This is a story about the value of good mentors.
Kelly Cheeseman started his career as the Manager of Marketing at Rancho Cucamonga Quakes before coming to the LA Kings/AEG in 2001 as an Account Executive in ticket sales. In short order, Kelly advanced to Senior Sales Executive and then to the Manager of Ticket Sales. By 2005, Kelly was the Director of Sales & Service. Three years later, he was promoted to Vice President, Sales & Service, followed by a move up to Senior Vice President in 2012. When Chris McGowan left the COO position at AEG Worldwide to become the President & CEO of the Portland Trailblazers, Kelly was, as always, prepared to step in.
“Kelly has the best work ethic of any sports executive I have ever seen,” said Chris McGowan. From his experience, beginning in 1996 at AEG, McGowan sees the COO position at AEG as a true privilege. Having worked alongside Cheeseman for over a decade, Chris said what’s obvious to everyone is that, “Kelly is extremely passionate about the sports industry and dedicates a lot of time and energy into learning every aspect of the business.” Kelly would say he’s been helped by seeing it modeled by his mentor, Chris McGowan.
In turn, Kelly has always taken the time to mentor others. Two graduates of the inaugural Baylor S3 class in 2006, Todd Pollock and Brett Christenson, began in ticket sales at the LA Kings/AEG. Cheeseman took the two under his wings and helped them get off to a good start within the industry.
“Kelly has been a great mentor. Aside from his knowledge and business-savvy mentality, he has always been a great leader with his staff, whom he cares about greatly. His willingness to develop skill sets and train his staff makes him one of the best executives in the sports world today,” said Pollock, currently General Manager of Sales & Service at Temple University.
Under Cheeseman’s mentorship, Pollock moved from inside sales to account executive to Manager of Sales & Service for the LA Kings in less than two years, before becoming Manager, Ticketing & Suites, at the San Francisco 49ers. Cheeseman, like his mentor McGowan, share the qualities of all good mentors.
Christenson landed at FC Dallas in corporate sales, before completing his MBA and moving into corporate business intelligence and database analytics.
Learned along the way
Looking back at his career, the biggest challenges came during the two NHL work stoppage. Facing such obstacles out of your control, Cheeseman says, “will truly test your ability to maintain good relationships with customers and challenge your mental strength.”
When asked about some of the best career tips he’s ever received, Cheeseman recalled words shared by McGowan that stuck with him:
- Hard work can never be beat.
- There are no shortcuts.
- Always look for ways to be innovative.
- Don’t get stuck in a rut.
What is Cheeseman’s advice to others wanting to succeed in sales management in this business?
- Hire a great team properly organized to work together. Focus on the structure.
- Develop a measurable business plan you can review against key performance indicators.
- Hire an analytics team to support your staff.
Of course, it always helps to have a positive mindset. “Clients and co-workers really enjoy working with Kelly because he has a great personality,” McGowan added.
The students in the Baylor S3 program look forward to continued success stories from those fortunate enough to work with Mr. Cheeseman and Mr. McGowan. Thanks for giving back!