The Time Has Come

It’s time. It's time to pass the torch to the next generation. It’s time to let those who have helped me build the Association of Luxury Suite Directors over the past 28 years create something new, something fresh, something better than before.

On January 1, 2018, I named Amanda Verhoff the President of the ALSD, Jared Frank the Executive Vice President, and Max Snyder the Director of Sponsorship. The next young guns are age 35, 35, and 24. Add them all together, and it’s not all that much more than my 66 years on this Earth and in this company.

It’s been a pleasure watching each one grow in this family business, accent on family as much as business.

A few words about each:

Amanda has been with me for 11 years now. She has been the Executive Director, pretty much becoming the face of our conference and tradeshow for the past half-dozen years. Amanda is the one with a sense of style and hair that goes straight to the heavens. I’m the one who is wasting away to enormous. She’s cool. I’m fat. My favorite saying? I’m pregnant with anticipation. Amanda exercises and takes care of herself. My second favorite saying? Every time I get the urge to exercise, I lay down and wait for the urge to pass.

Give me the license here to recall the good ol’ days.

Like all great service people, Amanda never lets you see her sweat. She realizes that the only service most customers recognize is bad service. So you barely know she is there. I imagine so many members on the team side, especially the service people here, can relate.

I still remember Amanda’s first year in Phoenix in 2007. She was only hired a few months earlier as an intern and had no idea what she was doing. We knew this, so we could not rely on much from her.

That first year, we were at the beautiful Gainey Ranch Resort. I told her to watch and learn. I think one of her first days of work she got a massage and hung poolside. I think she must have thought, “Well, this doesn’t suck!”

As the years have gone by, I wonder if Amanda still thinks that. Her responsibilities grow annually. And with her knowledge of the business comes continual and added responsibilities, or pressure. It has gotten harder, not easier. A lot harder. Each year, a little more is put on her plate. Each year, her responsibilities have grown, while things have been taken off my plate. My plate only has a few things left on it now. I’m almost down to the parsley, except for the glass of red next to me.

Yes, drinking wine is one of my skillsets that I’m better at than Amanda. The other thing I’m better at? I just love a good nap. Sleeping is my skillset. I can fall asleep on a Ferris wheel. I’ve got Amanda beat at both of those. Amanda is running the company already, something she knows, but for some reason is not quite ready to admit. But she is responsible for what the ALSD is. I’m responsible for what the ALSD was.

Amanda takes these responsibilities extremely seriously. She is first and foremost a people pleaser, and you cannot have any better position of a people pleaser than someone who runs an association. She cares about the members. She cannot stand to make mistakes and gets a “tight feeling” in her stomach when something goes wrong. That’s why our ALSD shows the past five years are so much better than they were the previous five years.

Amanda runs a clean show. She won’t let anything go wrong because she can’t stand not to please people. Least of all myself. Amanda wants to make me proud. I love that about her. Any boss would.

Amanda and Steve with their kids, Vanessa, Beau, and Faye.

It’s not just that Amanda is a people pleaser, but she is very, very competitive. Do you know that in high school, Amanda had a classmate that went on to become an NFL Quarterback? And do you know who was actually named best all-around athlete in that class? Amanda. 

And somehow, in the past 11 years, she has parlayed a marriage and three kids and a rough work schedule and still managed to become an adjunct professor at the University of Dayton while qualifying for the Boston Marathon. In a sense, she’s been running a marathon for all these years now already, so why not go to Boston and show off her skills.

There are more good things. In this world of snowflakes, Amanda is a boulder. She rarely complains, at least not to me. She is the opposite of a victim. She wins. I like winners, not whiners.

OK, so Amanda is a people pleaser and a great athlete. That’s not enough. She also works hard. And very fast. She does more in a day than many employees do in a week.

And she expects others to keep up.

She manages our interns at the show. All ten of them. It reminds me of boot camp, and Amanda is the drill sergeant. If work needs to be done, she will keep her young charges up all night long making sure our attendees are happy in the morning.

And like all great service people, she never lets you see her sweat. She realizes that the only service most customers recognize is bad service. So you barely know she is there. I imagine so many members on the team side, especially the service people here, can relate.

During those years, I believe Amanda and I have only had about three serious arguments. Turns out she was right on all three. I trust her because first and foremost, the ALSD hires character. And if there is one thing Amanda has, it is character.

The thing about character is simple: when things go wrong, it is character that survives. It is character that understands perspective, i.e. pressure is a privilege, that those who are given much are also expected much from them.

I have expected much from Amanda, and I am entrusting her with the keys to kingdom.

But like any good king, Amanda needs support.

The ALSD now has a supporting cast that would make the movie Godfather envious.

First and foremost is Jared Frank, who is now Executive Vice President.

On the masthead, Jared will handle Church, and Amanda will handle State. Amanda runs the business side. Jared runs the publishing side. They have equal authority over their sides of the business.

Jared will head up Content with a capital C. He is the keeper of the industry’s secrets, and he disseminates them down to you in our various channels.

He creates and manages content for all our emerging digital assets, while continuing to run SEAT Magazine. It’s a big job, keeping up with the incredibly complex sports business. I’ve been trying to figure out the byzantine ticketing business alone for 28 years.

Jared is difficult to pin down. He is one of the few left-brain AND right-brain people. He is both rational and creative. He is an engineer of locomotives and of words. He is his own man and holds his own counsel.

Jared is continuously curious. He loves to listen, and he loves to learn, currently finishing up certification in digital marketing from SMU in Dallas.

He is difficult to pin down. Not quite left, not quite right. Not quite an academic, not quite conventional. Not much of a conformist, but he does not argue against conformity for the sake of being called a maverick or a rebel. He is his own man and holds his own counsel. His positions are thought out.

The Lord gave Jared two ears and one mouth for a reason. Jared listens before he speaks.

Let’s go to the back channels about Jared to understand him better.

Few people know that Jared was a Division 1 college football player who attended the Air Force Academy. Eventually through a transfer, he ended up closer to his hometown and played at the University of Dayton.

At UD, he played football and got a degree in Civil Engineering. Yes, engineering. Not English. Not journalism. Not communications or marketing. Engineering. The kind of degree big corporations seek out and offer high-paying jobs.

But a funny thing happened to Jared on the way to running an oil rig on the Gulf Coast. In his last game in college, Jared had a terrible knee injury. For a year and a half, the gimpy ginger sat on his mom’s couch. The time gave him pause to think a great deal, and Jared is a thinker if ever there was one.

Well, push came to shove, and Jared realized he did not want to become an engineer. He wanted to become “something else.”

Jared Frank, Executive Vice President

As fate would have it, Jared was friends and college roommates with Amanda’s once and future husband, Steve, who played running back at the University of Dayton. Amanda told Jared about this crazy job where you get to sit poolside and get massages at the Gainey Ranch.

Jared, being of sound mind and a never-ending thirst for Mai Tais, decided to explore this brave new world in pro sports. He could still play in this arena with only one good leg.

I hired him. Hell, in those days, if you walked in the door and looked presentable, I hired you. Jared walked through the door at the right time. I was always luckier than I was good.

Then I found out something. Jared could write. Really, really well. Since I had made a living as a writer back in those earlier days, I could instinctively tell if someone knew what Mark Twain always said:

“Thunder is good. Thunder is impressive. But it is lightning that does all the work.”

Jared’s words thundered, but they were lightning on the page. They did the work. Writers know writers just like comics know comics.

Jared is a writer. I don’t think he has ever looked back since he came to that realization. Almost immediately, he took charge on the editorial side.

He is absolutely, in my experience, one of the few left-brain AND right-brain people. He is both rational and creative. He is an engineer of locomotives and of words. And he can drive down both tracks.

In those early days, Jared was the classic boy in his 20’s. He will never get married, he proclaimed. He did. He will never buy a house. He has. He will never have a kid. Well… I hear they are talking.

But Jared has grown right along the business.

The next person I’m talking about has never grown up.

That’s because he is too young. He’s still growing. Meet Max Snyder, age 24. He has to be just about the youngest Director of Sponsorship for a national company on the planet.

Max was and is a salesman. He is a hunter, not a farmer. He loves to figure out the structure of a business. He should be on Wall Street, and I’m afraid he will be some day.

Yes, I’m taking a chance, giving someone so young the control of a major position. But when I see talent, I promote talent. His talent circumvents his age. Besides, Max has Scotty Hinzman to sell our booths, and Pat McCaffrey to sell our Design & Build Forum and our tailgating sponsorships.

And of course, I will still work on big projects. So while Max is young, he has three very experienced (read that old) geysers to help him out when he needs help, which appears to be just about never.

Max should be on Wall Street, and I’m afraid he will be some day. But for now, I’m going to promote him, if for no other reason than I think this is the only way he will stay put in this little engine that could called the ALSD.

My first real recollection of Max was as an intern. He was an intern at the ALSD for three years before we brought him on. I was at the conference, and as is my wont, sauntered into my Presidential Suite at about 2am. I had a meeting, a big one, at 8am in the Suite. We had a reception there a few hours earlier. The place was a mess, as room service usually does not show up at midnight.

Max realized this. Without anyone telling him, this 21-year-old kid was already cleaning and setting up for the meeting the next morning. Yes, he was working for a boss who drank too much red wine. Again. He was going to make the boss look good. Again. He did that day, and from there, I’ve adopted Max. Yes, he is the son I never had even if I’m the father he would never want.

Max Snyder, Director of Sponsorship

Just as Amanda is a great fit for running a conference, and Jared has a knack for writing, well, Max loves to sell. He received a degree in Supply Chain and Operations Management with a minor in Entrepreneurship from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and he came from good stock.

His mom runs her own business, and I think his dad may have been one of the top in his class of his college.

I remember his mom telling me that Max would do anything to make a buck as a kid. She would offer him five dollars, and he would hop down a movie theater aisle singing a song. In middle school, he sold gum out of his locker. And in high school, he ran his own landscaping operation.

Yes, Max was and is a salesman. He is a hunter, not a farmer. He loves to make cold calls. He loves to figure out the structure of a business. And he has a technical skillset that people like me, who can barely handle a cell phone, do not have. When I tweet, it’s only to make my pet parakeet happy. (OK, this is a joke. I don’t tweet).

This is a brave new world, and salesmen need the right tools as much as they need the right line. The ALSD has created a marketplace, but reaching that marketplace is so much different than the days before the media turned social, and everyone on the planet had a say so about everything else on the planet. You have to break through the clutter here, and Max is the man for the job.

So there you have it. The three-legged stool stands by itself. Conference, Content, Sales. The days when I did all three very poorly are long over.

Where am I headed? No, I’m not retiring. I’m going to build my next adventure. ALSD International is calling me. London is awaiting us. I’m interested more and more with the end-user customer. I’ve got a couple of ideas left in me, and I hope there is still some juice left in the orange.

We’ll see. The world is getting smaller. Circumnavigating is not the daunting task it once was. And besides, I hear they have great wine in the south of France.