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Managing Individuals Based On Their Skill Sets With Jeff Morander: CEO ALSD

Updated: May 29

Image of Jeff Morander
Jeff Morander the CEO of ALSD

This episode of Against the Sales Odds podcast features Jeff Morander, the CEO of ALSD. Jeff has vast experience and knowledge in the professional sports sales industry. From his time at Boston University to his current position as the CEO, Jeff gives valuable insight into how he has maneuvered his way through the professional sports world and how ALSD breaks down the silo of the fan experience. He shares best practices and strategies on how stadiums and organizations can enhance that experience for the luxury side of sports. This knowledge expands across all the major sports leagues and entertainment brands worldwide. Sign-up for Lance Tyson's newsletter HERE.


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Managing Individuals Based On Their Skill Sets With Jeff Morander: CEO ALSD

I hope everybody is doing great. This is another episode, and I am really excited about this because I’ve gotten to know this person over the last couple of months pretty well. We’ve sat a lot of meetings together. They’re a partner of ours. I’d like to welcome Jeff Morander, the CEO of ALSD. Jeff, I’m going to let you talk to the audience about what ALSD is. Tell everybody what ALSD is.

Thank you. ALSD is an acronym for the Association of Luxury Suite Directors, which is interesting because we’ve outlived that name over the years by adding more members and more tracks in diverse categories. Simply put, it’s a community of members that come from professional sports, build and design firms, and tech companies. This 2023, there is the addition of companies that are involved with security and health as well as fan journey or fan experience.

A philosophy that we have is it’s all connected. While we started as the Association of Luxury Suite Directors, thirteen of them gathered in Indianapolis many years ago. We’ve built that up to conferences of an excess of 1,300 attendees. ALSD has grown over the last several decades and has become more than a premium seating organization.

For people who are not in the sports or entertainment industry that tune in to the show, you had to explain the importance of the suite business or that hospitality business to sports in general or maybe what people would expect going to a stadium or an arena. Could you, in a nutshell, wrap that up for people that wouldn’t know?

We’ve always felt that it’s about the experience or the fan journey. While we started to focus on premium seating in our early years, coming to a suite, club seat, or even beachfront property and what that looks like in terms of benefits and experience while you’re there, we’ve always preached utmost professional customer service in terms of catering to the customer.

For me, it’s gone beyond that. It’s the driveway-to-driveway experience. Having worked at Soldier Field with the Chicago Bears in the past, we had everything right in terms of training and all the different entities that touched the Bears fans when they came to the game. That is from staff that was the outside footprint of Soldier Field to welcome them and direct them to a security company, an usher company, or a parking company.

What we realized and what ALSD supports is it’s all connected. If one traffic cop screws up the pattern, it affects how they experience their parking situation, which then affects how they come into the building. It is a ripple effect. We’re committed to breaking down the silos of many departments and bringing everybody together in the US in July 2023 and then in October 2023 in Europe for a conference and sharing best practices. The common theme is that fan experience thread that we’re committed to. It goes beyond premium. It’s driveway to driveway.

The mission of ALSD, at some level, is to share best practices and strategies around that stadium experience that’s more on the luxury side or the premium side. My brother works for Bank of America, and they have several suites all over the country. It’s that experience where there’d be some kind of entertainment around friends and family and that driveway or driveway.

What ALSD does is drive the best practices between all these sports teams, whether they be a major league soccer in Europe all the way to an NFL team or even an MLS team here. I’m excited to have you on. You’re the CEO of this organization that works with all these monster sports entertainment brands. Tell us about your job and the ALSD organization. What are you focused on a day-to-day basis? We’re then going to go backwards on how you arrived at the spot.

When I look at ALSD in terms of my focus and looking under the hood with respect to where we are and where we want to go, part of that is strategically looking at the conferences that are so important to those about sharing best practices, networking, and seeing new venues or renovated venues that you may or may not be able to make a separate trip in your professional life.

For me, I looked under the hood when I first got here and focused on people and technology because while we talked the talk with our members, we hadn’t walked the walk in specific areas. We upgraded our team and commitment to the technology from database CRM to artificial intelligence and anything in between.

From my focus, I’ve looked at how I could diversify ALSD from the name of the conference to whether we add additional conferences because the demand worldwide is incredible. We’re talking about Australia, Asia, and all parts of Europe. We could have a show in the UK every single year, and that still wouldn’t meet the demand around the world for that kind of sharing of information and networking. We encourage people to do their R&D, which we affectionately call Rip off and Duplicate. If you’re building a new facility, go out there and see all the different venues. It doesn’t even have to be in the same sport that you’re focused on.

ASO 8 | Professional Sports
Professional Sports: If you're building a new facility, go out there and see all the different venues. It doesn't even have to be in the same sport that you're focused on.

I’m looking at diversifying ALSD. We’ve added a consulting arm. We’re looking at a secondary marketplace and adding that. To your earlier point, we not only have the sellers in terms of 80% to 85% of the sports teams and venues are members with us, but we also have the buyers such as Goldman Sachs and the Bank of Americas, etc. At some point, we’d like to put them back together again. The pandemic has created some issues for us, but that’s one of the reasons why I’m focused. We didn’t have the ability to have a conference, so if your entire business is focused on two conferences, how do you survive?

One of the things you said is that ALSD works with about 80% of the sports and entertainment brands around their high-end hospitality premium seating, whether they be club seats or suites. It’s such a critical part of the revenue for a new stadium. If you look at the Buffalo Bills, they are building a brand new stadium. A significant portion of their planning would be to focus on what that premium experience looks like and how to sell that premium.

You go overseas. You said to Australia, whether it be rugby or Australian rules football all the way to the Premier League in Europe to NASCAR. These are all organizations that are such a significant, profitable part of their business. Everybody has to understand that most of this is a B2B sale. It’s very little that it’s a business-to-consumer. The strategy to engage these businesses in a marketplace, grow these relationships, and create predictable long-term income is critical to the success. ALSD is the place where people go to benchmark, share best practices, and duplicate and replicate as much as possible what works. Is that fair?

That is absolutely fair. I would go a step further, too. We have the top food and beverage companies that are there with us hand in glove. We have the top venue management companies in the world that are there. I go back to that, “It’s all connected.” We’re starting to see a trend where it used to be the suite director would come with one other person. This time, the organizations are bringing additional people with them, whether it’s business intelligence, security, their food and beverage partner, or their parking partner.

You’re starting to see the breakdown of those previous silos where more people are coming to the show. They may not sit in the exact same sessions. That’s the beauty of having four different tracks. You can cross over to wherever that meets your interest. The fact that they’re there together and they have a shared experience, they can then help with that collaboration within their own organizations.

ASO 8 | Professional Sports
Professional Sports: The beauty of having four different tracks is you can cross over to wherever meets your interest.

ALSD, every year, will have different events that they’re bringing these folks together. I’m curious. I get a lot of CEOs on here, as well as presidents, senior-level VPs, and senior-level folk leaders like yourself. The question is always, “How did you arrive here?” Let’s start from the beginning. You’re a CEO of a major international association. How did you get here? What’s your first move coming out of school, if you even went to school? I have some guests that don’t go to school, and some do. What was that first move? Where are you from? Where did you go maybe coming out of school or your first job? What started the journey?

I grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut. Before I embarked on my career at Boston University, I took a job with a department store. It was the school of hard knocks and grunt work, but I learned a lot in that experience while going to high school. Early on, I had two career paths that I was set on. 1) It was to be a pilot, and 2) It was to be in professional sports.

Unfortunately, with the pilot career path, I finished third out of 102 cadets at Boston University, and there were only two pilot slots. They offered me a nav slot. I turned it down and immediately pivoted to sports. I was working in the communications department in my freshman and sophomore year, and then I pivoted to work with the BU Hockey Terriers.

We got something in common that I didn’t even know. I didn’t know you were from West Hartford. My middle son spent two years in Newington. I’ve spent a lot of time in Newington. He played junior hockey for the Connecticut Chiefs. I had no clue. As you brought that up, I’m thinking about a great diner that I’ve been to quite a few times. I’m trying to think of that. I don’t know if it’s off Mass Pike there, but there’s one road that goes down the middle right near Newington there. I spent a lot of time there.

I grew up on Newington Road. I could chip a golf ball close to the town line.

I didn’t know we have that in common. That is great. You grew up in West Hartford. You did ROTC. You pivot because it’s not working out. You want to be a pilot. You’re not going to take the navigation position, and you’re working in the department store. What are you doing in the department store? Are you selling something? Are you servicing something?

I ended up going into shipping and receiving, so I was unloading eighteen-wheelers. It was a great learning experience because we had to do everything manually with a lift. Once they built the docks, I could handle an entire eighteen-wheeler by myself. I worked the night shift and helped out.

Is that all through school or after school?

I did that through high school. I was very fortunate to catch a break. Before I started working with BU Hockey, the Hartford Whalers of the National Hockey League were the Carolina Hurricanes. They set up the 1st inside sales department in the history of the NHL and only the 2nd one in sports behind the St. Louis Cardinals. I would go to school at BU and then come back and work in Hartford for the Whalers during the summer and get my first taste of career professional sports.

I look back at it and say I caught a great break because I saw the owner for opening night. I grew up as a Bruins fan before the Whalers even existed. On opening night against the Bruins, I see the owner in the center mall on the railing. I was like, “I have to go speak to him, introduce myself, and see if I can work in the business.”

Mind you, I’m in a Bruins jersey, so it was not very smart to meet with the rival owner. I knew he had gone to Boston University, so I knew we had something in common. I went up and talked to him for a few minutes. He said, “Send me your resume, and I will route it. We’ll see what we can do because we’re about to launch this new initiative.” I was one of the fortunate thirteen people that were hired. I got my taste of professional sports while still in college.

We’ve seen a pattern above here. Number one, you are smart enough to talk to a fellow alum and make the connection. I see a little bit of the operational side early because I see the pilot coming out, and you’re working on the docks. I see the sales side emerging, too. You get out of BU and experienced the Hartford Whalers’ inside team. Was that after school or during school? What were you seeing there?

It was both during school and immediately following graduation to potentially earn a full-time job. I had a great mentor, Jack Parker, the head hockey coach, not only in terms of the sport but in life in general. He’s like a second father to me. When I came back after I graduated, my parents were like, “We sent you to Boston University for four years. When are you going to land a full-time job?” I was like, “This is what I want to do.” I’m out there interviewing with different banks. I was a Finance major.

That is not a bad place in Hartford for insurance either, right?

No. I got lucky. My parents set a September 1st deadline for me to get there. In mid-August, my boss came to me on a Friday afternoon and said, “Can I see you in my office?” He closed the door, and I’m like, “This has never happened to me. Something is up.” He said, “I’ve resigned my position, and I’m recommending you for the job.” I was 22 years old right out of college. My knees were shaking underneath the table. I’m like, “I’m your guy. I’m ready. I would love this challenge.”

Was that to manage the inside sales team? Am I following you there?

It was to manage the entire ticket sales and service department.

You talk about one door closes and one door opens, right?

For sure. I found out later the reason why is I was the only one that had cross-functional experience in sales, service, and ops out of any of the internal candidates. While they had a stack of resumes that were truly impressive, they didn’t want to go outside. It was late. It was the end of August. By the time I got in that chair, it was early September, and the season was starting.

If I’m following this correctly, your parents set a deadline, you get the full-time job, and you’re running the whole kit and caboodle?

Yes. There is an irony to that story. We still joke about it all these years later. That was in 1986. The person that was most qualified for that job left the organization on August 1st. Two weeks later, when they find out about the resignation, they put their resume in to get considered, and they get no look whatsoever.

Loyalty goes a long way, doesn’t it?

For me, I was leaving in two weeks. That was the mandate to have to make a move. The timing was such. They gave it to me on an interim basis and left me there in that role for eleven months before I earned it. When I look back, if I knew what I know now, back then would’ve been so much easier. I was a young professional that was fortunate enough to have my second mentor in my life, the late William E. Barnes. He guided me through everything like budget projections, how to do media, and managing staff.

I was never the best salesperson. I finished fourth out of 13, but I never aspired to be in sales exclusively like the top 3 hunters did. They didn’t want any responsibilities to manage people. They wanted to sell and hunt. No matter how well I performed, I could never outperform them in terms of the results, but that wasn’t my intent. My intent was always to become a manager and be more strategic and tactical.

ASO 8 | Professional Sports
Professional Sports: The intent was always to become a manager and be more strategic and tactical.

How long are you there? I like the comment of being fourth out of thirteen. It’s not like you’re out of it. You’re in the middle. You know enough and probably are working hard enough to get there, but you have a different pathway. How long at Hartford?

I was there for a total of seven years. With an ownership change, I decided to take a different path. I went to Atlanta to work for a Minor League hockey team, the Minor League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

What role did you take there? You were there for seven, and you were on Minor League?

I was head of ticket sales and service, but realistically, there were five of us who started that organization and truly started that from scratch as an expansion team. It outdrew the NBA Hawks, believe it or not, for many games to the point where Mr. Ted Turner pulled our owner aside to say, “What are you guys doing? This is incredible.”

To me, that opened up my eyes because when I was on the Major League level, I had the budgets, the size of the staff, and all the resources that I needed to be successful. When I got down to the Minor League level, I had to become more resourceful, open up my mind, and really get after it. I did that for two years before I got the call-up with four other staffers.

You had to go from a systems thing to an entrepreneurial thing because that’s truly a startup. You’re in a startup mentality. I’m thinking about John Clark, who was working on a Minor League team in Jersey. He said, “We did everything.” Kerry Bubolz, when he started off in the Minors, goes, “You might have a title, but you could be working a concession stand one night.”

Kerry was at the IHL Cleveland franchise, and I was part of the Atlanta International Hockey League franchise. It truly was a sobering experience. I never was concerned about getting back up to the Major Leagues. The first time I ever stepped foot in Georgia was when I accepted the job and went there. I used the same transferable skills from Hartford to attack that market and develop staff. I was fortunate to get that experience.

I look back and say, “If I never went to the Minor Leagues, would I have been as resourceful and as willing to push the envelope in creativity?” I still keep in touch with all the people from the mid-‘80s to the early ‘90s of staff. There is continuity there because I’ve been blessed to have certain people work with me in different markets. Sometimes, it is 3 or 4 markets where they would follow me to the new endeavor. It was a life-changing moment for me not only to expand professionally but Atlanta and that experience is where I met my wife of many years.

Congrats. You said Atlanta made you resourceful. You found your wife, and you became resourceful. I love it. I love how all that came together there. What are the next couple of moves from there? It seems like you’re on a little bit of an NHL trend, which for everybody reading, and I say this with all due respect being a hockey father and loving hockey, hockey is a tough sell.

You’re not selling the NFL shield. I’m not knocking anybody on here that does. Hockey is a different sell. It’s similar to what MLS has to deal with at some level. Sometimes, it takes a second seat, a third seat, or maybe a fourth seat. You’re selling hockey in Atlanta. It’s a little bit different selling hockey in Hartford, which is far from Boston. Your next 3 or 4 moves are what? Where do you go from there?

I go up to the Parent Club to Tampa Bay Lightning and open what is Tropicana Field but at the time was called the ThunderDome in St. Petersburg. I go to Lightning because they are going to move from Tampa to St. Pete. They need to double their staff side. I worked there, and then I decided to cross over to the NBA.

Was it the same role?


You said you are on the revenue and service.

That’s the one thing that I was taught when I first came into the business in Hartford. It was, “Keep your pulse or thumb on the revenue because that will open additional doors,” and it did. I’m a Finance major. I never envisioned myself to be in sales, service, and ops, but I fell in love with it. Do you sell to live, or do you live to sell?

Keep your thumb on the revenue because that will open additional doors.

I would argue in any industry, the heck with sports and entertainment, there are two paths to get to the top that I can see. One is you take care of your relationships. That’s common with anybody I talk to. You’re either coming through on the high finance side, or you’re coming through and bringing bread to the table on the sales side. I see those two paths. I see more people on the sales side than I do on the other side. It’s interesting. You have that ops piece, too. You’re there, and then you go to the NBA. Who do you go to in the NBA?

I go to the Rockets, and I go to the WNBA Comets. We had an arena football team, too, but the Rockets were Barkley, Olajuwon, and Drexler days, coming off a few championships. We had about 40 seats that we needed to manage to sell. With the WNBA Comets, one of the top three experiences I’ve had in my entire career was the inaugural season.

It was fantastic with Cynthia Cooper, Tina Thompson, and the late Kim Perrot. We didn’t have Sheryl Swoopes because she was on maternity leave until year two. I tell you, grassroots all the way. It was anything that we asked we were able to do. We ended up winning. The crowds were incredible, but winning the championship that year and then three more after that. I had left right around the second championship.

Of all these teams you worked for, the WNBA team is the first time you named any players. That sounds like you became a fan of that.

No question. It was awesome. It’s interesting. I regret not sharing this because very early on in my career at the Hartford Whalers, I was 1 of 4 salespeople that would sit at a lunch table of 6 with Gordie Howe on one end and Emile Francis on the other. If I only took notes after those lunches, I could write a book and publish some stories that are phenomenal.

That might be a whole other episode.

It was incredible. I’ve been around the Phil and Tony Esposito in Tampa Bay. Those are two All-Stars and Hall of Famers. Crossing over and going to basketball for me was a huge step because it validated that the process by which I used was transferable. I had no experience in the Houston market but was able to methodically prospect and attack the Houston market for multiple sports teams. That was awesome. I have had other NBA experience with Sacramento and Atlanta Hawks, but I’m known as a hockey guy. Even when I was at the Bears, they professionally called me the FA hockey guy. They’re like, “Here comes the FA hockey guy.” I won AA football school, so I didn’t rate with the football ops or anybody.

There are no sports in the Northeast. At the Rockets, you’re still in that ticket revenue side of things. That’s for three organizations, not one, so you’re multi-tiered. It sounds like not only are you being resourceful, but you’re creating a predictable, scalable process that wouldn’t matter what you sold. I’m going to assume, too, if I go as far as to say, is probably a lot of those principles you’re applying at ALSD to grow a service organization around driving revenue. I do know a little bit about your approach because I have been working with you. For your next couple of trips, are you at a VP level at this point in these different organizations?

I hit the vice president level with Tampa and then with Houston. It’s interesting because the next move that I made is I called Len Komoroski to ask his advice on going from three teams on the NBA, WNBA, and NFL level and the vice president to then go to Chicago as a chief operating officer with the Chicago Wolves. I got good feedback there because of his experience.

I branched out with multiple disciplines like community relations. I oversaw that. I only had a little taste of that when I volunteered in Hartford. It was a fascinating experience. While there in Chicago, the Bears were building a new Soldier Field. They hired me based on my experience moving from Tampa to St. Petersburg and then back into the new arena with the Lightning at that time.

You go to a big market and get recognized. At this point, Atlanta is probably the biggest market you were in. Hartford is a submarket of Austin. It’s a different market, so you go to the Wolves. I do love that move because most of the people I know that are successful have done something inside their career to expand their reach and their property lines. I even think of some of Len’s protégé, somebody like Kerry Bubolz, who did the same exact thing inside the Cleveland organization. Len was huge with that, even in his own career.

I went back to a director-level position, his advice to me was, “It’s not the title. It’s the role.” I thought that was very telling because the role was very expansive. Not only did I do the sales and service the last year of Soldier Field, but we had to do a concurrent campaign for 2002 down in Champaign, 170 miles away. We started selling the new building in 2003. You’re juggling three sales campaigns with a small staff, and you’re down one level.

It's not the title; it's the role.

I was invited. I was 1 of 4 to sit on the construction team. Not only could I do the sales and service, but I could guarantee what we were positioning as the benefits to our fans, suite holders, and club suite holders were going to come to fruition. It was because I had a say at the table on all the value engineering decisions that needed to be made on construction sites.

I’m curious. You brought up a couple of things, like resourcefulness is more of a predictable process, and you understand sales and ops. You’ve had a couple of leadership positions at this point. What starts to become your leadership philosophy? What is your leadership style if you had to say it in two sentences at this point?

It’s hard to recap it because I focus on the people. One of the things that I learned was you can have a process and manage your team a certain way consistently or a certain way on fundamentals. My secret sauce is to manage individuals based on their skillsets. If you are an expert in sales, I would give you low direction and low support. If you struggle with budgeting or projections, I would give you high support and high direction. It’s based on the individual and your skillsets related to the job.

I didn’t get that when I was a younger manager. I try to blanket manage everyone. There are farmers, hunters, leaders, and managers. I was very blessed to have some selling managers, which is a very hard role to fill. A sales manager is one thing, but a selling manager is another because you’re pushing and pulling that staff. For me, I try to focus on the individual person based on their skillset. That was the secret sauce. It took me years to figure that out.

That also takes a lot of time because most people are looking to reduce how much work they have to do. I agree with your core philosophy. People like to be managed and led by exception, not by the rule. That’s why in hockey, we have a first line, second line, and third line, or in NBA, the starting lineup. People are striving for something, but the amount of time it takes to manage people to their skillsets means you have to understand their skillset. That means you get to know them as an individual and understand what motivates them. Painting with a broad brush doesn’t work. You’re painting with a fine art brush. You would paint the Sistine Chapel with not some big wall brush.

Recruiting was a big part of it. That was one part of the process as well as onboarding, coaching, training, and getting staff. For me, the other part that I focused on to be successful was you create that fun team dynamic, but you do everything in your power to retain your staff. I put a heavy emphasis on retention. Years later, it was when the movement on analytics came out. The NHL put out some great data that would show for every year that you retained your staff, you could expect a $100,000-plus lift from each one of those individuals.

ASO 8 | Professional Sports
Professional Sports: Create that fun team dynamic, but do everything in your power to retain your staff.

If you have a staff of 10 and you retained all 10, you could expect an extra $1 million the following year. That was another component. It wasn’t teaching based on individual skillset. It was retaining that valued team member so that you could take it to another level. I don’t know if that exists. It seems like that retention has fallen off, but it’s what I do at ALSD. I’m trying to retain who we have and also add the missing pieces.

I sat down with my senior team not long ago and said, “My role will evolve this year as we grow into what I call the five Rs,” which are Refinement and Revenue. The other Rs are Recruitment and Recognition for the organization. For recruitment, the way I look at it is you got to recruit once for people to come aboard, and you’ve got to recruit every day for them to stay. Most people don’t leave an organization because the pay is lower. Most people leave because of their manager or their leader.

That’s what I wanted to ask you. When I first broke into the business, it was all about loyalty to your organization and then maybe department because they were siloed and then self. Do you feel like the business has changed and it adapted where people are more focused on what they want to work for the manager than they do the entity?

Yeah. That’s true. That is such a good question. We could probably dialogue about this all day. In America, it’s much different than working for a company in Korea, where there’s more loyalty to the company than there is to the individual. Why do people leave? Most people leave a marriage or a business because one or both parties don’t feel appreciated in the relationship. That’s my other R. My fifth R is Relationship Management. That goes beyond the business, but that goes internally.

If anybody reading is using Jeff’s philosophy of leading the individual, you win. We’re talking about kids that are in school. My oldest son is 25 years old. The chance of him having seven different careers by the time he’s 45 is probably a really good chance, which means he will leave organizations. You know this as well as I do. People do follow great leaders. You take Len Komoroski and Kerry Bubolz. You take a Chad Estis and a Doug Dawson. There are all these examples where certain people fit together, and people stay together, too. That’s a wonderful philosophy.

I will say this to everybody. Here’s a big but. The philosophy Jeff’s talking about, if you’re a new leader or up-and-coming, or even if you’re somebody evaluating your own current leadership, what he is suggesting takes an enormous amount of time and focus. That means you’re breaking bread with people that you’re spending time and you know stuff about them. You’re managing the relationship with them like you would a customer. Sometimes, ESI is more important than CSI. Employee satisfaction to some people is way more important than customer satisfaction, and you can tell. That’s important. You came out of Chicago. How long were you in Chicago? Where was your trajectory there? What are the next 2 or 3 moves to get us to ALSD?

I did three years with the Wolves as chief operating officer and then three-plus years with the Bears from 2001 to 2004. One thing I failed to mention is part of the reason why I was able to be so mobile is that I have a spouse that is in banking. Every time we moved, she ended up getting promoted and getting a better job than she had before.

That helps.

When I was single, I made my own decision about where I went. I get in the car and move to Atlanta. When I got engaged and then got married, it was a joint decision. When we had our child in the second experience in Atlanta, it became a family decision. As you evolve, for me, it becomes more difficult. You’re more judicious in terms of the opportunities that you take.

I was fortunate after Chicago to be recruited by Bernie Mullin to go to Atlanta. It was multiple teams. We had the Phillips Arena at that time with the Hawks and the Thrashers. It is very similar to Houston in terms of the efficiencies, org chart, and what have you. I lived through three work stoppages with NHL. One of them is where the NHL wasn’t working. We took the Atlanta Thrasher staff and doubled down on the Atlanta Hawks.

Our ownership was committed to retaining the full staff. We doubled up on the Hawks and were fortunate enough to swing them by 30% in ticket revenue. That was a fantastic experience. One was to have Bernie there to be able to help guide me but to be back in Atlanta, where it all started in terms of my personal life with my wife, and then we had our only child there during that stop. I have very fond memories of Atlanta. It is a special place for me. It is so interfaced with the people that I work with.

What was that role? Was that a revenue role, or is that more of an optional?

Revenue for sure. It was tied hand-in-glove with analytics. An interesting side point is even our own staff thought that the crew who reported to me, when they didn’t, they reported up through marketing. They were joined at our hip in so many meetings and initiatives. You know how important that is. Even the internal staff had no idea that they weren’t officially part of our department. It is a good feeling to know that you’re collaborating in such a way that people don’t see party lines.

Going back there, I loved everything about that. It was a great experience for me, my family, and the team. What I was going to say is the beauty about being in this chair with ALSD is in 2022, I went to New York City for our show. I’ve only been in the chair for two months, but I know over 300 people that are at the conference and trade show. The reason why is because of the people that I’ve worked with directly as colleagues but then also people that I come across in different league meetings, and to have the varied experience with NBA, WNBA, and NFL. I’m more of a hockey guy. I have been in hockey for the majority of my career. Having the diversity of my contacts and relationships certainly helps because to see a familiar face is a great feeling.

What were your last few stops that were significant before you got to ALSD that started to shape and round off your experience, leadership, approach, and philosophy?

I left Atlanta for Sacramento. While that was an extremely difficult job in the year and a half that I was there, I received more training in a year and a half than I did in my entire career combined. It was a constant commitment not only catering to customers but making sure that team members progressed professionally from disc training to listening training. You name it. It was everything under the sun.

I’m very thankful for that stop. It was short and more family-driven than professional-driven for the reason to leave. I had a multi-year agreement to stay there, but it was difficult with a nine-month-old baby support group. When you look at how you evolve, that’s one hiccup that we had based on the fact that it was the first time that we made a family decision.

It quickly followed by being recruited to the National Hockey League. For me, it was an opportunity to go there, earn my doctorate, and have a more global view of corporate sponsorship, community relations, ticket sales and service, and work with eight clubs. I was part of club consulting and services, which was the equivalent of an NBA team. We had a team of 14 to 15 people on that staff, so it was a very small crew.

We did consulting with the clubs, buy opportunities, and share best practices. For me, back East got us closer to family, but I went there with the mindset of two years stop. I was a team guy, not a league guy. I thought, “Two years stop, earn my doctorate, so to speak, broaden my horizon, and then go back to a team.” I stayed there for six years. I loved it. I had two full-time jobs.

After club consulting was disbanded, I did ticket center of excellence. I did the ticketing strategy across the whole league. I was also invited to be a part of overseeing NHL events, specifically credentials and ticket ops or ticket sales. I did two full-time jobs. There were two different managers that I reported to an office on the fourteenth floor. My workstation is on the eleventh floor. I would clip something on my chair so people knew where I was. I juggled that for many years. It was an awesome experience working with the commissioner, deputy commissioner, and the staff that they still have there.

For me, I came away from the team side. You had to be neutral. You couldn’t route to Switzerland and cater to all clubs. For me, I was always with the intention that I would go back to the team side. I was fortunate enough to be recruited by three of the owners of the Coyotes. It was, at that time, Phoenix Coyotes that then became Arizona Coyotes. I met them in a 30-minute meeting in the NHL, and the next thing I know, they are asking permission from the deputy commissioner if they can recruit me to go to the team side. At the league, I worked with them.

It’s all about those relationships.

I knew the entire staff. I didn’t know the ownership group coming in, but I knew the entire staff. While I was juggling two jobs, Bill Daly, the deputy commissioner, asked me to join a very small group of people to work on the Coyotes. If you recall, the NHL owned them coming out of bankruptcy. What we thought might be a 4-month transition turned out to be a 4-year transition to get the right ownership group in there. I was the only one going back and forth, boots-on-the-ground consistently to Arizona. For me, it was natural not only to go back to the team side but natural to join them because I knew everybody that was there. I interfaced with them for thirteen months, going back and forth between New York to Arizona.

This is a pattern that I see. If I was taking anything from this, I would say revenue ops and that experience developed your reputation. From there, there’s repeatability, but very people-centered. I look at that NHL experience that you had. Probably holistically, you’re looking at best practices from that consulting and advice you were given at the NHL, which lands you with a couple of other trips to Phoenix. All of a sudden, you’re at ALSD. All that experience is going to drive ALSD in the future. You have that vision. I didn’t realize it was as vast. I’ve looked at your LinkedIn before, but I didn’t realize it was that deep in experience.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in some great markets with some great people. In the end, it is about relationships for me. Do I care about my personal brand? Absolutely. I have pride. I want to do a job. What’s great about ALSD is I’ve gone to the conference for many years. I’ve known the founder for twenty-plus years. I’ve known our president for fifteen-plus years. For me, it was a natural to come over. More importantly, I’ve walked in the shoes of our members.

I was going to say that. Relationships are one thing, but you’ve walked in all these shoes, from small organizations to very large organizations. You were hands-on with the smaller organizations. It is four almost that the markets weren’t huge. There is the WNBA, and you did it again with two different organizations. That’s unreal. I didn’t realize that. We’ve talked a little bit about kids and stuff. In a nutshell, a 7 or 9-year-old that was a niece, nephew, grandchild, or your own child said, “What does success mean?” How would you define success to a 7, 8, or 9-year-old based on all this experience?

It depends on your goal. When I was 7, 8, and 9, I wanted to play football. I didn’t want to just play football. I wanted to be the quarterback. I wanted to be in a leadership position. It was no different than baseball. I was a middle infielder. In basketball, I was a number 1 or a number 2. I wanted to lead. I didn’t want to follow. I got involved in activities that would help me with that later in life.

At that age, it’s probably too young to talk about it. This was ingrained in me by my old-world grandparents. My great-grandparents on both sides came through Ellis Island. My grandparents had a work ethic like I’ve never seen before. That translated to my parents and then on to us. They didn’t know what vacation was. There was a balance or whatever.

The one thing that they shared with me and has been my goal ever since I heard that is to be the stepping stone for the next generation. To my nieces and nephews, it’s trying to help them and pick them up in any way, shape, or form, as well as family and to do that. Interestingly enough, I live by that. I have done that consistently.

Be the stepping stone for the next generation.

At fifteen years old, my parents set me away as an exchange student. That opened up my eyes and opened up new languages, new cultures, and new everything. It was life-changing. I’ve given that opportunity to my nieces and nephews. Only one of them has taken me up on that. We felt that it was that impactful to let them see if it had the same effect. If not, no harm, no foul, but it is to be the stepping stone.

What was interesting is I always did that in my personal life with regard to family. I had my first mentor, William E. Barnes, in Hartford. He said, “Why don’t you use that for your professional life to be the stepping stone for the next? Like you caught breaks early on and people helped you, you could do the same.” I live by that. I still do that.

What I’ll take away from my career is that I played a small part in helping develop and have professionals progress to get them to where they wanted to go. It sounds simplistic, but it’s the payoff. To your earlier point, you got to put the time in and spend some time with people and help them along. For me, that’s been the win. It’s not my personal brand as much as it’s played a small part in helping an organization and individuals. ALSD is no different. I feel like I can use these transferable skills to take us to a whole new level. We’re on our way.

When you’re getting these business deals done and managing through some of that stuff, what’s that one song that plays in the back of your head?

It’s Business by Eminem.

There you go.

It’s a little-known fact. Growing up in Connecticut, I caught rap music from its inception out in New York City. I listen to everything under the sun, but that song is the one.

What is one book you gift to people or have gifted to people, or you would gift to people besides mine?

What’s interesting is I’m not a big book guy. I read a lot of them. I like nonfiction. In my circle that I would gift, they would not read that. They’re more fiction readers type of thing. I like to give people more current events, like articles of interest and different things. It sounds corny, but I read different websites across the world. BBC, for example. I’m more of a current events guy than I am a book guy. That changed.

When I was younger, I was a big Hemingway fan. I read his books in Spanish because I was an exchange student. Here I am, as I go to Europe for our show in Manchester, I am making a stop in France. I am going hiking over the Pyrenees in Pamplona. Pamplona was his place. We’ve got a few stop-offs to chase him. We’ll likely pick up a book to read. It would be more current events or articles of interest that I would share with people than a book.

That’s fair enough. Jeff, this has been a great interview. It is great to get to know you better personally. I didn’t realize how deep the track was. You are amazing. If you’re reading this, don’t worry about the title because the leadership will follow. It’s not about the title. Your ability to create a sustainable, repeatable process and understand that is important. I appreciate our relationship, and I appreciate our time here.

Thank you. Likewise. Thanks, Lance.

Thanks, Jeff.

Important Links

About Jeff Morander

Jeff Morander joined the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD) as CEO in May 2022, arriving from the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League. For six years, he also served in a League capacity in a variety of roles, including Vice President of NHL Events, Vice President of Ticket Strategy, Vice President of NHL Club Consulting and Services.

Some of the highlights of Morander’s NHL career include executing numerous successful events such as the NHL Winter Classics in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, NHL All-Star Games in Raleigh and Ottawa, NHL Awards in Las Vegas, and NHL Heritage Classic in Calgary. He also established a Ticketing Center of Excellence and assisted NHL Clubs with “Best Practices” that resulted in record-setting league-wide revenues. Morander continued to use best practices to evaluate loyalty programs, mobile ticketing, and new technologies to enhance the fan experience. CRM/Database marketing, focus groups, secret shoppers, and surveys have also provided invaluable feedback.

With over 35 years of senior management experience in the sports industry, Morander has also worked for the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes (NHL), Sacramento Kings (NBA), and Monarchs (WNBA); the Atlanta Hawks (NBA) and Thrashers (NHL); the Chicago Bears (NFL); the Houston Rockets (NBA) and Comets (WNBA); the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL); the Atlanta Knights (IHL) and Hartford Whalers (NHL). As CEO, Morander focused on people and technology in his first year, leading to top attendance for ALSD in NYC and ALSD International in London.

In 2022, ALSD also set record revenues in its 32-year history. Morander will strategically evaluate another conference and tradeshow to meet increased demand, expand ALSD Consulting, and continue strengthening Membership and pursuing other growth opportunities. Morander graduated from Boston University with a degree in Business Administration. Jeff and his spouse, Kim, and daughter, Madelyne, reside in Scottsdale, Arizona.


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