By: Jay Stein, @JStein209
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Carolyne Savini, Senior Vice President at Turnkey Sports and Entertainment. Ms. Savini joined Turnkey shortly after earning her Masters Degree from Ohio University’s Sports Business Program. She currently leads Turnkey’s executive recruitment team, supporting a variety of executive level searches across all industries throughout the professional sports business industry. Ms. Savini was more than happy to offer up her time and insight into how she fell into her role in sports recruitment, why it is important to go out and network with current industry professionals, and some general thoughts on the competitive landscape in sports business and what new opportunities may be on the horizon.
What exactly does Turnkey Sports and Entertainment do in support of the professional sports business industry?
As we began the conversation, Ms. Savini started by elaborating upon what Turnkey does in working, “with various teams, leagues, agencies, vendors and some brands … in the sports industry.” She continued to explain how Turnkey is an executive search firm that fills, “executive level positions for these organizations.”
In discussing some of the searches Turnkey supports, Ms. Savini mentioned the wide variety of searches they fulfill, “across skill set… from marketing, sales, corporate sales, ticket sales, operators, Chief Operating Officers, Chief Executive Officers, Finance, Legal, HR.” As she explained, Turnkey provides executive recruitment support, “all across the board.”
Ms. Savini proceeded to describe specifically how her role is to, “manage the group and manage searches. We have a team of about seven and we dedicate two recruiters on all the searches.” She continued to explain how the, “team actively recruits candidates for our positions… then we check references and work with our clients throughout the process.”
What specific advice can you give to aspiring sports professionals to prepare and position themselves for future opportunities?
“My advice would be different for each individual. There is no set path or process to work in sports; however, getting internship experience in the industry is critical,” Ms. Savini first began to explain. She continued, in regards to specific educational programs students should be targeting, and again mentioned that, “there’s no one right answer, as in get a graduate’s degree or don’t get a graduate degree. Or get a degree in sports management or don’t get a bachelors degree in sports management.”
“It really just depends where someone is coming from in relation to an experience standpoint, whether or not pursuing that education is worthwhile.” Ms. Savini continued to expand on the topic in stating how, “sports marketing and sports business are somewhat synonymous, but truth be told, what it comes down to is business, so a business degree is more valuable…”
This was something she had experienced while attending Ohio University and, as she stated, “the program I went through had a MBA and a Masters of Sports Administration, and it was the business aspect of it that had a lot of value for me.”
How did you end up working in executive recruitment and how did your previous positions help prepare you to get to where you are today?
“To get here, it wasn’t really by design, it was more by falling into it,” Ms. Savini began to explain. She then professed how, “It turned out that I enjoy it and I’ve been here for a while and I like what I do.”
In regards to preparing for her current position, she modestly admitted how, “no one learns to be a recruiter by going to school,” but, as she explained, it is more of, “being the right personality, right mindset…” She continued to mention how there was not a set plan that got her to Turnkey, and that she is truly a, “firm believer that where you end up is not necessarily where you think you’ll end up.”
How important is relationship building and networking?
“It’s paramount, it’s number one, most important!” Ms. Savini quickly proclaimed, “that’s how people, many times, make hiring decisions, based on referrals. It is typically about who you know and establishing a network to get your foot in the door.” She went on to say that people must continuously network, “in any way possible, any way [you] can make a connection…”
Ms. Savini then mentioned how people must be willing to, “do anything and everything to get as much experience as [you] can with internships, and volunteering…” She continued to expand on how valuable volunteering can be for up and coming professionals in the sports industry and explained how it, “can give them insight into various aspects of a business. Two weeks of free labor may result into an entirely new career path that they didn’t even realized existed.”
What characteristics and traits in people do you see as most important for those looking to work in sports and how can one differentiate himself/herself from the next person?
Right away Ms. Savini stated it is all about, “teamwork and having a team based attitude, being a team player… in general, that’s the number one thing I’d say that people expect to find and look for.”
Going back to the preparation of working in the industry, Ms. Savini commented on how people can differentiate from others by mentioning how, “on one hand its experience, getting the right experience, getting any experience.” She then went on to explain the importance of, “doing research on the organization, and on people they’d be interviewing with or meeting.”
“Be interesting!” Ms. Savini concluded on the topic, “don’t just say that your passionate about sports because most people who are interested in working in sports would say they are passionate about sports, that doesn’t differentiate anyone…”
What trends in the sports business industry do you see that may create new opportunities for aspiring sports professionals?
Ms. Savini stated how “right now data is king. Consumer insights, consumer data, research, analytics….those are tremendous areas of opportunity.” This has been a recent shift in the industry versus, “in the past the easiest way to get your foot in the door with an organization would be through sales and ticket sales to go work with a sports team.”
With that said, she then admitted that it, “stills holds to be true in the sense that the largest departments tend to be the sales department at an entry level…” At this point in time, though, “there’s greater need for analysts and researchers at organizations, so there’s good opportunity there that did not necessarily exist in the past.”
Any impact you see the growing International market playing in generating new opportunities in sports business?
In regards to trends in the International Sports business market Ms. Savini mentioned how, “it’s always existed, so it’s nothing new, but there has been a trend in international football clubs, soccer clubs, hiring Americans.” She then commented that these are, “not necessarily new opportunities, except that from the outside looking in, you notice a trend or spike in some of these clubs.”
When making a plan to work in the sports industry, you must follow your own path, and Ms. Savini repeatedly acknowledged how, “it’s really different for everybody in terms of what they have to offer…"
“People coming to networking opportunities or places where they can be considered to be hired full time or as an intern; Being well versed in what it is they want to do, what they have to offer, and how they’re different from someone else who’s just passionate about sports… that’s a good way to make an impact!”