In the sports and entertainment industry, the challenge of competing for the attention of the consumer is daunting enough. But when Peter McLoughlin was named CEO of St. Louis Blues Enterprises during the summer of 2006, he faced yet another challenge. Responsible for the management of the National Hockey League franchise’s nonhockey operations, McLoughlin had the task of continuing to reignite interest in a product that was just one full season removed from a yearlong absence from the market, the result of a labor dispute that wiped out the 2004-2005 season. After implementing rules changes intended to increase scoring and entertainment value, the league set records for average and total attendance during the 2005-2006 season, and McLoughlin has continued to work to win back fans. With his staff aligned behind one distinct responsibility to provide a unique and exciting entertainment experience McLoughlin employs a leadership style that emphasizes constant communication and accountability. Smart Business spoke with McLoughlin about how to turn passion into profits and how to get the most out of your employees.
Foster alignment through communication. One of the keys to leadership, for me, is to communicate with your people about the goals of the organization and the direction you’re all headed in.
Communication has always been one of the foundations of how I manage and lead an organization. As people hear you articulate the goals and the vision of the direction that you’re going, they can share in that and participate in the development of that mission. Everyone gets on the same page.
When communication fails, mistakes get made and inconsistent messages get out. When that happens, your customer gets confused. When the customers are confused or don’t like what they are hearing, they will maybe make the decision to spend their money elsewhere. That’s why alignment is key.
We’re creating a culture of the St. Louis Blues here. It’s a great brand with a 40-year history.
In order for us to be successful and to compete, we all have to be aligned.
Take every opportunity to interact with your team. We have regular top-level management meetings so that we can make sure all of our department heads are aligned and are communicating and sharing strategies and plans together, and then it’s up to those department heads to communicate those things to their people. We try to use e-mails to all the employees to let them know of events and activities and developments that are coming up so that they’re not surprised and they hear it from us.
As we’re at the press and we’re talking about strategies and objectives, that’s also a great way for people to read the morning paper or hear on radio shows what’s going on with the team, and we want to make sure everybody is informed of what we’re going to be saying and what the objectives are.
It’s making people throughout the organization feel a part of it. That can be anything from a broad staff meeting, which we do often in terms of the events that are coming into our building and everybody’s role in terms of activating around that event. And it comes down to simple things like having an all-employee luncheon or Christmas party and using that opportunity to take the microphone and make some points and give people an opportunity for question-and-answer so they feel engaged and feel a part of it.
Commit to success and hold people accountable. A big challenge is getting the most out of your people. What I mean by that is a combination of setting goals, encouraging people to meet those goals and holding those people accountable.
When you’re working in a company, in a business environment, you become close with the people you’re working with, and you want everyone to be successful, yet you also have to hold people accountable, including the leader. The challenge is getting everyone committed to being successful and working hard to achieve that.
Encourage dedication to common goals. You’re always looking for a certain passion within people to go along with their experience and with their particular skill set.
If someone brings passion and dedication and shares the common goal of wanting to win back the fans of the Blues, pack the house, provide great customer service and be part of a team that is going to win the championship in the National Hockey League, that’s what I look for, someone who is really passionate about those things.
We’re in a fun business, and that helps. Professional sports and the great concerts and family shows that come through the Scottrade Center are a fun business to be a part of. There is an underlying enthusiasm there, and the key is to turn that enthusiasm and passion for what we do into profitability by selling tickets and selling sponsorships and selling food and beverages and merchandise and reaching out to customers so that they feel good about spending their money here.
People who are very committed and hardworking and are driven to succeed are the kinds of people that are going to go that extra step to make an organization successful. You have to have your own personal pride and personal drive and work ethic and the collective sense that everyone is working for the same goals.
When you have that combination, it really leads to great success.
HOW TO REACH: St. Louis Blues Enterprises, (314) 622-2500 or www.stlouisblues.com