It’s beginning to feel like the America’s Cup. Sailblast just received an official press release with an invitation to attend a media event next week when - finally - we’ll learn who the teams are that have made the cut into the next edition of this crazy event. With still two years ago, there’s time for the dust to settle…and maybe....for the craziness to abate.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual at 160 Pacific Ave, downtown San Francisco, home to the 40-50 employees of the America’s Cup - both ACEA and ACRM. Still running on a somewhat “skeleton” staff and in “start-up” mode, finding qualified individuals willing to risk the security of their current comfy job for the wild waters of the America’s Cup is the least of the challenges facing the administration of this next Cup event.
So, why do people leave a perfectly good job to come work for the Cup?
“There’s two answers, the first is, there really isn’t such a thing as a secure job in America anymore, it’s mythical, the second is there is a huge number of people who love sports and they’re the ones who address that up front in their cover letters to ACEA,” Coverson explained. “We get, ‘My dad was a sailor, I was a junior sailor, I want to get involved,’ that’s at least 60% of the conversation right there.”
Coverson, a HR professional for the past 18 years in various capacities, had no qualms in leaving his perfectly great job as HR Director at Stanford University’s Athletic Department to jump on the Cup ride.
“When I heard about the position with the Cup, I enquired, we went back and forth, and they made me an offer. This is a perfect segue to being a general manager in the sports management world or pro sports or going back into athletics as an athletic director. I love sports, there’s nothing like the excitement people have when they’re around any kind of sporting event.”
Others clearly feel the same way as Coverson, as he’s had some 2500 resumes cross his desk since he was hired three months ago. “It’s a phenomenal amount of CVs. We're getting some amazing talent - even when it’s a 2-3 year job with the Cup, max. I hate to say to someone you didn’t get the job because we’ve really talked to so many great people,” Coverson said.
Coverson said they’ve built the organization out from the top down, starting with Craig Thompson, CEO, Tom Husom COO, and Scott Smith CFO. Supporting top-level management is Richard Worth, Chairman and from the UK, and Sam Hollis, General Counsel, also from the UK. The next focus has been the sales and marketing organization. Coverson has 12 people sales/marketing people already in San Francisco and will be relocating another 12 this summer from the UK who are a part of ACEA’s client service organization.
Why the UK?
“Well, there’s nepotism involved in this,” Coverson laughed. “But really, in many cases the best hires are people that you know -we always look for people who know people who have been successful in a certain area. That’s the best reference there is.”
Coverson said that while most of ACEA's initial hires came from Europe to fill areas requiring “specialist” skills, down the road he anticipates that most hires will be from the San Francisco Bay Area and California. Ultimately, he expects that the organization will be about 140-strong by the time the big event rolls around in 2013.
But, the big challenge is still ahead: making sure the right people are on board who can deputize the duty of telling the new America’s Cup story.
“We’ve got to gain necessary sponsorships and we need high level experienced business development professionals to go out there, hit the pavement, build the relationships, network, be ambassadors, tell our story and tell the sailing story in a way that reaches a very diverse audience and not necessarily a sophisticated audience when it comes to sailing. There are lots of people who don’t understand what the America’s Cup is all about. Especially when we go to pitch sponsors, like the Fortune 100 & Fortune 500 kind of companies,” Coverson said.
Coverson and his wife Elizabeth live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have three children ages 15, 18 and 21, all of whom love sports. He’s looking forward to becoming an empty nester in the not too distant future so that he and Elizabeth can travel. Meanwhile, he loves his new job.
Having spent the first two weeks of his tenure with ACEA working out of the local Starbucks and using his personal credit card to buy office supplies, Coverson's sage advice to anyone eager to join the ACEA ranks:
“You have to be somewhat of an entrepreneur, understand your area of discipline, and understand that it’s all hands on deck. If you’ve had small company/start-up experience, you’ll do well in this environment.”