The Network held its second live virtual event on May 21 and it was another huge success! The event was supposed to be an on-field happy hour at Hammons Field, but in lieu of that, we took the opportunity to learn from Springfield Cardinals General Manager Dan Reiter. Dan is known for his contagious positivity and optimism, and when COVID-19 hit, while many had a hard time finding the potential silver lining, Dan didn’t. He talked to Network members about several lessons he learned during this difficult time, including lessons for YPs, and how he has engaged his employees, the community and Cardinals fans and stakeholders during this time.
As a natural leader, it can sometimes be difficult to let others take the reins, but one thing Dan quickly learned as GM during the pandemic is to “let leaders lead.” Dan says you have to be able to follow and lead, not one or the other.
Secondly, Dan and his team started a practice two years ago that has served them well during the pandemic: “maximize your controllable.” It’s easy to stress and complain about what you can’t control, so Dan and his team choose to focus on what they can control. They’ve found it helps them to stay positive in the face of difficulty.
Engaging His Employees
There is a lot that could keep Dan awake at night right now – lost revenue, or even the thought of a lost 2020 season. But Dan says what makes him lose sleep is finding ways to keep his employees engaged. Practicing what he preaches, he controlled what he could and came up with a few solutions. Continuing his long-standing focus on company culture, he came up with some light-hearted ways to connect. Each day, employees take turns sharing three items: a question, quote, and joke of the day. These three simple items have kept the team engaged on a daily basis and give Dan him the opportunity to individually talk with his employees.
Engaging the Community
When the pandemic hit, Dan and his team quickly determined they wanted to be a community cheerleader. He emphasized the importance of always knowing your company tone and sticking to it. For Dan, “it’s not always about what’s best for you, but what is best for the community.” His team chose three main activities for the community during the pandemic:
- Launching a new kids club, an activity they had already been planning
- Spearheading a community blood drive, which garnered over 300 donations
- Starting a new marketing initiative called “Fly Together,” where they sold gift bundles for fans; “net proceeds will be utilized to purchase food from locally-owned and franchised restaurants for frontline workers in our community,” Dan said.
While these activities may not immediately benefit the organization’s bottom line, Dan and his team knew that wasn’t the most important benefit. “It meant a lot to our employees knowing they’re helping,” he said.
Engaging Sponsors, Stakeholders & Fans
When it came to staying connected with sponsors, stakeholders and fans, Dan knew a cookie-cutter approach wouldn’t be enough; honest, genuine messaging would be key. “You can learn from others, but don’t copy,” he said. That meant not sending a generic message to every stakeholder. Instead, their communications came directly from Dan with a personal message – and each interaction had to be unique.
Some may have expected this Network event to be about the Cardinals and how they have risen above in adversity. While that was part of it, Dan had much more to share. As Dan reminded us, “It’s not just about how to respond right now, but how you’re prepared to respond in the future.”