video

Does he have the best job in Sports? Most people will say yes! What does Eric Oberman Do? Find out!

 

- Without our integrity, without our character, what else do we have? You could have 40 years of amazing work experience. If you're not a good person, you don't treat people well, you don't work hard, it's gonna come back to bite you. So those are some of the intangibles that I tell when I'm talking to, to folks who are looking for experience.

- So Eric, hey, thanks for having me out. This is a pretty impressive office here. I mean, you've got all the, all the basketballs and, and, so, I wanted to learn a little bit more about you, get into your background, you know, and we're gonna talk about a lot of different things, like leadership, and team development, and what, how to identify talent and stuff like. But tell me a little bit about you. Where are you from, and how'd you get into all this?

- Absolutely. I'm from Ohio, born and raised. Went to the Ohio State University, very proud of that. And graduated, got into sports communications at a pretty early age. I love sports, and my major was in the school of journalism, so.

- Specific, specific sport you were interested in, or just sports in general?

- You know growing up in Columbus, the only, I joke, the only pro team we had was college football.

- [Chris] Right, right.

- So, cut my teeth on college football and major league baseball. Ohio State Buckeyes and Cincinnati Reds were my, my two passions. And started at a small agency in Columbus, and from there I moved to Chicago. A lot of my friends wanted the bigger city, so we all moved up there. And my career took off at that point. I realized that communications was, was my passion and anything I could do to bring sports into the mix, I did. So for example, my first client was, was with Procter and Gamble and it was Crest toothpaste.

- Uh oh. I'm hearing product placement. That's Procter and Gamble.

- Well, but Crest sponsored a program tied to the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians where, every time one of their players got a base hit, they would donate money to charity. Then they'd get a local sponsor to match it. So even though 95% of the work I did had nothing to do with sports, that 5% that did was really what made it worthwhile to get up and go to work each day. And that, that took me to Chicago, where I worked at Ketchum. I worked on Motorola was a client, and they sponsored the PGA Tour Western Open. So again, 90 something percent was, cellular technology, and cellular phones, new products. But just enough with sports to, to really light the fire and keep the passion going.

- So sponsorship, so connecting brands with sporting events and stuff like that is, was your main focus.

- Exactly. But always from the communication side. I was then recruited out to Nike, I moved out to Oregon. My family loved living out there, and I worked as the--

- I heard a lot of green. It's very green out there.

- Very green, very rainy. The joke was, that summer started officially on July 5th. Because from July 5th through Thanksgiving, you never got rain, it was beautiful. But there were a lot of gray days, a lot of rainy days, but it was an amazing place to live and work. Loved my time at Nike, and it was there where I really started getting the sports marketing itch. I was on the communications side, I was the manager of USA, the USA region, all basketball. High school, college, pro, uniforms, apparel, branded activities, I handled all the communications around it. But I knew that sports marketing really was my passion. So I was close to the marketing side, but I handled communication. And then left Nike to go work at Home Depot here in Atlanta. And that's what got me to Atlanta. I was fortunate enough to handle communications around Home Depot's marketing, sponsorship, and advertising initiatives. So it's amazing when I think back, I got to work two Olympic Games, Athens, and Torino Italy. I worked on NASCAR, College Game Day, the Home Depot Center, and just could not believe the things that I got to work on. But I also knew that number one, I was kind of done with the corporate world, and number two, I was gonna get into sports marketing, one way or another. And so I made the career move rather late in life, to work in sports marketing and I moved over to the Atlanta Sports Council.

- So you basically just, you know, you're working the corporate cushy job, and you're like, you know what? I just want to dive in head first, and you're just, I'm going for what I always wanted to do. Is that, you kind of got that calling?

- I'm not sure if it was a cushy job, but the corporate world was tough. Very rewarding, but hard and very different than the agency world. I didn't set out to work the corporate world, the agency world, and then nonprofit. It just happened. A lot of times, you just take the next great opportunity that's in front of you. And it just so happens that I had a rewarding experience at Nike and Home Depot, but that was it. I just had no more interest in working in the corporate world, and I wanted to get into sports marketing. The opportunity arose at the Atlanta Sports Council and I took it. And the nonprofit world is, has its own set of challenges, but I love it. And I've thrived, and I've really enjoyed it, and I've been doing it now for 12 years.

- What are some of the elements of working in the nonprofit world that you really enjoy?

- That, it's not all about the bottom line. I mean it is. Any job we have, it's, the bottom line is important. But there's a sense of, of doing good. There's a sense of giving back. There's a sense of taking pride in something that a lot of people are excited about, that maybe doesn't have the resources that are corporate endeavor might have. Now the challenges are in the nonprofit world obviously, you spend a good chunk of your time trying to generate revenue.

- [Chris] Right.

- But I also compare what I'm doing now to previous jobs, where, if we had a great idea in our department on the corporate side, it may not resonate that far out of our department because there's so many people who work there, there's so many initiatives that are taking place, and what I'm doing now, this is all I'm doing. So I've, I have dived in 100% into this job and this is all that I do, and if we make a major impact in something along the way, it's gonna resonate. People are gonna feel it. You're gonna feel good. It's gonna be good for the community. It's, it's really more special and more meaningful. You're also exposed. You're, if it's not successful, you're not hiding behind walls in the corporate world.

- [Chris] Right. And, so I learned that pretty early on. But it's sports. People like sports. You're giving back, you're making something bigger and better, and you're front and center in all of that. And that's what's been really rewarding.

- So talk about some of the specifics that you do in your, in your present job.

- Absolutely. I'm the Executive Director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The organization was founded in 1956 by a handful of folks who love basketball and try to do something to draw attention to the game in Atlanta, where it's so football centric. So they did that for about a decade, and then in 1969 the founding fathers decided that, they wanted to grow their brand nationally, so they came up with an idea to create a National College Basketball Player of the Year Award. The first 12 years of the organization was centered on recognizing wonderful talent, boys and girls, high school players and coaches, here in Atlanta. But the idea of taking it nationally kicked in about a decade later. And so in 1969, we presented the first Naismith Trophy, to a gentleman named Lew Alcindor from UCLA. So Lew and his coach, John Wooden, flew to Atlanta for our annual banquet, and we presented him the award, and that was, that was the first Naismith Trophy 52 years ago. In my day, day to day responsibilities, it runs the gamut because we are a lean staff. So it's everything from events, public relations, marketing, sponsorship, Board of Directors, governance, financials. There are days and weeks where I spend a lot of my time getting office supplies. But it's rewarding because I own it. I don't own the award, and I don't own the organization, but I own the job. And I've had people say over the years, oh, I couldn't do that, 'cause I don't know if I'd be effective. And I always say, you'd be effective knowing that if you don't do the work, it doesn't get done. So you really have to have unbelievable self-discipline and you have to take pride in it. And that's not to suggest that in other jobs you can avoid those two. But in any other company, you generally have teammates and staff that you can divvy up the work.

- [Chris] Right.

- Different people take on different chunks of it. And I have that now. I've been very fortunate, between our Board of Directors and college students who want to be interns, contractors, pro bono support, we have a pretty substantial staff that covers a number of things that need to get done. But ultimately, I'm the one who's accountable. I have to make sure that they're getting the work done or else it falls back on me.

- Yeah, 'cause, I mean, you're the only one. Buck stops with you, right? So you gotta- Wait so, when you're working for yourself, you know, you've got all this stuff, yet you, you have a board. How important do you feel is that to bounce, you know, bounce some of these ideas and some of these things, having a board in place when you're, you know, by yourself?

- Having a board, specifically the Board of Directors we have is absolutely critical. We have a senior team and executive committee that governs over the rest of the board, and I bounce ideas off them all the time, because I don't know it all. I've told people over the years, I'm not the smartest guy, but I've had a lot of experience. So I lean on that when deciding, should we move forward on this? Should we do away with that? I also feel the weight of the world that, if I'm gonna make a change, it's not just in 2019, 2020, 2021, I have to look back to all the people who've touched this organization since 1956 and can't make haphazard decisions just because I wanna make a change.

- What you said right there is, is like the key pack or point in leadership is, you don't have to have all the answers. And I think, some young entrepreneurs and some young business leaders, they think that they have to show everybody that they know it all. And that's, that's not right. And, and having people, whether it's, you know, people around you influencing, influencing, you can bounce ideas off a board, only makes you a stronger effective leader, you know, so that's awesome that, you know, you're open about that. You know, so it's difficult for some leaders to do.

- Part of being a good leader is realizing your inadequacies or your faults. I have no problem telling people, look, I'm not an expert on this, or I don't have experience on that, or I think this is the direction we want to go but I'd love other input. And for the most part, people embrace that, because number one, they want to be a part of the solution. The more people I can include in decisions, the better we all are because not only do we get their perspective, but we get their sense of pride and ownership that they've contributed to it.

- [Chris] Right.

- And in the end, the product is better. We are not an organization that wants to stand up and pat ourselves on the back. We want to do what's right, and be smart about it, and whoever comes up with the idea, or whoever is leading the activation, great. Take it, run with it, and we're all better for it.

- So having each and every person has ownership in what they're doing. You know, it's like, that's your thing, go and run with it.

- I try to have a number of committees within our organization, and I try to recruit board members to lead those committees, because again, I want them to have the ownership, and when it's wildly successful, I want them to take the victory lap, because they're gonna want to, they're gonna want to stay on the organization longer, they're gonna feel a sense of success, and the other board members might say, how can I do that? I want to get more involved. And all the, all the more reason to have a diverse and strong board so that everybody contributes. I mean I jokingly say at board meetings, nobody wants to hear me talk the whole meeting. I don't want to hear myself talk throughout the whole meeting. So how do we galvanized more members to get involved? We have a wonderful PR team at Jackson Spalding that handles our communications and our social media. We got an amazing marketing firm in Octagon. And then we have folks on our board that are experts in legal, that know social media, that know events, sponsorships. We tap into a lot of folks in order to get the work done.

- Specific people for specific jobs, specific, you know, vendors, and specific, that understand that.

- Without question. Either part of our board or external.

- [Chris] Yep.

- And that led us, about four years ago, when social media was really taking off, and we were late to the party admittedly. We quickly realized that, some of the, some of the most astute, successful social media folks are college students. That's all they know. And they live on their phones, and they live in social media. So we quickly realized, if we could bring them in to create and manage our social media content, it's mutually beneficial because we're getting, I don't want to call them experts, but we're getting staff who know what they're doing. Generally we want people that love basketball. And they want the experience. I can't tell you how many times people have come to me after they've graduated and they say, I can't find a job because I don't have the right experience, or I don't have any experience. And so we're trying to give them experience as college sophomores, juniors, seniors, and at the end of the day, it's a win-win. We're getting amazing content, and they're getting experience that they can take when they graduate, as they go out and interview for a job.

- And I think that's the biggest thing, is for, you know, a lot of these college students, just jump on in. You know, like, of course you're not gonna have a huge resume. You're in college, you know? So if there's an opportunity that's presented to you, go and do it, you know? Get that experience, and this way, you can build off of that, and move onto the next thing.

- Absolutely, absolutely. I worked to put myself through school. I was kind of a grinder. My grades were nothing ever to brag about. But I understood growing up at a young age, where I had, if I didn't pay for it, I wasn't gonna get my degree. So I have a soft spot when I see students like that, that are grinding, that are working, that are balancing a number things to get themselves through school, and I'll go out of my way to help them, whether it's advice or experience, but there are some really talented college students out there who know the value of taking advantage of opportunities while they're still in college. And when they graduate and they go to find their first job, they have more experience at 22 than I probably had in my late 20s when I got out of school. And so I commend them, and I applaud them, and I'll do everything I can to give them experience. But one of the interesting things about how I manage young students in college, or young folks who are out of college, I don't manage them within a box and say, you're this age with this much experience, you should only know how to do these things. I threw everything at 'em. And I tell 'em, you might have to hold me back, because if you're part of the team, and it's a lean team, I'm gonna give you everything I can to get the work done. And they sometimes get wide-eyed. And I say, look, if I throw something your way, and you're in over your head and you can't do it, then we know you are right where you should be. Nine times out of 10, you're gonna take on more than you thought you could, which helps me, 'cause now I have someone doing more of the work, and you're gonna be amazed at the experience you get because you took on more than you give yourself credit for.

- It helps them, it helps them grow.

- [Eric] Absolutely.

- And you'll know what you're good at, unless you go and try, and do, you know, and that's a thing is like, that's how you, especially at a young age. You'll learn what your true strengths are, and you'll identify what your weaknesses are, which makes you more effective. And without taking on that, without accepting that, you're not gonna know, you know, what your true interests are.

- That's exactly right. There's no shortage of work here, and if I get able-bodied individuals who, who want the experience and want the opportunity, they'll get it. It's all a matter of what they make of it. And I remind them that constantly, that you're helping us out, and we're helping you by getting the experience, but make no mistake, you have to deliver. Because this is real world. This is not a project in college. And if there's a failure, or, you know, there has to be a trust. I'm letting them take our social media accounts and run with them.

- [Chris] Right.

- It's a bit of a risk. But when they see that I'm trusting them to do it, they want to work harder to deliver.

- Yeah, especially in a position of leadership. You know, because, it's always that authority thing, right? So you're already in authority, but being transparent as a leader is the best thing you can do for your people because, again, you already sit in a position of authority, so you don't need to show your work, 'cause you already got to where you are, because, you know, you're in that position. But being transparent builds, helps build that trust and then also, it allows them to say, well, he's being completely transparent with me, I'm gonna really, really work hard for this, and get, get wherever we're going, whether it's a project, or the organization, because of that transparency. Because I know that that leadership is gonna be open with me, so that's, that's really cool to see that.

- There's the sense that they don't want to let us down. And the more interns we have that do our social media, there is a sense of pride amongst all of them and nobody wants to be the weak link. Nobody wants to look you in the eye and say, I know you gave me a wonderful opportunity, and I'm sorry I failed. And so that's, they're gonna work harder. And it makes us better. You know, just to put in perspective, four years ago, we had one intern pushing out some tweets and a couple posts on Instagram. They did a nice job. We got a rhythm, we got a system in place, and we were off and running. This season alone, we're gonna have 11 interns.

- [Chris] Wow.

- And they're all in college.

- [Chris] Yeah.

- And they're getting great direction from our agency who have senior level folks who understand social media and can help teach and guide them. But it's 11 college students that are leading, arguably one of our most important marketing activation programs, our social media.

- So, what are some pieces of advice that you would give, you know college grads or people that wanna, wanna get into this profession?

- I talk to a lot of college students. I'm a mentor to a student at my alma mater, and they asked a lot of questions. They're very cognizant of what's next. Because if you think about high school and college, an authoritative figure tells you, if you take all these classes at the end, you're gonna get a degree. Well that doesn't happen in the real world. And so, as they get to be juniors, or early in their senior year, they are overwhelmed with, oh my gosh, what's next? And how do I, how do I get there, and how do I achieve? So they ask me a lot. And I tell them all the time, I'm not the expert here. But I have a lot of experience. I'll share with you my experience, both as someone your age looking to break into the workforce, and hiring people over the decades. But I tell them, talk to a lot of people. Find a mentor. Find somebody who's have, who has also had experience because I don't know it all. All I know is what I've experienced. Some of the things I tell them are, network as much as humanly possible. In today's world, it's never been easier with LinkedIn, and social media, with cell phones, you get their number and you can send a quick text if you need advice. So, you should always look to connect with people as much as humanly possible. Get experience. Volunteer for anything and everything. So in the sports world, I tell them, you know, you might be the person handing out media credentials before a game. You might be the person making copies and handing out statistics at half-time. Some of it's not terribly glamorous, but it's something you could put on your resume.

- [Chris] Oh yeah.

- And what they don't realize, is it's not just putting it on your resume, it's the person that you're working with or working for in five years, could be running a department like that.

- It's so funny, 'cause I mean, it's exactly the same in the movie business, right? Because in the movie business is a very tight-knit crew. People work with the same people all the time, and a lot of people say, well how do I break in? It's like, well you need to be willing to do some of those less glamorous jobs, because what you're doing is you're building the relationships with these people that eventually are gonna hire you. You know? And you also, your classmates too. You never know, who, who's gonna pop up and who's gonna get a different position, you know, that could, you know, because you networked, right, you stayed in contact with all your classmates, that's an opportunity, you know, where you can collaborate somebody. So, so yeah. Taking those less glamorous jobs in the beginning to achieve what you want for the future is important. And what they don't realize a lot of the time is, they're being, they're being tested. So they think they're showing up and doing a job and then they're done, and they'll put it on their resume, and they'll move on. What they don't realize is that, that could be a future employer who's looking to see, will they do the work? Will they complain about? Will they work hard? Will they say give me more opportunity? Will they complain that it's, it's not glamorous enough? It's all a test. So networking, getting experience, I tell them all the time, be willing to move. Be willing to take on a job that doesn't sound like, perhaps the best job in the world. Go do it for 18 months or two years, and move on. And get experience, and pad your resume, and make connections along the way. When I talk to students, I always ask them, who in this class is majoring in CEO? And they all look at me kind of funny, like I misspoke, and I say, when you guys graduate, are you gonna be a CEO? And then they realize what I'm saying. We all start from somewhere. We all have a background where, when we got out of school, our first job was in sales, or marketing, or events, or anything.

- [Chris] Yep.

- And eventually, you bounce around and move around, and you work your way up, and then one day, you might become a CEO, or C-suite level employee, or an executive vice president, whatever it is. But we all start somewhere, and we all grow. And so, I use that advice to say, don't worry about your first job at 22. Your job is to get experience, to show your employer you're gonna work hard, that you're gonna contribute, and when the time is right, you move on. And the advice I give them, a friend of mine gave me great advice. He said, when you take any job, at any level of your career, write down five things you want to get out of that job, put it on a piece of paper and put it in your desk drawer and just leave it. Because if you think about it, when someone comes along with a great offer to hire you away, what do you do? You analyze it, you think about it, and then you say, well am I really ready to leave this job? Pull out that piece of paper. What was it you wanted to achieve in that job? Whether you're 22, 32, 50, 60, you're gonna, your needs, and your interest will change, but there's still things you want to get out of that job. And so I look back when I left Nike to go to Home Depot. When I left Home Depot to go to the Atlanta Sports Council, was I ready to leave? Had I checked those boxes of the things I had set out to do? More often than not, yes. Makes it easy to make that decision. I've done everything I can here, I'm ready to move on. So those are just some of the pieces of advice I give to youngsters. Everybody's different. I do caution those who feel like they know it all. They might, but if they come across that way it's gonna rub some people wrong. One of the accounts I worked on when I was at Ketchum in Chicago, I ran the Wendy's business for years. And Dave Thomas was the founder of Wendy's. And one of his sayings, I thought was great. He said, a goal without a plan is just a dream. And when you stop and you think about it, you're right. It's back to that sheet of paper that you write down. If you have goals of whatever it might be, and you don't have a plan in place, you're just dreaming. And more often than not, you're never gonna get there. Now people say, well if I put the plan in place, what if it gets derailed? It might get derailed. It probably will get derailed.

- Figure out another plan then, and you just gotta keep doing that, and I think that that's a great thing for any young person, you know, is like, yes, you can have these big dreams, but just make sure you put structure and a plan to get there, and you can't be afraid to fail. Use your failures as learning lessons. And if something happens, you just readjust your plan.

- I think one of the quotes I love is, whatever the action is, is 10% of it. How you react to it is 90%. People aren't gonna remember how your plan got derailed, or what came along that made you change paths, or you were smitten by an offer, because it was a lot of money with a lot of material perks, so you took it, and it was a disaster and now you're off your plan. Nobody's gonna care what happened. They want to see how you react to it. And that's not just the workforce, that's life.

- [Chris] Yep.

- Right? You, we all think we might have a plan in life, and more often than not, we zig-zag. We go sideways a little bit.

- Something that was explained to me is like, it's not that bad things are happening, it's situations are happening. And it's how you respond to that situation will determine the ultimate outcome. And so I think if we go through life and we just look at, hey, this is life, here's a situation. How I deal with it, is the way that outcome is gonna be. I dictate that.

- That's a great piece of advice, and it's a great plan to live by, because you're right. We don't know what's coming. We might be the most prepared, organized, detailed person in the world, and you're still gonna get thrown a curveball. Because in the world we're in, it's, I need this, I talk to that person, I hope they can deliver, oh they can't. Well, do you get upset, and walk away, and- Or do you take the time to say, hey thanks, maybe we can revisit this down the road?

- [Chris] Yeah.

- Because again, that person isn't gonna remember the interaction or the transaction you discussed. They're gonna remember that you handled it in a professional, mature fashion, or you didn't. And if it's the latter, it's gonna stick with you. So, you might be upset, you might be frustrated, and you could go home from work, and you could vent, you could be upset. But you don't want to give that off publicly because that's what you're remembered by. And, you know, without, without our integrity, without our character, what else do we have?

- [Chris] Right.

- You could have 40 years of amazing work experience. If you're not a good person, you don't treat people well, you don't work hard, it's gonna come back to bite you. So those are some of the intangibles that I tell when I'm talking to folks who are looking for experience. And I root for 'em too. And I tell all of our interns, you know, my job at the end of this, is to help you try to find a job. I'm not sure if I can, but I'll call anybody I know, I'll reach out to anybody I know. Because if they're gonna work hard for us, you know, I want them to see that payment, that payback at the end. And it's all what you make of it though. And, you know, we talk a lot about talented college students breaking into the workforce, there are some who feel like they should have had more yesterday. And those are, those are a little bit tougher to try to manage because they might think they know it all, they might think they have it all, they might think they deserve more, and unfortunately they're gonna realize the hard way that's not gonna happen in life.

- So, I, you know, I really appreciate our conversation, Eric. This has been really cool. So thank you for having me.

- Absolutely, I appreciate talking to you, and thanks for inviting me on as your guest.

- [Chris] Hey guys, thanks for tuning into the episode. If you guys enjoyed it, show some love, give me a thumbs up, and subscribe. Also, make sure you check out our exclusive C Level group on Facebook.
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