Mr. Tom Anselmi, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. says expectations of fans have continued to rise and an effective Customer Engagement Strategy is critical for success.
Meeting these rising expectations requires a concerted effort to strengthen service and value. It is becoming more challenging to deliver on customer expectations, especially when the expectations are so closely tied to team performance and “product quality” that you don’t have much control over.
Customer Engagement Strategy
What does it take to innovate? The majority of executives say it involves achieving technological leadership, global presence and a comprehensive portfolio of patents that will enable the company to help define major trends regarding products, systems and services, and to offering its customers important added value. They say such steps reduce costs, increase sales and achieve higher earnings. But how does one come up with new solutions, and can innovations really be part of a strategy plan? Arcus’ multi-industry survey of senior executives found that of all the challenges companies face in this area, the biggest challenge is finding ways to create a “climate for innovation”.
As Arcus research indicates, doing so means that you need to be surrounded by highly talented people. It also means finding a way to transmit your passion to them, so they will buy into your vision of the future, perform at the highest possible levels, and come up with innovative solutions to the challenges of achieving the vision. No surprise, then, that the topic of innovation has been gaining ground as CEOs seek to incorporate concepts like “a culture of innovation” into their assessments of a company’s long-term value.
An interview with Mr. Tom Anselmi, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.
Arcus: How has Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment changed since you became COO in March 2004?
Mr. Anselmi: Sport, like many other industries, has experienced rapid change over the past decade and yet, in some respects it hasn’t changed at all. Pro-sport is very much about winning, your product quality is team performance. There are few industries where you have very little control of the quality of your product. But, sports is one and winning is still paramount in pro-sports. It’s still about offering great service and value to your customers. That hasn’t changed. We have two measurables- how you are doing on the field and off the field. It’s still about running a successful business and delivering shareholder value. The business has changed in three key areas. The business has evolved significantly in the past five years, requiring a more sophisticated approach to strategy and operations. We need sophisticated managers with a comprehensive understanding of business management and customer insight. It’s also changed significantly from a media standpoint. The channels for distribution of content are changing rapidly. Lastly, expectations of our fans have continued to rise. Meeting these rising expectations requires a concerted effort to strengthen service and value. It is becoming more challenging to deliver on customer expectations, especially when the expectations are so closely tied to team performance and “product quality” that you don’t have much control over.
Arcus: How has your business model evolved to meet these rising expectations from fans and your owners?
Mr. Anselmi: We have grown a lot as a company. And so therefore, we need to keep becoming more efficient, strategic and synergistic- to deliver on the three S’ – sophistication, synergy and strategy. Our priorities are driven by the mandate from our shareholders to grow the business. We have grown the business with things like the launch of Toronto FC, the BMO field, developing Maple leaf Square, and growing our F&B and media businesses. We are very fortunate that our share holders allow us to reinvest in the business.
Arcus: Have customers redefined their expectation of value?
Mr. Anselmi: Value is a function of quality, service and price. And as you increase value, you raise the bar resulting in higher customer expectations. The costs associated with delivering value grow as well. It is more of a challenge when you have less predictability around quality. You win some nights and lose on other nights. So continuing to deliver on the rising expectations of our fans becomes increasingly challenging, but we are up for it.
“Leadership is about having a vision and great values.”
Arcus: Has revenue generated from advertising and content changed?
Mr. Anselmi: We have seen a shift in our revenue sources in recent years. Content is a significant portion of the business, especially from television rights and other platforms, like the internet. The shift we are seeing is in the area of technology. The internet is becoming a very important medium. The next generation of fans are using it a lot more than the last generation of fans. It has become their medium of choice. So we need to deliver our content in a variety of different ways to them. However, most of the emerging ways of delivering content are not necessarily significant sources of revenue yet.
Arcus: Why hasn’t online content evolved into a significant revenue source?
Mr. Anselmi: The advertising market hasn’t caught up yet. Like numerous other businesses, we are making significant investments in mobile, internet and different ways of delivering content. We believe the space has significant business potential. The other trend that is driving our business is the change in demographics in our communities. About half of Torontonians belong to visible minority groups. Over fifty percent were born outside of Toronto. These Torontonians have not grown up with hockey.
Arcus: Is the strategic shift to soccer in response to the overall demographic trend?
Mr. Anselmi: We believe that soccer has significant growth potential. We are always looking for ways to create profitable line extensions of our existing brands or create new brands that are aligned with our basic business model. Soccer fits that definition.
Arcus: What role have sponsorships played in your revenue streams and future strategies?
Mr. Anselmi: The core areas of our revenue model are content, sponsorship, ticket sales, hospitality sales, F&B and consumer products sales. Sponsorships are an important part of our business model. Our sponsors are not just sponsors, they are our marketing partners. We align with brands and partners that have common objectives where we can help grow each others business. For example, BMO has helped us build the Toronto FC brand and enabled us to engage a variety of communities.
Arcus: Please share three important insights from your experience in a leadership role.
Mr. Anselmi: First, Leadership is the most important part of a senior executive’s job description. The very essence of leadership is about having vision and being creative enough to define the future. Secondly, it’s about great values and letting those values set the tone for the organization. It is about energy and edge; an ability to set the pace, communicate superbly, recognize people’s accomplishments, take tough decisions and have good judgement. You also need to be able to execute superbly and that happens only when you have the right people, motivated and focused on a common goal.
Leadership is about coaching people, developing them to their fullest potential. That is what it’s all about. I have a saying that I want to learn something or teach something every day. That is the only way you succeed. Through the success of your people. And maybe most important is never losing sight of your customer. Stay close to them, know them, earn their trust, understand their needs and expectations and understand how they define value. Lastly, always strive for excellence in everything you do- in how you lead, product quality, people, and service. Anything less, won’t cut it in today’s world.
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