This interview was completed before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
Kyle Waters, the Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service for the Seattle Storm and the Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service for Force 10 Sports Management demonstrates on a daily basis his strong leadership qualities to his team of industry professionals in both organizations. It was my pleasure to interview Kyle. Throughout the interview, he explains key aspects of being such a strong leader, and how he sets an example for others in his organizations. Every day Kyle displays how to be intentional in what you do, and how to walk the walk and talk the talk. Kyle’s hard work has paid off, and he is an inspirational and determined individual within the sports industry. To get insight into Kyle Waters’ success, continue reading!
Please note: The interview with Kyle Waters 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 Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service of the Seattle Storm and Force 10 Sports Management.
As a member of the WNBA Seattle Storm’s Leadership Team, I oversee all aspects of the Ticket Sales and Service operation including the optimization of overall ticket sales revenue, world-class service for fans, game-by-game attendance, staffing within the department, seating inventory management, pricing strategies, and the product mix. I oversee Directors and Managers direct and manage products (Season Ticket Renewals, New Full Season Tickets, Ticket Packages, Group Sales, and Premium Suites) while I also collaborate with the Marketing Department to maximize single game ticket purchases (both advanced online sales and game day walk-up). I hold P&L responsibility for Ticket Sales and Service Department.
As SVP of Ticket Sales and Service for Force 10 Sports Management, I lead ticket sales and service initiatives to expand revenues and deliver world-class customer service for Force 10 Sports Management properties. Initiatives over the last several years include, but not limited to, the annual Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament, NWSL Reign FC, USA Women’s Basketball, WNBA All-Star Game, and Seattle Basketball Pro-AM. Force 10 Sports Management allows properties the opportunity to increase revenue and build brand equity by leveraging F10SM staff, expertise and brand equity, both locally and nationally.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My typical day begins with me arriving at the office at 8 am and leaving the office at 6 pm. Our regular business hours are Monday to Friday, 9 am-5 pm. I have pride being one of the first to arrive at work and one of the last to leave work at the end of each business day. I believe in leading by example so I intentionally demonstrate consistent hard work to show this effort for my team. Each morning, I meet with ticket sales and service staff, either formally or informally, to make sure we see each other and build momentum for the day. I believe interactions lead to momentum. Next, I proceed to respond to inbound e-mails and phone calls in mid-morning that are mostly customer service-related and/or closing new biz sales. In-season, my e-mail inbound box is typically at 100 new e-mails inbound on a daily basis from fans and/or cross-departmental communications.
Tickets tend to be a part of other department needs so there is some facilitating internally in addition to satisfying external needs. Late morning, I typically check-in with Leadership Team members, either in a formal meeting or just pop-in, to keep interactions going. I work from my desk at lunch because I want to optimize each hour of the workday. In the afternoon to end of the day, I hustle to generate new sales via individual outbound effort, checking in with my sales reps on new ideas, coordinating cross-departmental initiatives, etc. At the end of the day, I typically socialize with my teammates across departments because of my belief that interaction is positive. I lock up the office as I leave last and say the goodbyes.
When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization
I’ve loved sports since I was a child. I played team sports from kindergarten through my senior year in high school. I was generally labelled as a good well-rounded athlete across most sports but I never excelled at any sport well enough to be on a realistic path to become a professional athlete. I always hoped that I could still be involved in sports somehow. I attended the University of Oregon to major in Sports Marketing and was awarded a unique internship to work directly for their football program. My role was to develop marketing ideas and materials to send to prospects, so they visit and want to play for the Ducks. When prospects visited I gave them tours of the university and athletic facilities as an assistant for the football coaches and operations.
The program nicknamed me “Shark” and many of my friends and classmates from Oregon still call me that nickname today.
After interning for the football program for 3 years and assisting with a Top-10 Recruiting Class ranked by ESPN I learned I enjoyed the process of helping others make their dreams come true. With the recommendations from the Oregon football coaching staff, I was offered a position in ticket sales and service with the NBA Seattle Supersonics and WNBA Seattle Storm to assist fans with buying season tickets. That was when I knew this was my career.
Someone like you is a very strong leader, what do you think are your top three skills that make you a strong leader?
The top three skills that make me a strong leader are my work ethic, interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence. I believe my work ethic proves that I can “walk the walk” in addition to “talk the talk” with my coworkers and that results in being respected. I believe my interpersonal skills have helped me to be a sales and service leader externally with fans because it is important to be able to get along with all kinds of different people. My interpersonal skills continue to develop over time, and I’ve learned listening is important.
Emotional intelligence has been critical for me to sense when coworkers or fans are upset. Ultimately, my goal is to serve and please people, so it has been important to perceive when something is not right or someone is unintentionally upset. After realizing someone is unintentionally upset I’m better suited to respond in a way that leads to a good outcome.
How do you set goals for your self in the position you are in? Do you set small and big goals? How do you ensure you achieve them?
When I set goals for myself, I set a stretch goal that I believe is the highest projected result with a 100% effort. I also a baseline goal that is an absolute bare minimum no excuse to achieve below that result. In between those two goals, I find my most realistic attainable goal. I qualify to achieve a stretch goal as GREAT, midpoint as GOOD, and baseline as OKAY. I shoot for great but never can accept finishing with a result below OKAY. I achieve my goals with hard work and discipline.
I break down my goal into its smallest parts and I hold myself and others on my team accountable to those breakdowns.
Example – if the goal is to sell 1,000 tickets for a game over the course of 5 business days I hold myself accountable to sell 200+ tickets per day to ensure we’ve exceeded 1,000+ tickets sold by the end of the week.
If you could give your past self a piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell my past self to not be so hard on myself when things don’t work out the way I hoped. It is okay to make mistakes and the most important this is to learn and not make the same mistakes again. The strongest people are the ones to learn from the most experiences.
What is your most memorable moment you have experienced in your job? Can you explain it.
The most memorable moment I have experienced in my job is when the NBA Seattle Supersonics were sold to an out-of-state ownership group and I continued to work for the WNBA Seattle Storm. It was a stunning moment that I never thought I’d experience in my lifetime. I’m grateful the WNBA Seattle Storm was purchased by a small group of phenomenal women and that I could continue my career with pro basketball in Seattle, WA.
Do you have a specific role model you have in the position you’re in? Have you looked up to someone in the past?
There are a lot of specific role models that I have in the position I’m in. Rather than looking up to just one person, I look up to a lot of people. I’ve found in my career that different leaders possess different great qualities. Rather than trying to mirror one specific role model, I try to learn from the great qualities that different leaders demonstrate to hoard into my leadership.
1 Major League
I love this movie because it takes a group of misfits and turns them into contenders. The journey the players go on together knowing they are underdogs to rise above it all.
2 Teen Wolf
I enjoyed this movie because it captured how important high school basketball can mean to a community. It was comical how badly the school wanted “the wolf” to lead them to victory.
3 The Program
I enjoyed this movie because it showed a darker side of sports and the demons/challenges face off the field. It was an over-dramatization but shows it is not all “sunshine and rainbows”.
Riley's Final Thoughts
<p>Throughout this interview, I was very impressed with Kyle Waters. He is a very determined, strong, and passionate member of the sports industry who leads by example in every intentional act he conducts in the workplace. By constantly setting and achieving goals, and consistently being a leader in the workplace, Kyle is truly an industry leader to watch out for. He is also a prime example of the adage that hard work pays off. Kyle’s progressive industry experience has helped him to be the successful leader he is today. Thank to Kyle for sharing his journey and participating in this interview; continue the hard work, Kyle!</p>