Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Alexi Lalas was let go yesterday and it reminded me of an email exchange we had when he was first named general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes in 2004.

i offered him some unsolicited advice about running an MLS team, because the front office side of MLS was new to him and we both were under the AEG umbrella.

Here is what i wrote to him:

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Wilt [mailto:PWILT@chicago-fire.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 5:00 PM
To: Alexi Lalas
Cc: Peter Wilt
Subject: The 10 Commandments of MLS staff management and 10 Secrets of selling MLS

Lex, Following are my ten commandments to successful MLS staff management.....ok, if you're going to quibble, there's 12 of 'em - so shoot me.

Also listed 10 secrets of selling MLS. It's mainly common sense....though unfortunately, it's not so common. Hope it helps.

1. Ticket sales above all else - EVERYTHING else succeeds as a result of this.
2. Sell to those who are ALREADY economically and emotionally attached to the sport (the soccer community)
3. Hire hard working, talented people with good character - get rid of all others.
4. Hire department heads that are experts in their field and are better at their job than you would be
5. Delegate then provide resources and advice as needed
6. Praise employees publicly, criticize privately
7. When you must criticize, do so constructively with a positive statement given before and after the criticism
8. Explain reasons for decisions and include staff members in decision making process
9. Be a good listener
10. Provide good customer service - cheapest and best form of advertising and business retention
11. Get people to CARE about the sport, team and League
12. Personal contact with the team (players) is the best way to achieve number 11.

10 Secrets about the selling of MLS:

1. Our crowds are almost entirely manufactured through promotions, discounts, special events.
2. VERY few people care enough about our League to come to the games on their own.
3. Attrition of season tickets is ridiculously high (1/3) and we have to recreate our season ticket base every three years.
4. Paid general market advertising does not return dollar for dollar on investment
5. Neither does direct mail.....even targeted direct mail.
6. E-mail and phone calls to pre-qualified lists are the cheapest and most effective way to sell. INCREASE your e-mail database.
7. Your sales staff must work the phones - 40 calls each every day minimum.
8. State associations have very little power. The clubs and teams have the access and control of their membership NOT the state associations
9. You should meet with every youth soccer club board/president - ask them how you can help them and then do it (actually, then delegate it).
10. i'm not going to tell you ALL the secrets......some stuff you have to learn on your own. Enjoy!

peter j. wilt
General Manager
Chicago Fire

Certainly there are some generalizations in there that shouldn't be taken literally in all instances. And since i wrote this almost five years ago, some things have changed including the number of people who seriously care about MLS - which i think is one of the League's greatest accomplishments to date.


Kenn Tomasch said...

You said it was an email exchange. What did Alexi say in response?

Inquiring minds want to know!

peter said...

Alexi's response:

" -----Original Message-----
From: Alexi Lalas [mailto:alalas@sjearthquakes.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 7:58 PM
To: Peter Wilt
Subject: RE: The 10 Commandments of MLS staff management and 10 Secrets of selling MLS

Thanks for this info. I hope someday to also pass this along to someone who deserves it. Know that it will not be wasted.

By the way I think I'm already learning some of those things you neglected to mention. I had some guy tell me today that he has no desire to ever work with the Earthquakes organization or any professional soccer player for that matter.

This is a guy whose's about to open a multi-million dollar soccer facility next month in Santa Clara! You think maybe he had a bad experience with us in the past? Oh well, finding those bridges that were burned and mending fences, it's all part of the job.

Thaks again and we'll talk soon,


JkR said...

Thanks for that, very insightful. I've worked with DCU's sales and community folks as a coach and field trip leader, and am currently a ticket holder, and what you wrote struck a chord.

Evan said...

Dear Peter,

Please come save our team.

Los Angeles Galaxy fans

Anonymous said...

Columbus is closer to beautiful Lake Michigan!!! Come save The Crew.
Columbus neeeeeds you and wants you :) We've waited longer.

Steve said...

Good stuff... I think I'll apply it to Handball!

Frank said...

Sorry guys, he shouldn't have been forced to leave the Fire in the first place. He belongs in Chicago and it looks like the Red Stars are blessed to have him.