VenuesNow Conference Preview: Staffing, Culture & Customer Service Strategies That Keep Fans Coming Back

Brandon James, San Antonio Spurs

Post-COVID staffing shortages continue to challenge the industry and the impact is felt at the register.  Leaders are grappling with the issue at every level, from management to part-time support staff while also managing DEI priorities and rising costs for everything from concessions to personnel. 

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“Currently coming out of the pandemic, everyone is back on the road at the same time to make up for lost revenue of the past two years,” said David ‘5-1’ Norman, tour director and tour accountant for Tour Forensics. “We’re seeing that many people had to pivot to survive during the pandemic and there are shortages of buses, trucks, stagehands, staff, etcetera.” 

David 5 1 Norman tie 1
David ‘5-1’ Norman, Tour Forensics

Norman and a group of seasoned experts will share their insights and best practices during the “Staffing, Culture & Customer Service Strategies That Keep Fans Coming Back” panel during the VenuesNow Conference Oct. 5-7 in Austin, Texas.

Panelists include: Brandon James, vice president of business and basketball strategy and deputy general counsel for the San Antonia Spurs; Tracey Jenkins, senior vice president of human resources for Sodexo Live!; Andy Loughnane, president of Austin FC; Alex Love, founder and CEO of Alex Love Consulting; and Earnest Liggins, senior vice president compliance and operations for Oak View Group.

The experts will discuss staffing protocols that focus on building a team and culture that ultimately keeps fans coming to events and drives a profitable bottom line.

For example, Jenkins is in the midst of implementing a new frontline training system, which utilizes microlearning modules to train remote workers. It is being used by some of the leading brands in the U.S. including Marriott, Hilton and Whole Foods. 

She said the panel will examine how to best prepare the hospitality industry for recruiting the next generation and “future-proofing ourselves to always find quality candidates, tapping new social media platforms and technologies to help with staffing.”

Among her ongoing strategies is leveraging TikTok in recruiting using the social media platform as a way to connect with recent graduates entering the hospitality industry. In 2021, she developed a mentorship program connecting the executive team to growing leaders in the company in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) space.  

“As a whole it’s important that modern HR leaders have an ability to bring people together who normally may not think to work together or know how to work together in the most constructive ways,” she said. 

Loughnane, who had oversight of the launch of an expansion team and the construction of a new stadium and training facility, said that another hot button will be staff working from home vs. working at the venue/office.

Norman has been on the touring side of the industry for nearly 40 years as tour director, tour manager, tour accountant or production manager. He is the co-founder of Tour Forensics, a touring consulting company. During the shutdown he made the pivot to adjunct professor at William Paterson University and a dozen other universities across the U.S., where he taught classes on the music business and touring. 

His advice for conference attendees: “To come up with new and different strategies for our respective touring and musical worlds. To be open-minded.”

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