Ep. 35 - TicketCity President, Zach Anderson

Ep. 35 - TicketCity President, Zach Anderson

Some of us have come to a point where we desperately wanted to get tickets to see a show or have an experience, especially when these things are selling out. Zach Anderson, the President of TicketCity, is in the service business of bringing people to see these events. TicketCity is a trusted ticket resale service that provides access to great tickets for over 100,000 top sports and music events around the world. Clearing up the misconception around the business of reselling, Zach takes us deeper into the regulations and dynamics of ticket selling. He also talks about how he has grown the company into the largest privately held ticket company in the world in his eighteen years working with founder Randy Cohen, tapping as well into the transition they made from traditional offline business to being a true pure-play online business now.

TicketCity President, Zach Anderson

Zach Anderson is the President at TicketCity, a trusted ticket resale service that provides access to great tickets for over 100,000 top sports and music events around the world. Zach has developed and implemented marketing eCommerce initiatives which have produced over $1 billion in sales. He oversees marketing, personnel, product development and legal departments. In his many years with TicketCity, they’ve grown to be the largest privately-held ticket company in the world. Zach’s marketing programs have delivered over $100 million in annual sales, allowed for profitable partnerships with large companies like CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated and USA Today. He’s also a business advisor, investor, volunteer and a nonprofit board member. Zach, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.

I’ve known Randy from TicketCity for years. We met through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization years ago and through Gathering of Titans where he continued on with that program with Brian who built 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. I’ve always known the business. I didn’t realize you were as big as you were and I didn’t know he had somebody as strong as you running the business for so long. How did you guys meet?

We met a long time ago. It was a need situation. In fact, I was in school at The University of Texas in 1993. I needed a part-time job. I wound up getting one through a friend and I was introduced to Randy as a result of that. Randy said, “Don’t work here. Come work for me.” He’s nothing but charming. That started what’s been a many-year relationship in work together. It started way back then. I finished school. Back then, it was Randy and I and a couple of guys working out of a small little corner office in Dobie Mall and that were pre-internet. Everyone laughs. Our employees can’t believe we were doing this that long ago. It’s been a good ride ever since then. That’s where we got started.

Tell our audience roughly what your business does. Walk us through what your business model is and what differentiates you from the spectrum of third-party sellers?

SIC 35 | TicketCity
TicketCity: The internet makes everything a little easier, all the while being a new challenge and a different thing to conquer.

 

There are two ways. The first and simple is high levels. We make sure fans could buy the tickets they want for the events they want to see. We sell tickets for all events, whether it’s stuff that’s local where we are in Austin, Texas, across the state, across the country, and even across the globe. How we do it is it’s a little more complicated than that. We have two different business units, it’s two separate divisions that run the company. One is a B2C marketplace like what eBay has done for years or a big competitor of ours. What you’re doing is you’re taking inventory from a seller and you’re connecting a buyer in a safe, reliable transaction. That’s our B2C business.

That’s what people commonly know as TicketCity and what we’ve been doing for many years. We were the first to launch in the secondary markets to launch an eCommerce marketplace, which we did in 1998. Another division is a wholesaler. Think of that like a mutual fund where we buy and sell inventory positions. Ticket inventory is, in our mind, like many other commodities. There are opportunities out there. That division, we’ve invested for many years in inventory. Texas Longhorns and Dallas Cowboys because of where we’re located in the country, they were some of our first positions we took, but now we own 90 different college teams, professional teams around the country.

We’re agnostic in terms of where the inventory is. We look for good opportunities. We go through the same channel that anybody else would. Meaning, we pay season ticket donations or in some cases personal seat licenses. The difference is we’re good at knowing what inventory consumers are looking for. The huge advantage that both provide for a fan is that you have the freedom to choose. The difference between the primary and secondary market is the primary market, whatever your hometown team is we’ll say is super interested in selling you season tickets. They will lock you down in a full year commitment to where that sport is.

In Major League Baseball, they have 81 games. I don’t know many people nowadays who could make that commitment. What we’re focused on is we’re going to sell you whatever seat you want for whatever event you want without any strings attached. If you’re going to go to baseball, for instance, you go to a midweek game between two teams that are both below $500. You’re probably going to pay a price that reflects that. We don’t look at face value, maybe below. If you go to the World Series game seven, there’s a premium on that. We have two different business units and they do two different things. Most people say, “You’re selling tickets. It’s the same thing.” but they’re different.

How was your industry changed over the years? You’ve come from the space of offline business, where you were buying tickets and selling them. Were you a scalper company back then when Randy started it? Was that the genesis of this? Prior to the internet, I don’t know where you sell them. Did you sell them in the newspapers?

For Randy, that’s where it started. It started when he was in school in 1990 on the street for UT Arkansas. He was a kid in school who saw an opportunity and said, “This game is going to sell out. People are going to need tickets and they didn’t get them yet.” He bought a bunch of tickets, took the risk, realized there was demand, sold them. Our business was completely predicated on old school methods people laugh at now. We did phonebooks. We had newspaper ads, classifieds where people went. We for over a decade had a classified ad in the USA Today. That was a big deal back then because it was expensive. A lot of it was word of mouth. Back then, if you were a customer in Texas and you wanted to go see a show on Broadway, The Producers was a big show. Lion King was before that. You didn’t have a way to get to it. The internet has equalized that. Similarly, if you’re somebody in California and you wanted to go see a college football game in Louisiana. You didn’t have a way to get there. We did. The customers back then were a little more difficult. The internet makes it a little easier. It’s a new challenge, a different thing to conquer.

Your business is legal. I know a few people that have been in. There’s a guy, Mario Livich, from Vancouver. He has a company called ShowTimeTickets that I met through EO. There’s another guy, Eddie Espinosa of Eddie’s Tickets. He’s in LA and he’s in the ticket business as well. I had a friend Adam Dailey who was buying and selling Olympics tickets. Your business is legal, but the perception from the outside looking in is always scalping is illegal. How did you straddle that line from what was perceived or what was illegal to be a legal, legitimate business that has payrolls and pays taxes?

The truth is like any business, we have regulations. Regulations may say, “You can’t take your ticket and sell it within 50 feet of the venue’s property,” when it’s completely legal to sell it in the office down the street or across the country. It’s regulated. In the case of Adam Dailey who I’ve known for many years, he does a lot of international events. The international markets are still more of the Wild West. When I started this business in the US, there were a lot of dated laws against ticket resale, scalping. They would sell books. Over the last many years, you’ve watched more and more states repeal those laws because what they realized was by doing that, they were creating what we call the artificial black market. Consumers wanted the chance to buy tickets and some of these dated laws, regulations were restricting that and all it was doing was increasing prices.

There was a professor, he’s still around, Stephen Happel of Arizona State University. He did a lot of studying the dynamics of the markets. What he found, particularly studied New York State, which was the last big state to bring down any rules against resale in the state. It was harming consumers, meaning it was causing consumers to pay more money. Like any industry, we are regulated. Because of the nature of what we do, we take some shots from people who say, “You are scalpers.” We say at the end of the day, “We’re in business to provide a service.” People talk about tickets that have a mania. Taylor Swift goes on tour and tickets are X dollars. That’s the story that the news wants to talk about. They’re not talking about the other 60% of shows we sell where the tickets may be at or below face value. The reason we strongly believe in free markets and unrestricted free markets to agree is that that’s what’s best for consumers. Contrary to most belief, we don’t love the super high prices because that limits the potential customers in that market. We like when markets stay in control and there are lots of opportunities for people to buy and go into us. There is a common perception that what ticket scalping or reselling tickets is illegal, but it’s more about the regulations.

I will say in Europe and there are some markets abroad that still have laws on the books that are anti-resale. In certain parts of Canada like Quebec, there’s still a law that exists. We abide by the rules and regulations. When the London Olympics in 2012 put a rule in the book specifically for the IOC said, “You could resell those tickets.” We comply with it and we did not do that. We stay out of that event. Much of what’s done to restrict resale is done in a self-service. The people who are pushing for it are the people who have to stand most of the game. Ticket resale in the US to date is roughly $8 billion markets. Globally, it can be anywhere from $30 billion or more. What happens is if you’re a primary player in that market, meaning someone who distributes tickets to the box office, you’re looking for every opportunity you can to limit your competition. What happens to consumers when the competition is limited is prices go up, but many of them have the clout to get that done.

SIC 35 | TicketCity
TicketCity: Be an early adapter to the changes because that is how you can keep yourselves relevant in the market.

 

Ticketmaster‘s getting into your space in the reseller category. Are they a competitor to you in that sector or are they a supplier to you or are they both?

They’re a little bit of all the above. Ticketmaster has been in the States for years. They acquired a company called TicketsNow in Chicago a few years ago. At the time, that was one of the biggest resale market places that existed in the world. What’s been challenging for them is Ticketmaster has been the classic primary ticket distributor. When you are straddling the fence between both, lots of questions arise about where your priorities lie. Many years someone said, “Why don’t you all become a prime distributor?” Our answers are already the same, “That’s not a business we want to go into. We’re in a service business, the secondary markets. We know clearly what our objective is. It’s a free market. It’s connecting the buyers and sellers.” Ticketmaster is a formal competitor because they have an almost near monopoly on the primary market.

What’s going on nowadays is talking about that potential market share that’s out there. They’re looking for ways, not just Ticketmaster, but everyone’s looking for ways to keep out the competition. One of the ways it’s been done is to make it restrictive to transfer tickets. You look at some of these technologies in this day and age we got. We all have these smartphones. It should be easier for me to give tickets to you or sell tickets to you or vice versa. In fact, what’s happening is it’s going the other way. The benefit of that is the person who pays the fees to the team or venue to have the rights to distribute them, in some cases the primary seller. Ticketmaster is a competitor, although they’re big, we don’t look at them in the same way. They’re somebody like one of the many that are out there.

They’re the ones that seem to be getting the heat for doing anything. Everyone who is in your space that is clearly just in your space can be loved. You’ve ridden the transition from being the true offline business to being a true pure-play online business. What was it like to get your organization to make that change? When do you think you shifted, was it 2001 to 2002 or has it been evolving continuously?

The first part was incredibly hard. Change in the organization is a big challenge. I get to be the bad guy when it comes to those things because you have to force change. The world is moving fast. We’ve had people in this company that’s been here for many years. You’re taking people who are comfortable the way things were. I remember conversations when email first came out. People were like, “I don’t know if I’m using this stuff.” Now, we take it for granted what it is. We’re on Slack 24/7 instead of email. The way to do that is you always have to forward vision in your business. We talk about it to Clark, our CFO. We’re not looking a few months into the future. We’re looking out further beyond that.

Sometimes it’s hard to put into words a business plan. I know Toyota has its 100-year business plan. A lot of you say, “We have 100 years. We don’t quite have that much.” What that means is embracing what’s new. Into the ‘90s, we drank the Kool-Aid. We said, “This internet, this is where it’s at. We’re going to jump into it,” and we did. It was a challenge and we invested. You always have to invest more money if you’re going to be an early adopter of those things. From the standpoint of the bottom line, there are probably some things we didn’t have to do, but we constantly invested back in business and took those chances. That’s what’s kept us relevant in the market. How many businesses can you name that are out there many years completely privately held and still growing and strong? It doesn’t happen. We’ve done that because we have looked at that. My job here in the company is to make sure that we are looking for opportunities, but we’re doing it in a way that makes sense. Execution is always the key. You have a great plan and say, “We want to do this.” You got to make sure that everybody’s on board, understand what it’s going to be and that we stay the course and make it through this.

How has your culture changed over the years? Running the business over a few decades, how do you think the culture of the company has started to either iterate or change or evolve?

Culture is one of those things. It’s made up of the people who are in the organization. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had a lot of employees who’ve been here a long time. There’s a backbone of our culture that’s always the same. It’s a group who works hard and is committed to each other. There’s no backstabbing, they will drop anything to help each other because that’s what we’ve been, that’s built into our DNA. I will say we’ve had to adjust things to make sure that we conform to Millennials and other things that are big topics. We have to make sure. Fun has always been one of our core values. It’s how you institute fun. I had someone tell me, “I don’t think ping pong tournaments and these things are the fun I want to have. I want to do this.” It’s always how can you add and flow and adjust? When it was Randy and I and a couple of people, our office retreats where we go on a fishing trip down to the coast was great. We loved it. Now, we have to do something a little different.

At the end of the day, our culture is still very much the same as it always was. If I had to use a word with that, I’d say it’s matured and not in a bad way. I would say that it’s matured that we understand what’s important and we don’t spend as much time or wasted emotional energy on the things that don’t matter. I can admit this, Randy and I used to fight a lot and it wasn’t fighting. It was debating points. We learned over the last several years it’s like, “There’s no point.” I know how he is. He knows how I am. It’s been fantastic. That’s part of being mature in relationships like our culture does.

I want to know from your perspective with Gen Y. What’s the good, bad and the ugly? You’ve been with them since they first entered the workforce. The oldest Gen Y is 39 and the youngest is 22. You’ve been with them for the entire cohort.

SIC 35 | TicketCity
TicketCity: When you don’t see people face to face, you lose a little something.

 

The one thing I would say is that we have a bunch of fantastic people who work for us from that group. I would say, generally speaking, nobody here. What we’ve learned is longevity is not going to be said. I’m still from the era where you may take a job and be there for several years like what I have been. I don’t think some of the colleagues that I came in with are that way. I had one person say to me a few years ago said, “A few years of jobs is about all I want to do, then I have to move on to something else.” I couldn’t understand that mentality for a while, but then I realized it was a fairly common mentality amongst the Gen Y group. I have respect for it. It’s different than my thinking. I’d rather stay the course and build something rather than hop from thing to thing and look to see if it’s better.

The other piece is we took for granted the things we didn’t do. We were working seven days a week back then and we didn’t think much about it. Taking time off of something we didn’t do until we felt like you’d earn. I don’t know how many years it took you to earn that, but you didn’t do it. We could take time off or we didn’t do it. We learned that when this group came in, they value their time away from the office. We had to accommodate that, things like work from home, which we had never done on weekends. We adjusted to make sure. At the end of the day, we’re all somewhat the same. We all have different wants and needs that we’re looking for, specifically with Gen Y there’s some different stuff. It’s taken a little bit of reset by us. The same time, I hope that we’ve impressed upon them some of the things we think that it takes to be successful that are not specific to any generation you’re in. You need to do. Work ethic and hard work, there’s not much escaping that. It transcends.

Do you hire remote employees? Is all your employees location-based?

We’ve started to use more of that. We’ve always used a lot of freelancers outside of the office for different projects. That’s been something we’ve been doing for years. I’ve been particularly fascinated with the work we’ve been getting out of other countries like Upwork. That’s a pure place I’ve been going to use. It’s been fantastic to find freelancers for specific jobs. I got a guy in Pakistan do projects for us. They do great work. They’re thrilled to do it. We’re paying a fair wage than what they’re doing. They feel like they’re getting a fair wage for it. I would love to have those jobs right here in Austin versus struggling to find people that we could get to do it consistently.

For us, we’re very much using as much as we can. You’ll see that it’s a much bigger part of our model. There’s other stuff that we’ve done, but if you want to talk about one big shift in our business over the next decade. You’ll see us doing more of that. The team we have here is fantastic. You can’t replace the people we have. We’re the number and size rather than trying to grow and say, “Let’s double our headcount here.” We’ll take a few here and there and work hard to make sure.” It takes a little bit more to have that work for us, but we’ve been happy with the results of it so far. We’ve had things that didn’t work, but overall it’s a good thing. In the world now, I can hop on and be talking to someone. I was in a call with Israel first thing and that’s the thing we do now. We’re going to be more.

I was talking to a friend and she was talking about applying for a new career, a fairly senior role, and I said, “Work hard to negotiate the fact that you get to work from home and work remotely.” She’s like, “Every job is work remotely now.” I didn’t even think about it. It’s common now. I have a company that I’ve been coaching out of Boston for the last couple of years. They have 85 full-time employees and not a single one of them works out of an office. All 85 are remote. They’ve figured it out. They use Asana and Slack and Skype or Zoom.

The hardest thing there is keeping culture and making sure you’re getting what you need to be done. While we have fantastic tools like nowadays info-communication and we are as a company somewhere there to the slide. I would say that when you don’t see people face to face and you don’t have those opportunities, you do lose a little something. I know on our team, certain days and certain people aren’t in the office what they’re doing. We have other times where we have a little management we do every Monday. I moved it earlier, not too early, first thing of the week. We get together because it’s that first thing I want to do when you’re in the office, we could see their face and talk about what we’ve got on the calendar. You’ll see more of us doing more of that. This day and age, there’s so much talent out there, you’re almost missing out if you’re not using this opportunity.

I’ve always said that our job is to make the CEO iconic. Our job as the second-in-command is to make them the Howard Shultz or the Ray Kroc or the Steve Jobs or whomever. What do you do systemically that would make Randy the iconic leader? How do you take the weight off of his shoulders to continue to allow that to happen?

If you’re looking at the positions, this isn’t the job for you to keep the limelight on you. Thankfully for me, I’m someone who says, “I love what I do and I love what comes from it. I’m thrilled that Randy’s out there doing Randy things.” The strategies and the ideas and what he’s going to say, what he’s going to do, I spend a lot of time doing the blocking when it comes to personnel stuff or strategy or execution. That’s the thing I have to do. I have to also help make sure there’s a clear role. In some businesses, it gets to a point where you look at what the CEO is supposed to do. When you say, “What is the role they’re supposed to do?” We’re trying to make sure Randy has that clear role in our company. I say, “This is what he does.” People come to me and say, “Randy uses social presence more to sell our product and less about all of the things that are flowing through Randy’s mind.” I said, “We’ve had that discussion through him.”

My job is to basically tee things up for him. My job is to make sure he’s aware of what we’re doing. He has intimate inside knowledge of all the operations of the business, but not every detail because the details are not where he needs to be. He needs to understand the bottom line or where it is. He needs to know where the problems are and where the opportunities lie. I spend a lot of all time with him to stay on the message, which with Randy who’s all over the place, it’s hard. It’s effective. I try to ask him and make sure I understand what’s on his mind. I provide a lot to him to make sure. A lot goes into it. The reality of the situation is it’s helpful and he is operating to his peak and doing the things we needed to do. The business gets better and there’s better alignment across the board. You could feel the energy.

SIC 35 | TicketCity
TicketCity: If your CEO is going to be a thought leader in your industry, a book is a sure way to go.

 

I saw on Facebook, Randy was talking about in his house and Lake Travis was overflowing. I was there a few years ago where there isn’t even a lake left. Did his house survive? He was being sponsored by Z’Tejas Restaurant. Was he kidding? What was going on there?

He finds a way. The good news is his house survived, although he did wind up fishing off his back porch. He doesn’t do anything. It’s always with a certain flair and finesse. Z’Tejas is a new restaurant that he took ownership in. He’s leveraging his different opportunities. His house survived, he’s in good shape. That’s one of the things we enjoy to do. Randy and I spend our time together. We have a good friendship. We also have our own lives outside of work. He and I are different people as you can probably imagine. I’ll take my son out there and we’ll go fishing. We don’t have to work, what we do is little. It’s a casual thing we share together. The rest of the time, we don’t force that relationship. If you know someone for many years, it’s hard to spend that much time together. It’s generally true. We get along well.

Does he have an operational team in place running his Z’Tejas Restaurant? Is that falling underneath your purview as well?

He’s got a different group. He’s got some great folks over there. They inherited part of this deal. He knows it. I said, “If he wants something, he knows where I’m at. He won’t have any trouble finding me and getting ideas.” There’s a strong opinion about how to run a business and I’ll certainly help him with that. They’re getting going there and we’ll see what they do.

I heard a saying from the Founder of Boston Market, he said, “A person can only sit on one toilet at a time. If you try to sit on more than one toilet, it gets messy.” The good thing is he’s got a good team in place at each spot. Tell me about vision. You mentioned vision and I codified this term called the vivid vision. I want to know how you get the vision of what Randy wants to happen with TicketCity. How do you stay on the same page with his vision? Is it because you guys have been doing this for so long that it’s now shared?

You have to know the person to understand the vision. I know what’s important for Randy. I know beyond the surface level, forget business. I know what things he wants to achieve, not personally but professionally and for us as a company. Randy’s written a few books. He needs to be able to always be playing for that next book and what he’s going to do and to do things. I know what’s going inside. When we come to vision, I know what the things we need to do there. I don’t have to ask her about certain things. When it comes to certain strategic things like when we’re setting, we’re setting 2019 forecasts. When I’m laying down what the financials are going to look like, how we set the budget, that’s when I’ll bring him in. Usually he’ll say, “Here’s what we’re looking like.” Over the years, typically he’s usually given me a little more. That’s always the reaction. That’s good enough right there and that’s okay. We’re well-aligned in that sense. The vision is good. I’ve spent a lot of time out meeting with folks in the industry and looking at opportunities. What I tried to do is he and I talk regularly, I don’t wait. If I’m in a conference in Vegas, Randy’s private equity circle, I’m talking about what deals we’re seeing. He’s looking at a lot of things, not just our industries but others.

That helps us to form our opinions because if we thought about the business that we had and have you make it better and not more of a macro level. What’s going on out there? Randy is 24/7 in his office, he’s watching the stock market, whatever is going on. He’s always playing out there. He’s aware of what’s new and different. When you merge together our industry with the world, that’s where our vision comes from. We do it internally, but we’ve arisen in business being disruptive the same way the cab industry was. We spend a lot of time looking and thinking that way because we see a lot of inefficiencies in the industry we’re in. We want to have forward thinking to make sure it’s like, “We’re doing everything we can to capture the opportunities and potentials here.

He is forward thinking. He’s written some books. Did he use the company out of Austin, Scribe Media, which is called Book In A Box? Did he work with them? How did you get his books out the door?

He had a good ghostwriter like some good people here. He had someone who came in. When he wrote the first book, he asked me if I’d take a look at it and I said, “Do you really want me to give this feedback?” I knew where we’re at. He wanted opinions, but he wanted to check the box to get it done. He’s written some interesting books. The book he has not written that he has to write is the book about his real-life stories because he’s written a lot of business books about other peoples and people won’t believe the things that he’s done in life. It’s truly amazing. That may be the third one. We’ll see how it goes. I know he had a good ghostwriter because you can’t get Randy to sit down and do one thing that consistently, but somebody had the patience to cobble together all of those ideas and the stories and took the book that he has.

Tucker Max is the CEO and Founder of Scribe Media and then their COO is in the COO Alliance. I’ve got my third book with him coming out they’d been an amazing group to work with. I’ve always been saying that you can’t be a thought leader nowadays if you don’t have a book. For any truly great company that is certainly $10 million or above that wants to scale. If your CEO is going to be a thought leader or be iconic or be seen as evolutionary in your industry, a book is one sure way to set them apart. I don’t think there’s any time that’s easier to make that happen.

SIC 35 | TicketCity
TicketCity: There’s a difference between being motivated and driven.

 

Randy uses it that way. You see that. Sometimes I feel like it’s the business card of the current era where people sit there, they walk in their calling card. I totally agree.

How do we find the right stuff for the CEO to focus on so that they still feel that they’re working in their unique ability, so they still see value? They don’t feel they need to dive into areas out of boredom or because they don’t know what to do. How do you find this the right stuff for him to stay focused on?

The first thing is you have to keep them well-educated about what the business is doing. Lack of information, lack of communication always leads to basically crossing wires and interference. I make sure that Clark and I are regularly giving him updates on business and make sure he knows what’s going on. We’re out of touch and if you don’t know what’s going on or if he loses touch for a while, if he’s out on a trip, he tends to get back in and start meddling with things that we’ve got covered or going in places we don’t need him. The first thing is good communication.

The second part is understanding roles. We have well-defined it and we’ve talked about it. The one thing we’ve had and I don’t know that everybody can have this conversation, but we’ve had candid conversations about what he wants to do. Even talking with Clark, the same thing. They’re at a point in life where he wants the freedom to work with Z’Tejas Restaurant, pick the right folks and do that. My expectations have to be clear on how much we can get from Randy. He’s always there for us if we need any type of fire or emergency situation, to make sure that everybody else understands.

That’s an unrealistic expectation if they want him to do more than this. Frankly, he’s earned the right. Sometimes it’s hard for some of the younger employees you’ve had come over the last years who are not used to a CEO who is dynamic. He’s constantly moved, whether in Austin or traveling somewhere. He might be in the Gathering of Titans. He’s doing a lot of stuff. They’re not used to that. I was with him those early years where it was seven days a week, twelve hours a day. I say, “This is exactly where it needs to be. He’s a Pied Piper.” The first thing is communication. The second thing is setting good expectations within the staff to make sure they understand what it is, to make sure our vision aligned. He understands that sometimes there’ll be people questioning decisions that we make in the business. They may be something that he wants that I have to pull off or maybe something that I tell him we need to do that he gets on board with.

As long as we both understand that and don’t get misaligned, I’m trying to go in this direction and he wants to be going the other way, that’s when problems arise. We’re pretty good about staying on the same page. We have a candid conversation. If possible, I encourage everyone to do that because that’s the part. If there are no games involved and you could sit down and talk about what time can you give me? What commitment do you want to have? What you want to do in the business. If you are not talking to the CEO about those things, it’s a dangerous thing because every CEO can be different. You want to make sure you clearly understand do you want to be putting in 70, 80-hour weeks? Do you want to say, “I want to do these things and then you handle the social?” We’ve been good about getting clear about that. There’s no misrepresentation between the two of us about what the goals are.

How do you stay relevant in your role? This is the biggest company you’ve ever built and the biggest company he’s ever built. He gets to keep delegating because he started it. You have to keep growing. How do you continue to grow your skill set and your capacity as a leader as the company scales?

There’s a variety of ways. One is to take on new challenges in the business. I never sit still. I want to be able to be in all areas of business that I can add value. I want to understand others in the business. We are as efficient as I may say we are now. We are miles from sufficient as we could be. When I said that the last time we were miles from there, there’s always much work to be done. We can be better than we are, which is what we’re doing. The real ways I do it is stay engaged in business. One of the changes I’ve made is I’ve gotten back more into some of the certain tasks I do that are part of the daily nitty-gritty. I make sure that I understand how those work and I can pull them off myself. If the plug got pulled and it’s me sitting here by myself, I could run the business. I wouldn’t be blind.

The second one is I stay involved in the industry. Randy is a well-known person in the industry, but I’m the one who goes out there, represents us at industry events and build a lot of relationships with our competitors and our vendors and our partners. I spend time doing that. The last one is I love the great game of business. I spend a lot of my time here in Austin working and mentoring startups. Some people say, “You get a free ride if you hit something there.” I was like, “It’s not about the money,” because a lot of these aren’t going to ever amount to anything, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to work with businesses back where they were many years ago for us. Learn from them the same way that hopefully, they’re learning something from me.

Those are the ways we stay engaged in our business and make sure I’m always learning something new here. Focus on the industry. Randy’s constantly asking me questions now, “Who’s that company that raised that money now? Who is that person over there?” Those are the things I try to know like the back of my hand because it’s important for us to stay rest. Like I say, “The time I get to spend the other companies, I’m always relaxed in that because I feel we’ve been through a lot of the challenges and opportunities and the fun stuff and the not fun stuff that they’re going to go through. It’s because of that, I can share it in whatever way they want.” It keeps me sharp.

Two last questions. Are you able to get tickets for Burning Man when they sell it again?

Absolutely.

Lastly, what’s a word of advice or maybe a lesson that you’ve learned from your experience over the years as COO that you wish you’d known when you were younger? When you were starting out in your leadership career, what’s something that you now know that you wish you’d known then?

Don’t take it so seriously. There’s a difference between being motivated and driven. I love to work. I put my wife and my kids first, but when I’m home and if I’m not interference with them, I want to work. I’ve got the drive. I love what I do, but I would say you got to take it back a notch and recognize we’re all blessed. We’ve had these opportunities bestowed on us and we’ve made these opportunities. You can’t get this stuff and get all twisted up about it. Business challenges, you think it’s the biggest thing in the world. You think the whole world is looking at you and it’s such a big deal. “My business did this or we didn’t do that.” Whatever the situation is, you’ve got to bring it back a notch and say, “Take it seriously, but don’t get all twisted up about it.” It took me years to learn that. You can take business as seriously if not get wound tight about it. You make better decisions when you’re not all bad shape. You’re happier. Your quality of life is better. Some people may have trouble interpreting that. They’re saying, “Do you care less?” I was like, “I care just as much.”

You have to be able to not get as tied in the situation because the stress and anxiety and worry, it’s a killer for the workforce because we’re all out there grinding and working hard. You have to be able to put in perspective. It took me over a decade to get the right perspective. I look back at myself and that decade before and go, “What a jerk I was. I didn’t recognize what was important.” I did get it. You have your moments, but overall are much better. Go way back on the conversation. Randy has a relationship. It’s made better as a result of that because when you can say, “Let’s figure it out.”

None of us are getting out of this one alive. We’re all going to die at the end of the day and let’s have some fun along the way. Zach Anderson, the President of TicketCity. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I really appreciate it.

Thanks for the time.

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About Zach Anderson

Executive who has developed and implemented marketing and ecommerce initiatives which have produced over $1 billion in sales. Experienced operator who oversees personnel, marketing, product development, legal, and P&L. Currently working on reinventing the way customers buy tickets online using personalized recommendations powered by data.

Startup business advisor and investor always looking for the next great business, product, idea, opportunity or entrepreneur. Active in community as non-profit board member, volunteer and fundraiser. Focused on youth development (STEM), youth sports, workforce development and regional transportation issues.

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