Ideas to Battle the Great Resignation

The Great Resignation has no doubt impacted your organization. While it was extremely difficult to recruit and retain part-time venue workers this Fall, we’re focusing on the impact it’s had on your full-time staff. 

Last week we led a management team retreat with our partners at Penn State Athletics on this topic, and the learnings were too valuable to keep in a vacuum. So we jumped on the podcast with Katie Rudy from our EngageMint team and Christina Gatehouse, Assistant Athletic Director / Human Resources Strategic Partner at Penn State to reflect on the retreat. 

Before the retreat started, we sent out homework for everyone to prepare. The homework was heavy reading. We sent out fifteen of our favorite articles on the topic of the Great Resignation or the Great Resignation; from industry trends, hypotheses on why this phenomenon is happing, and ideas to turn the crisis into opportunity, it was all there. 

Because you’re like family to us, we’ve made a version of that reading list available to you for free to download.

Par for the course, Penn State is leading the college athletics industry, and in the retreat, we bucketed a ton of innovative ideas to better retain our top talent into short-term/mid-term/long-term ideas. The podcast episode is our reflection on that retreat. 

Now go listen to the podcast, do some reading, and take action!  

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Flip the Switch

Why I Spent $13k on an NFT w/ David Millay

This episode is all about NFT’s and why our host, David Millay, spent $13k on a single NFT.

It’s a much more casual episode than usual with holidays upon us, and we invited some of David’s friends from his Disney days to unpack why the hell he would make such an investment. 

We end up discussing the potential utility of an NFT, future potential use cases, and their potential role in fandom and the sports & entertainment industry.

Special thanks to Martin Graham and Jerome Scherwin for joining us!

Additional EngageMint Podcast Episodes on NFTs

$208k for a Lebron Replay? NFT’s explained 

How Fandom is Evolving w/ Zoe Scaman

All about NFT’s and Miami’s Canesvault 

Resources for Learning More

NFT Now 

NFT Case Studies

What is an NFT?

What is a DAO?

Mentioned in the Episode

CloneX NFT project

RTFKT Homepage

Why did Nike buy RTFKT?

RTFKT’s AR shoe project (Phygital

3lau’s Music NFT’s explained

The Constitution DAO story and struggles

DAO buys Wu-Tang album for $

NBA Top Shot

Dapper Labs


Good Twitter follows in NFT space






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Lessons from Leaders – Paula Courtney

This week on Flip the Switch, we are joined by Paula Courtney, CEO of the Verde Group.  Partnering with many Fortune 100 companies, the Verde Group brings unique methods to studying consumer behavior and improving the customer experience. Rather than asking “How was your experience?” Paula and her team probe for customer dissatisfaction. Their research has demonstrated that innovating off of points of friction and restoring consumer confidence have a greater financial impact on organizations. 

Here are three strategies to knowing your customer and protecting their trust:

Five Key Elements to a Customer’s Choice – (6:43)

Consumer behavior has evolved at an expedited rate since the start of the pandemic. Many executives are looking towards digital transformation initiatives to try and keep up. If you’re trying to exceed customer expectations amidst evolving fan or customer behaviors, ask yourself these questions:

How relevant are you to your customer? How shoppable is your business? What is your customer support? What is the sensorial experience? How meaningful is your brand to your customer’s personal brand?

The only currency in business that matters is trust – (29:03)

When you have an upset customer actively surfacing a complaint, you’re at a pivotal moment. You’re now being judged for the original failure and how you handle the complaint. According to research done by Paula’s team, with any result less than complete satisfaction, customer loyalty drops by at least 40%.

When a customer reaches out to you to complain, they’re doing so because they have some level of trust with you. They trust you’ll resolve their issue (those without trust won’t reach out, they will simply stop doing business with you). When you exceed their expectations in the resolution, you validate their trust and strengthen their trust further than had there not been a problem in the first place.

Investigate customers’ negative emotions instead of positive emotions – (16:45)

If you look at your post-event or post-season survey, you likely have an “applause meter” question, a question asking some version of “how much do you love us?” The problem with those widely-accepted CX questions is they don’t prioritize what to fix first, they don’t provide actionable findings. And they certainly don’t link directly to financial impacts, such as finding out what a lost customer costs you or giving you a better idea of ROI on investments.

Instead, by focusing on measuring the prevalence and drivers of customer dissatisfaction, you can find out how much business you’re losing and where you should invest future resources for the greatest payback. 

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Lessons from Leaders – Bryan Blair

This College Leaders segment features Bryan Blair, Deputy Athletic Director and Chief Operating Officer at Washington State University.  In the four years that Bryan and his team have been in Pullman, they’ve worked to build a culture that highlights and celebrates what is unique about Wazzou.  Bryan and David hit on hiring coaches and staff that are cultural fits, embracing your identity and taking risks to move college athletics forward.

Here are three major themes from this episode:

Communicate your vision as passionately and vividly as possible (15:25)

Strategic plans are often created, shared to the team via email, then wind up on a shelf somewhere. But when Bryan and the team at Washington State unveiled their strategic plan to the department, they treated it like a new coach announcement. There were cheerleaders throwing t-shirts into the crowd and the band playing the fight song. To galvanize your team and unite everyone around one vision, be bold. Go over the top. The more effort you put into communicating your vision, the more people will pay attention and buy-in.  

Lean into what makes you unique (18:35)

Mike Leach, Washington State’s football coach from 2012-19, is one of the quirkiest characters in college sports. Rather than hiding those quirks behind-the-scenes, Bryan and team highlighted Leach’s antics and personality in every way they could, through bobblehead nights to sell more tickets, filming him answering fan questions for more content, even having him teach a college course and flying media in to sit in on the class. As Bryan told us, “If you’ve got something unique, don’t shy away from it.  Amplify it, tell that story, and then you’ll attract the right people that are interested in your uniqueness.” With so many entertainment options today, it’s more impactful to connect deeply with a smaller group of fans than connect at the surface with the masses.  

Innovate or Die (29:23)

Bryan and his team have designed a culture where innovation is a high priority, partially out of necessity to compete with traditional industry leaders. Bryan’s belief is “If you just say ‘we’re going to do what we’ve always done,’ you’re not going to get what you’ve always got. You’re going to get less of it gradually.” Your fans’ expectations of you are only partially shaped by what you’ve offered in the past. Their expectations are mostly shaped by companies they engage with every day. Amazon has changed expectations for how fast merchandise should ship. Spotify and Netflix have changed expectations for personalized recommendations.  Disney has changed expectations for customer service. If you’re not getting better at exceeding customer needs every day, your customers will eventually leave. 

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Lessons from Leaders – Scott O’Neil

Industry legend Scott O’Neil joined the latest episode. From former CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, overseeing the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers, to Senior Vice President of the NBA’s Team Marketing and Business Operations division, Scott led teams at several of the most prominent sports and entertainment organizations, gaining valuable insights into leadership and employee development. The insights he shares prove that while winning is important, it isn’t the only driver of success. Here were three of our favorite insights from the show:

Create a Culture of Celebration – (44:12)

To attract and retain top talent, create a culture of celebration. Make people fall in love with the journey, not the destination. Focus on celebrating the small wins in your team’s weekly activities. First win, 5th win, 10th win milestones were all big deals for Scott’s team; it wasn’t just about million dollar sales goals. The culture of celebration was so strong, it had to be toned down after the Office DJ on Fridays led to an eviction notice. When you are going from one event to the next, what small wins are you celebrating? Not just in ticket sales, but in all your other teams?

Encourage constructive conflict – (15:30)

As smart and successful as Scott has been, there have been many times where his strong opinions were wrong. If he were surrounded with “yes men,” those strong opinions could have taken his organization down a wrong path. Instead, Scott encourages leaders to hire talented people, then create an environment that gives them license to disagree and empower them to make decisions they have conviction around. Think of your last management team or leadership team meeting… How much constructive conflict was there? How much flexibility have you given your team to make decisions? 

Data driven decisions > Industry common practices – (43:42)

Before you say you can’t afford a new staff member, have you calculated the ROI? At one point during Scott’s tenure leading the Philadelphia 76ers, they had the largest sales staff in the world for a sports team. He calculated that one sales rep paid for himself/herself in 9.5 weeks, so HBSE just kept hiring until the curve changed. He got pushback from friends who protested because that wasn’t how it was traditionally done. But to Scott, he didn’t care what the industry common practice was, he cared what the math said. How many of your organizational practices are based on “that’s just how we do it” vs. what the data says?  

If you enjoy the podcast episode and want to dive deeper into Scott’s leadership philosophy & stories from illustrious career, check out his new book, “Be Where Your Feet Are: Seven Principles to Keep You Present, Grounded, and Thriving”.

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Lessons from Leaders – Mitch Barnhart

Are you investing time and resources to develop your staff into tomorrow’s leaders or are you training them to simply be order takers? For 2019 SBJ AD of the year Mitch Barnhart, his leadership style is a key reason he recently celebrated his 20th anniversary leading Kentucky as the longest-tenured AD in the SEC. 

Mitch’s approach to mentorship has produced one of the largest leadership trees with seven former associates now holding Division 1 athletic director positions. Mitch joined us to share his passion for ‘equipping people to launch people’ and guiding his organization with a true servant heart and integrity.

Here are three key takeaways from the conversation:

Develop Generational Leadership

Mitch’s achievements at UK represent a fraction of his impact on the college athletics industry. Seven former staffers now run their own D-1 departments, which is a testament to the intentionality and time commitment Mitch spends on growing and developing leaders. Mitch explains how empowering others to lead rather than viewing them as taskmasters will result in an exponentially greater impact. 

Hire for heart and integrity

Mitch uses heart and integrity to hire people and identify rising stars in his organization. “Heart,” he explains, speaks to someone’s gut, the ability to make the right decisions and do right by others in the organization. “Integrity” speaks to the brain, understanding the boundaries in which you can operate and the rules of the organization. 

When in doubt, put your head down and go to work

When Mitch first got to UK, many fans and insiders were anxious about him leading the department. They thought he “didn’t understand Kentucky.” But Mitch was given the advice to shut out all the noise, put his head down and grind. If you get caught up trying to please everyone, you’ll please no one. Sometimes the best recipe for success is to drive, deliver good work and let the outcomes speak for themselves. Don’t let all the noise distract you from what needs to be done. 

For more insights from Mitch, listen to the full conversation here.

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Lessons from Leaders – Eric Nichols

We’re already done with two weeks of football. We’ve crossed the starting line, now it’s time to start thinking about how we can get better.

“Be better” happens to be the parting advice Eric Nichols gives in our latest conversation. Eric is the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Marketing and Branding/Chief Marketing Officer at the University of South Carolina. At South Carolina, Nichols oversees Marketing, Digital and Social Media, and the University band and spirit programs as well as serving as the primary liaison for Licensing, merchandise sales, and outsourced entities including Learfield for multimedia rights and Learfield Ticket Solutions for outbound sales.

Here are three key takeaways from the conversation:

Make choices based on story, not budget
In SC’s new Cockaboose Club, Eric describes the space as if “a train station and a brewery had a baby.” Each new club has their own story, and their own target market, with the Cockaboose Club built for the Average Joe. Our former Disney colleague, Joe Rhode, the Disney Imagineer largely responsible for creating Disney’s Animal Kingdom, was famous for saying “make design choices based on story, not budget”. Keep that in mind as you map out your fan experience and you’ll win in the long run.

Position underutilized assets creatively to drive engagement and revenue
This is the first year SC will have 100% capacity and beer sales. But adding a high-demand product means you need more points of sale, and there’s only so much room in a concourse. So Eric and his team got creative with an underutilized space between concession stands. They made the area walkthrough convenience store-style for fans to grab drinks, then they branded it a “beer cave.” What you’ve got it’s your job to get creative and spin it to turn into an experience.

Scaling empathy
“We want to make the relationship with the Gamecocks almost like a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship where it’s really difficult to break up with us… you’re gonna feel bad about leaving.” Eric highlights the importance of human relationships here. It’s a lot easier to leave a logo and a physical building than it is to leave another human. Fans (and employees) who are emotionally connected to your organization are more loyal through tough times and are less likely to churn.

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Flip the Switch

All About NFTs and Miami’s CanesVault

The University of Miami became the first college athletic department to break into the NFT space, announcing the new CanesVault this week that will officially open on August 16. In this episode, Dan Boyd, Miami’s Senior Associate AD for Sales and Marketing and Jon Parise, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of GigLabs, Miami’s NFT partner,  join David to discuss the strategies and behind-the-scenes conversations leading to this innovative launch.


Show Notes

7:16    Building the Hurricanes Legacy

9:13    Breaking into the NFT Game

11:13  Miami’s Partnerships with Gig Labs and Black Madre

14:20  Maintaining Ownership to Drive Incremental Revenue

19:42  The Brainstorming Process

23:00  Leveraging the Brands’ Full Intellectual Property

24:37  Other Model NFT collections 

26:03  Infinite Objects and Rare Rooms

31:34  Arguments Against NFTs

34:40  Appealing to the Global Fan Base

39:05  Why buy a Miami Hurricanes’ NFT?

43:57  Defining CanesVault Key Holders

48:18  Relationship Between Season Ticket Members and Key Holders

51:46  Understanding Smart Contracts

54:24   Fostering Community and NFTs as Status Symbols

For more info on topics covered this episode:

Check out the Miami Hurricanes’ Canes Vault  |  CanesVault Twitter

GigLabs | Rare Rooms

Infinite Objects

Other NFT collections: Cryptopunks  |  Bored Ape Yacht Club


Connect with Dan via email or LinkedIn 

Connect with Jon via email or LinkedIn 

For other Flip the Switch episodes on NFTs, check out:
Episode 58: $208K for a LeBron Replay? NFTs explained
Episode 62:  NIL & NFTs w/ Luka Garza


Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Delivering training digitally to better equip your staff for game day.

Want more from EngageMint? Subscribe to our newsletter 

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Flip the Switch

College Leaders | The Importance of Strategic Planning and Core Values w/ Colorado’s Rick George

This week’s special College Leaders segment features Rick George, Athletic Director at University of Colorado.  Rick had a rather unorthodox path to the big chair, taking on roles with the PGA Champions Tour and the Texas Rangers’ Front Office before returning to the collegiate industry with Colorado in 2013.  Throughout this episode, Rick and David discuss Colorado’s strategic plans, its “RAPID” core values and the importance of incremental revenue generation.  

Show Notes

(2:56) The Path Less Traveled to the Big Chair

(6:49) Erasing “Dark” Days & Creating “Folsom Field Events” 

(10:15) Rebranding the Texas Rangers & Revenue Generation

(13:54) Colorado’s Strategic Plan & Core Values

(21:42) Frameworks for Leading through Change

(24:17) Building Your Team

(27:45) Core Factors in Conference Realignment

(30:44) The NIL Impact on College Athletics

(35:40) Colorado’s Relationship with SportsBet 

(39:29) Leaders Who Have Impacted Rick

(41:46) Learning From Failure

(45:44) Providing Constructive Feedback

Connect with Rick via email or on Twitter

For more info on topics covered this episode:

Bob Beaudine – Power of Who

Colorado’s Strategic Plans: 2014-17 |  2018 – 20  |  2021 – 23

Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Delivering training digitally to better equip your staff for game day.

Want more from EngageMint? Subscribe to our newsletter 

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Learning from DeWayne Peevy, DePaul Vice President & Director of Athletics

You can’t expect your employees to “go above and beyond” if they don’t clearly understand your vision and roadmap. Whether you’re leading an entire athletics department or a group of interns, you must create a clear “destination postcard” for your team. Without painting a vivid, emotionally compelling picture for the future, your team will simply maintain the day-to-day. 

DeWayne Peevy and his team at DePaul Athletics recently created their own “destination postcard” in the form of a new strategic plan. The new strategic plan coming from DeWayne and his team highlights a few different elements. Competitive Advantage, Values, Common Purpose, and Operating Principles, Vision, and Guiding Principles.

If you’re not into all the woo-woo of the different nuances between these things, I get it. If you’re just showing up to work and taking your orders from your inbox, these things are less important. But if you’re trying to take your organization to the next level, if you’re trying to provide meaningful contributions to your organization bigger than just your task, these elements are your roadmap.

Quick highlight on how to actually use these elements in practice:

  • Competitive Advantage – Larger themes to double down on when creating your guiding principles
  • Values – The non-negotiable core charateristics of people you look for when hiring and building your team
  • Common Purpose – Your rallying cry to help motivate and empower staff to do more than just the tasks and responsibilities listed in their job description. We’ve helped many organizations build thier own purpose, don’t underestimate the power of this one.
  • Operating Principles – These can sometimes be referred to as service standards, but they are in priority order and guide practical, daily decision making.
  • Vision – This shouldn’t be current state, it shouldn’t describe what you do. It should describe an aspiration for where you want to go.
  • Guiding Principles – This the is actual plan for how you’re going to achieve that vision. When I worked Disney, we might have called these Annual Operating Priorities.

Helping schools create and bring their strategic plan to life is one of the things we love doing here at EngageMint.

In the conversation that covered setting a vision, creating values, and DeWayne’s leadership philosophy, (see the full show notes) here were three of our top takeaways from the conversation:

Great leaders proactively establish values

DeWayne and his team established not only where they want to go, but how they want to get there. Values are the characteristics you use to hire coaches and staff, and they should be factored into your day-to-day behaviors as you pursue your goals. With their strategic plan, the Athletics department’s values are clearly articulated to staff. By including them in the outward-facing plan, they’re challenging themselves to stay accountable.

Simply creating a vision is not enough; you must communicate it with passion and conviction

DeWayne and his team didn’t just publish a memo. They put the same type of energy and effort into the rollout of their strategic plan as a schedule release. Complete with a press conference/webinar, sizzle video, and high-quality graphics, they’ve labeled the whole plan as “Dream Big.” This language should serve to break staff out of their traditional constraints as they look to innovate. It informs fans they are going to be swinging for the fences. 

Make your vision and values more than a pretty sign on the wall

Yes, DeWayne and his team made gorgeous art for the walls highlighting their vision and values. But in their strategic plan, they have clearly articulated action plans on how to bring each one to life. Items like “create a 5-year revenue generation plan,” or “redesign of, including the launch of a new, official DePaul Athletics app.”

If you’re trying to create your own strategic plan or bring your current plan off the shelf and into life, here are a couple of quick recommendations:

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