Oscar: I’d like to welcome to the studio today Jimmy Siegendorf, CEO of Premium Seats. Welcome.
Jimmy: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
Oscar: Pleasure. On behalf of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization South Florida chapter, we would like to congratulate you for earning your ranking on the Inc 2014 fastest growing privately held companies in the United States. Congratulations. Tell us a little bit about Premium Seats and how you grew it so aggressively.
Jimmy: Premium Seats USA. We’re an online ticket marketplace. We carry tickets to essentially every major sports, concert, theater event across the country and beyond. What really makes our company unique and separates us from our competitors is the fact that we do a lot of VIP packages and hospitality related products. We have a full line of ultimate tailgates which are a lot of fun. We have professional talegates and in all 32 NFL markets. We have beer trucks that are tricked out and converted with flat screen panels, beer taps coming out the side, DJ equipment. We do the full package with the hotel rooms, the transportation to the party, the tickets of course, and the full experience.
Oscar: I’m a little bit fuzzy on the experience. Is there any opportunity for your host for today to experience this firsthand?
Oscar: Okay. Good. Excellent. Your questions just got a lot easier. What motivated you to launch this business?
Jimmy: I’ll tell you what. I’ve always had a entrepreneurial spirit. I think it was ingrained in me young as a child. My father was an attorney working for the man. He would always tell me that there’s only so many billable hours in a day. He eventually opened up his own practice. I traveled around with him on my summer breaks, during school. I got to sit in on a lot of cases. I just learned young that I knew I wanted to have my own business. I went to college at Florida State University. I thought the restaurant business was for me.
I got a job working in a restaurant with some young guys that had a successful operation. They were right there alongside working with me, having a good time. They were successful. I thought restaurant business is for me, so I pursued a degree in Restaurant Management. Shortly after school I learned everything about the restaurant business. I had heard was true from a management perspective and that didn’t work out for me. Fortunately, I got turned on to a sports marketing firm who was expanding to Miami and they sold high-end packages to C-level executives for the Super Bowl, the Masters, the Final Four.
They convinced me to go to Atlanta. Started to learn the ropes in an office in Atlanta, successful. I went to my first Super Bowl which was in Jacksonville at the time. It was the Patriots versus the Eagles. Jacksonville was a terrible host city, so it wasn’t a great experience from that perspective, but it really set off the light bulbs which eventually turned me to opening my business. I sat in a room full of ten tables of ten, 100 people. We sold these packages for $10,000 a head.
This was prior to StubHub. This was when the economy was booming and I realized there was a million dollars in the room. I though to myself, “I could do this.” It was as banquet space which I know how to contract out through catering. We brought out a filet. Chris Carter was there. Did a little shop talk. Shook hands, took pictures, we [love 00:03:44] the clients. We showed them off to the game. At that point, I realized that the ticket was the main component of this package. To make a long story short or a short story long, I got turned on. I met my business partner at the time through a family friend who did discounted theme park tickets and wanted to get involved in sports. Told him about my concept, he took a flyer on me, made a small investment, get me the keys to the ignition, I took a run with it. Here I am.
Oscar: That is amazing. What is the ultimate vision that you have for your company?
Jimmy: I would say the vision for Premium Seats is to really provide a one-stop experiential product line so that you could go to any event, anywhere, and we can provide a unique once-in-lifetime experience that cannot be found anywhere else.
Oscar: Great. I can’t wait to use the service. When you launched your business, did you create a business plan or did you wing it?
Jimmy: Not so much. I’ve been fortunate. Most of my decisions up until this point have been on my gut. Our business is really a risk arbitration business. We invest in events. We invest in tickets. You win some, you lose some, and you hope you win more than you lose. Fortunate for me, that’s worked out.
Oscar: Great. You had ideas in your head on how you wanted to launch your business. Once you actually got into the business, did those ideas hold pretty true or did you have to make some significant changes?
Jimmy: No. It’s really been a evolution. It stared initially on the concept of these packages surrounding these major sporting events. At the time when I started the business, my business partner and I got a little tip that Shaq, Shaquille O’Neal, was coming to the Heat. We invested in some tickets so that we could put together an NBA Finals event. We had all these tickets and we’re hoping the Heat could make it to the Finals. They actually fell short that year. They lost to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. Our NBA Finals event never really transpired, but we would call people on the way, pitch them on this great event that we were having and they just really want to know about what we had for a ticket for the game tomorrow night.
It evolved over that. It started with packages. We made some money with selling some tickets along the way. The Heat fell short to the Pistons and we had to make a decision if we wanted to continue to grow our product line around these hospitality packages or invest in more ticket inventory. We chose to invest in more ticket inventory, go off some gut decisions. We grew our investment. Ironically enough, a challenging time that we faced was in the peak of the recession when our creditors cut our credit limit overnight. The next day we would have orders to fill and we had no credit and we found ourselves in a trying time. We had to figure out how we could generate revenue immediately overnight. We went back to my roots. We decided to build out some high-end packages and the very next day we generated some new business which gave us the cash flow to continue our operation and grow that side of the business.
Oscar: Fantastic. How were you able to establish credibility early on? I mean, you’re selling $10,000 per person packages. It’s a lot of money for a single event. How were you able to do that?
Jimmy: I’ll tell you what. The economy was booming at the time. This was prior to the recession. Some of these fortune firms, they were … Times were good. The invested their money in client retention and investing in their people, their sales force. We talked to 100 people a day and there would be a lot of interest, but of that 100 people, four would actually be a qualified prospect for us. One out of thousand would actually be able to afford to buy a package like that. We certainly catered to the elite, most well-positioned companies that were operating at the time.
Oscar: Amazing. I think you own a tremendously cool company. I think you’re probably as best suited to run a company like yours. I’d like to make a one million dollar investment in your company. I’m curious. How would you deploy those funds?
Jimmy: The ticket industry has evolved quite a bit over my ten years in the business. It’s evolving as we speak. It’s a time where the primary market and the secondary market were two different marketplace and they’ve now essentially became one. When I started the business, there wasn’t a lot of credibility for companies like mine and there was skepticism about purchasing tickets on the secondary market. Now the teams and the artists and venues and the content providers have embraced the secondary market. They understand that there needs to be a healthy vibrant secondary market for the marketplace to work. They now want a piece of the action. Now the primary and secondary have blended and they’ve become one. It’s an interesting time right now because the a lot of the teams are consolidating their partners, who they work with, so there’s a lot exclusive opportunities. With that exclusivity, would come a big check. At this time we’re seeking partners to work with in teams and looking for exclusive deals.
Oscar: Fair, great. If you had the unique ability and possessed some kind of crazy magical powers to go back in time in the first day that you launched your business all the way up to now. You had the ability of reversing any singular decision that you ever made, what would that be?
Jimmy: I hate to say that I would … I’ve never made a bad decision and I wouldn’t reverse anything.
Oscar: Fair enough. Let’s look forward. How do you think the business climate will change over the next five years and how will that impact your business?
Jimmy: There’s a consolidation effort in our industry. There’s a legitimate concern for a lot of the players that are in it because the teams and content providers and the artists are getting more efficient at pricing their tickets and they’re analyzing data. It’s a challenge for people in our industry and margins are getting squeezed as they are in many other businesses and industries. I see the future of our industry in the secondary ticket market much like the travel industry and travel agents. There’s a few players now.
There’s a major booking engines and I see that happening in our industry. There’s a legitimate concern, but because our business is unique and we separate ourselves from our competitors by providing a full experience and an experiential product line and with that we also have our customer base and we act much like a concierge. We’re a full service provider. I think there are a 10% group of consumers in our country who really need that service. They want to pick up the phone. They want to speak to somebody that will be able to provide a full package for them. I see that’s where our business going.
Oscar: Interesting. What one word describes Jimmy Siegendorf as an entrepreneur?
Jimmy: I’d like think myself an innovator. Our business and our industry is extremely competitive. There’s thousands of companies like mine. Everybody’s a ticket broker these days. If you have season tickets with your Miami Dolphins, everybody is selling a ticket. StubHub has legitimized our industry and everybody is a ticket broker. Unlike our competitors, we have been able to establish this unique product line where don’t have any competition.
Oscar: If you wanted to brainstorm an idea or problem solve with someone, who do you go do right now, if anyone?
Jimmy: We actually service on a Board of Directors for the National Association of Ticket Brokers. I also serve on a broker council with one of our main partners ticket distribution outlet. Our industry is a unique one where our competitors are also our suppliers. Although I have a lot of competition, I also rely on my competition and we have industry conferences that place in Las Vegas every year. Because of my involvement with these other organizations, I get spend a lot of one-on-one time with some of my top competitors. Thankfully, we’re able to sit down and brainstorm and share ideas with our competitors.
Oscar: As a business leader, how do you make a mark within your business or within your community?
Jimmy: Our business is a fun one. Everybody loves to go to a live event, whether that be a sports event, a concert event, a theater event. Within our industry, within our business, we make a lot of donation with charitable organizations and we give back to the community. I’m involved with a program with the Ronald McDonald House. It’s called 32 for 32. In which we donate tickets to all 32 NFL teams for all the pre-season games. We get the families who are having difficult times with their children and having medical issues. We give them an opportunity to get outside of the house and go experience an event and take their minds off things. That’s just one example of many different charitable organizations. We give back to the community and donate our tickets.
Oscar: That’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. You’re in an unbelievable business. Tell me the coolest thing you’ve ever done within your business.
Jimmy: I’m in a great business, as you mentioned. I have the coolest job in the world. I like to think so. Just most recently as many … I’m running out of bucket list items, believe it or not. I know that sounds like a terrible thing so say but it’s true. This past summer I got to go to San Antonio for the NBA Finals to see the Heat Spurs game and I sat court-side with my feet on the wood for a game in which the Heat won. I actually got to high-five LeBron James on my way into seats and I think that was probably the coolest experience I’ve [crosstalk 00:16:37].
Oscar: Wow. That’s amazing. Trust and respect. What thoughts come to your head when you hear those two words?
Jimmy: I think it’s super important. Trust and respect, it’s the foundation on the principles that I live by. I think they’re probably the most two attributable qualities you could have. Being honest with people and respecting others, treating them on you would like to be treated. I feel as though that’s a big part of my recipe for my success, both with my business and my personal endeavors.
Oscar: Great. Final question and it’s a tough one. Imagine for a moment tomorrow morning when you wake up, Premium Seats is no longer. What are you going to do next?
Jimmy: I can’t imagine leaving this ticket industry. I would have to find a way to get involved with entertainment industry. If I had to go work for Ticketmaster, so be it. I’d have to stay in this industry. I’ll tell you. I have the best job in the world. I really do. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’d find a way to get back in, even if it meant going to work for one of my competitors.
Oscar: Good for you. It’s been a real pleasure having you in the studio today. Again, on behalf of EO South Florida, congratulations on your prestigious ranking on the Inc 2014 list. Thank you so much for continuing to spur the entrepreneurial spirit in South Florida. It’s been a pleasure.
Jimmy: Thank you [crosstalk 00:18:25] appreciate it.
Oscar: Thank you so much.