My favourite thing about my work is the relationships I have been able to develop.
MARK ONE Sports and Entertainment
The interview with Mark Francis was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Founder of the MARK ONE Sports and Entertainment.
Since moving to the Los Angeles area in 2010, I have worked heavily in both the academic and sports consulting sectors. I have been teaching Sports Business at the UCLA Anderson Center for Media, Entertainment and Sports (MEMES) since 2011 and I have worked heavily as a consultant with a number of additional & sport–related entities highlighted by:
The Business of Hockey Institute
Edwards Technologies International
The California Center
California Lutheran University
The University of California Irvine.
Having my hand in multiple roles, I decided to create a more formalized structure with respect of my consulting work in the USA & Canada in an effort to grow my business and set up MARK ONE Sports & Entertainment Inc.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Generally speaking, my days have quite a bit of variety to them which I enjoy as it eliminates some of the monotony that comes with more standardized professions. That said, over the past two years, my work in academia has expanded quite a bit to the point where a significant portion of my academic work has led to significant consulting work in this space as well.
At present, I am overseeing curriculum development for a new online undergraduate Business of Sport program in conjunction with educational technology company Athleta-Ed and the UCLA Anderson School of Management Center for Media, Entertainment & Sports. It is a unique undertaking and one that currently accounts for a significant portion of my time.
When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.
Growing up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, I was fortunate in knowing from a very young age that I wanted to be a part of the sports community, either as an athlete, coach, teacher or administrator.
As a child, I developed a life-long affinity for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Steelers and the LA Lakers, although my NBA loyalty has clearly changed to the Toronto Raptors. As a child, I was super-focused on the athlete side of things with a strong focus on hockey and baseball. Over the years, I also played basketball, tennis, volleyball and was an avid runner for many years as well.
When playing professionally did not come to fruition, my interests evolved into the coaching and teaching side of the equation which I did for several years as well at both Fredericton High School (Varsity Boys Hockey and Baseball) and with the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and both the Men’s and Women’s Hockey programs there.
The real turning point for me happened in 2007 when I decided to put my teaching career on hold to pursue an MBA in Sports Administration. My goal at this point was to enhance my academic background such that I could secure a teaching position at the university level and become more of an influencer in the sports industry generally. To make such a career move work for me, I knew that when I graduated I wanted to work in the mecca of sports & entertainment which happened to be Los Angeles.
It has now been 10 years since my full-time move to this area and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Through my professional roles in academia and consulting, I have been able to have experiences and develop close friendships with people I could only dream of prior to moving to the LA area. Never in a million years did I believe I would be where I am today and doing what I love to do in the centre of the sports universe. Such a move in mid-career was not without risk but the rewards have made it all worth it.
What do you think are the most crucial aspects of becoming successful?
I’m not sure where it came from, but I believed in myself enough to make a bold personal and professional career change and was willing to do whatever it took to make it in a hyper-competitive market like Los Angeles.
In terms of becoming successful, I like to think of my self as a continuing work-in-progress who is always willing to learn and able to put my ego aside to do so. Moreover, one thing anyone looking to enter the professional sports business arena needs to develop as a skill is genuine relationship building skills.
I believe this to be the most important skill of all. Sports are a people business after all. In terms of specific skills, I would say the ability to communicate effectively in writing and verbally stands out.
Ultimately, I firmly believe that young people would benefit greatly by daring to be different and learning how to differentiate themselves from their classmates and fellow job-seekers. Doing so separates you from the crowd and makes you stand out to potential employers.
What is the most interesting part of your job? Is this part your favorite?
I think the most interesting aspect of my academic work is actually having an influence on what the sport workplace will look like by instilling strong ethical principles within my students entering the work-force. I have had some amazing students over the years who will play increasingly significant roles in sport for the next several years.
I have been fortunate in that over the past 10 years my students have been hired by a number of prominent sports entities including ESPN, LA Dodgers, Steinberg Sports & Entertainment, Wasserman, Red Bull, LA Galaxy, Chicago Cubs, etc.
My favorite thing about my work is the relationships I have been able to develop throughout the sports & entertainment industry. I am truly honoured to have been able to develop true friendships with people I have admired my entire life.
The events I am able to attend on a regular basis are also a highlight. Since 2010 I have been beyond fortunate in attending a number of major sporting events including multiple Rose Bowls, NHL Coors Light Stadium Series outdoor NHL games, Master’s Golf Tournament, MLS All-Star Game, NHL All-Star, MLB All-Star etc. It really is hard to call a lot of what I do work, that is for sure!
What were your main reasons for founding MARK ONE SE? Was there a “lightbulb” moment or was it something you were passionate about your whole life? What sparked that interest?
Establishing MARK ONE SE was a way for me to structure and formalize my consulting work under a Formalized corporate banner. It also allows me to work in both Canada and the USA which is incredibly valuable to me. It has also afforded me the ability to do some international work in China as well.
Was there anybody you modelled your career path after? What did you learn from them?
I have been so fortunate in my life to have had so many quality people to look up to and model myself after. It has allowed me to draw from a variety of people in helping me forge the path I have taken and has definitely facilitated the successes I have been so fortunate to have to date.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
Between being the UCLA Bruins Men’s Hockey coach, an Associate Executive Director in the PAC 8 Men’s Hockey Conference, and a board member for Fredericton Sports Investments in Canada, Mark has had an extraordinary career. Each step of the way led Mark to create MARK ONE Sports and Entertainment. Under this umbrella, Mark helps shape academia for future sport industry professionals and takes on several consulting endeavours across North America. Mark’s story is proof that with experience, drive and determination, it’s possible to move to Los Angeles and be successful in the sport and entertainment industry, and in academia!