Invest in emotional bank accounts — I cannot stress this enough. We ask a lot of our managers, but if you have not invested in them or haven’t taken any interest in who they are as a person, how can you ask anything of them or take withdrawals on an empty account? Don’t always keep the narrative about work, make sure you care about the people that you are placing your career in the hands of. They will help you rise or watch you fall, it is completely up to you.
I had the pleasure to interview Erin M. Ward, Brooklyn Bowl’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Events. Erin has an impact that is felt throughout each Brooklyn Bowl location and beyond. With over 20 years of experience in meetings, sales and events, Erin brings her ability to achieve objectives through strong account cultivation and management. Her communication skills and results-focused attitude has helped her build lasting business relationships throughout the years resulting in successful partnerships and initiatives. Beginning her career in hotel operations at the age of 18, Erin learned the importance of taking care of the client, both internally and externally. This knowledge would continue to make her successful in management throughout her career working for various brands such as Hyatt, Radisson and Candlewood. After relocating to Las Vegas in 2007, she found her place in sales at Marriott South Properties, Ward oversaw sales for four hotels and created quarterly action plans that assessed market trends and strategies to achieve goals while proactively searching for new business throughout her two year tenure working with companies such as Cirque du Soleil, GES, UFC and American Airlines. She then took her expertise to the iconic Hard Rock Cafe on the Las Vegas as the Senior Sales and Marketing Manager. Over the course of five years, Ward trained and led a team of seven creating annual sales and market strategies to drive traffic and increase top line sales. She quickly became instrumental in carrying out successful corporate brand initiatives through events and relationships with big-name partners such as VH1 Save the Music and AEG LIVE. During this time she led the Vegas team to awards such as Marketing Cafe of the Year and PR Cafe of the Year. Her most successful initiative was spearheading the 40 Charitable Acts in 40 Days as part of the brand’s 40th Anniversary. In 2014, Ward’s experiences led her to Brooklyn Bowl, where she quickly moved up the ladder beginning as Director of Sales at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, and excelling into her current role of Senior Vice President of Sales and Events overseeing all Brooklyn Bowl venues. While at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, Ward was a part of securing several prestigious awards for the venue such as Vegas Inc’s 40 Under 40, Best New Venue by BizBash Magazine, Best New Concert Venue by Las Vegas Weekly and Best New Venue by Vegas Seven Magazine. Currently, Ward is responsible for all sales & events teams nationwide and driving sales on a national level that span almost 20 million dollars in sales. She is a key player in the future openings of Brooklyn Bowl and prides herself on being a woman in leadership in an ever changing industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Erin! What is your “backstory”?
I started in Hotel Operations at the age of 17 and worked my way up from there. I landed a job in Sales by accident as I was Assistant General Manager of a small hotel with no sales team. Once I started getting out and networking, I realized I needed to change my career path. I have been able to work for some very large brands within my career and I am grateful for each opportunity because I walked away wiser and more confident for the next role. My career switched paths again about 10 years ago when I took on a more Events & Marketing focused position and I was able to learn a skill set that I continue to draw from to this day. Currently, as Sr. Vice President of Sales & Events for The Bowls, I am able to mold and shape this division of the company while continuing to draw from different skill sets around me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I don’t have just one to be honest. I am from a very small town and I flew on a plane for the first time when I was 21! Which may not seem like a big deal; however, my son’s first plane ride was when he was six months old- so you can see the difference in life experiences already. Each new experience, each new city or country I get to travel to, each celebrity or person of influence I meet is a dream come true on some level. When I would daydream as a kid about what I would be when I grew up, I really thought that was all they were…daydreams. I am humbled by each new experience, each day I get to breathe, each memory I get to create for my clients, my team and my family.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Spellcheck the spellchecker. Seriously! I emailed a client one time to see if they would be booking their annual meeting with us again however somehow left out the “n” and the “u”…you get the picture. I was so embarrassed, but luckily my client had a sense of humor. However, they never let me live that down for the next three years that they booked their meeting with me.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to talent today?
I think it is tough for leaders today in the way of managing different generations and personalities. Each manager has their own story of how they earned their position and just because you might have struggled doesn’t mean someone else has to. It is important to connect with those that work for you. If they feel a personal, they are more likely to pause before searching for other employment; they are more likely to talk to you about their struggles before making a decision; they are more likely to care about what they would be doing to the team if they left.
How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?
I am a huge fan of communication. I lean heavily on Clifton StrengthsFinder when leading my teams as it has proven to be the most effective over the past 20 years of my career. Getting to manage their strengths and learning who they are at the core has helped me become a better leader, mentor others on how to communicate with each other and how to diffuse certain situations where I would have possibly given up before.
Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)
- Trust the Process — there is one for everything. I was always a person that wanted things done quickly and if it wasn’t it would send me into a tailspin. Once I started trusting that there was a process to everything even if I didn’t see it, I became a more patient and understanding person.
- If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room — I never want to know everything to the point that I stop searching. Learning something new, making mistakes and overcoming challenges are what made me who I am today. Everyone has peaks and valleys, but it is in the valleys where you see someone’s true character and what defines you for the next step.
- Have FUN — if it has been a tough week then end it on a high note. I used to do fun videos with my team every Friday and it turned into this whole social media “Sales Fun Friday” thing that our clients looked forward to watching. Even three years later I will get a random video from one of my managers and it makes me smile all over again.
- Invest in emotional bank accounts — I cannot stress this enough. We ask a lot of our managers, but if you have not invested in them or haven’t taken any interest in who they are as a person, how can you ask anything of them or take withdrawals on an empty account? Don’t always keep the narrative about work, make sure you care about the people that you are placing your career in the hands of. They will help you rise or watch you fall, it is completely up to you.
- Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty — It is always a good idea to go back to the basics and get in the trenches with those that work for you. Sharpening your skills, listening to their challenges and basing changes off of what you see is going to create a loyal team.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
You can’t just talk the talk; you must walk the walk. If you preach work/life balance, then you must live it. That was a hard lesson for me. I was the person that would come in early, leave late, answer emails on vacation and subconsciously would expect the same from those that worked for me. Now, I try to disconnect from the world when I can and reconnect with my family. I never let my managers miss the important things within their lives. A happy manager is a productive manager.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This is a hard question because I think of so many different things each day that could make a difference. So to simplify it, I asked my son (who is seven) this exact same question. His answer was simple — be kind and help people. This simplistic notion is something that for some reason is so hard to wrap our minds around every day. Life isn’t rainbows and butterflies, but a tiny gesture can cause a ripple effect that could possibly change someone’s life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my mentors told me once “today’s hero is tomorrow’s goat.” This means that you always need to stay humble because you may be on top today, but you could be at the bottom of the ladder tomorrow. This always makes me reflect on how I reacted to praise, to make sure to always share the spotlight with those involved in the process and to move on quickly to the next project that needed to be done.