August 1, 2011

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The Suite Life

Mixing Business with Pleasure in the Sky Box

Josh Berndt

August 1, 2011

Luxury suites combine the thrill and excitement of a big sporting or concert events with lavish amenities like great food, comfortable seating and privacy. Many local execs spend a great deal of money to maintain a suite for important client meetings, employee appreciation nights or other special occasions. But is it worth the investment?

Used with the proper etiquette and with specific goals in mind, the corporate suite can be a valuable asset, say many business leaders. You aren’t likely to get a contract signed during a Jazz game, but you may be able to cement a great working relationship with a new client.

“The value of the suite is something you cannot necessarily put a price on,” says Peggy Larsen, vice president of marketing for Worker’s Compensation Fund (WCF), who manages suites with the Jazz, Salt Lake Bees and Real Salt Lake. “It is a venue that would not otherwise be available to get outside of the work environment and spend valuable time with customers, business associates and prospective customers.”

Matt Brown of KUTV 2 maintains suites for the Utah Grizzlies hockey team and the Bees as well, and shares a similar sentiment. “If it makes sense for your company and you can afford it, there are many benefits that don’t show up neatly on a ledger sheet.”

Orem-based Marketecture took a slightly different approach with one of its corporate suite nights by purchasing a one-game box during a San Francisco Giants baseball game. “We were in San Francisco for a significant trade show,” says Ari Monkarsh, cofounder of Marketecture, who has also used business suites during Jazz games. “Our experience is that a box at a sporting event is best used to start business relationships. In order to get your money’s worth, you should invite multiple people to a single event. Being in the box allows you more time to chat with each person and explore potential business opportunities.”

In addition to the potential business value, suites can provide an excellent opportunity for companies to incentivize employees or give back to the community. WCF donates its suite to nonprofit organizations for fundraising events several times each year.

Striking the Right Balance
If you decide a corporate suite is a wise choice for your company, there are a few things you should consider: What is the proper etiquette to follow at a game? Are you still a fan surrounded by your guests? Can you bring your kids? Are the rules different than when you’re seated in the stands? The answer is … it depends.

Larsen says there is just one rule for WCF: “[We] consider ourselves to be very professional and would refrain from doing anything that would embarrass the company or cause others to view us in a negative way.” She adds that bringing the family is not only allowed, but encouraged.

KUTV has one goal in mind with clients in a suite. “Be smart, have fun and make sure all the clients are having fun,” says Brown.

On the other hand, Monkarsh says it’s Marketecture’s policy to keep it more formal with just a handful of executives on hand during a game. “Corporate policy is that company execs are on the job during the entire event and must behave accordingly,” he adds. “[We feel that] families and kids can be distracting from trying to talk business.”

While some might shy away from using luxury suites for business because of the potential for distraction, the key is finding the right balance. “Business people will find business people, and if you like talking about business it’ll naturally work its way into the conversation without being forced,” says Brown.

“You need to make sure that you strike the right balance between fun and work,” says Monkarsh. “If you are constantly in someone’s face and asking them question after question about business, it can get old pretty quick.”

Imagine yourself at Spring Mobile Ballpark as the Bees come to the plate in the ninth inning, tied at two. The crowd is on its feet chanting for a clutch hit …This is not the ideal time to try and close the big deal you’ve been nursing through the first eight innings of the game.

“It’s a bad idea to try and cut a deal in this environment,” says Brown. “Instead, the plus is learning more about the personalities and business needs of the guests that often leave with a comment to continue the conversation next week.”

The luxury suite is just that—a luxury. It’s an investment many Utah companies choose to enjoy, some for entire seasons and others for a single game or event. It’s the goal of all business leaders to differentiate themselves from their competition, and the suite is guaranteed to do just that. As Monkarsh says, “The suite is the only way to go if you really want to get some business development done. Otherwise you’re just hanging out at a game.”

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