Saturday, February 2, 2013

Leaving Your Mark: Harbaughs Are Not The Only Brothers Competing Sunday

Mark Gress is the Associate Director of Employer Relations at Arcadia University and is formerly with the Steinbright Career Development Center at Drexel University.


With the Super Bowl upon us, one of the primary storylines focuses on Jim and John Harbaugh, the head coaches of the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.  Did I mention that they are brothers?  It is extremely rare to see two brothers experience as much success simultaneously in the sports world.  However, on the sports business side, it happens more often and with equally interesting and captivating narratives.

Two brothers come to mind immediately: Brett Yormark, the President of the New Jersey Nets and Michael Yormark, the President of the Florida Panthers.  The identical twin brothers from New Jersey rose from entry level ticket sellers to Team Presidents and are two of the youngest to reach that level of upper management.  They, as it is hard to separate them, are two of the most revered sports leaders in the industry.  Their peers recognize their achievements and often look to the Nets and Panthers as the gold standard for best business practices. This is not only a product of their success but moreover of their tireless efforts, unconventional and innovative thinking, not being afraid to fail, and trend-setting maneuvers. 

Their careers included successful runs at NASCAR and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  In an October 2009 article, writer Chris Tucker describes both brothers as passionate, workaholics, driven, and the best networkers around (Tucker 2009).  They arrive to work early, they stay late, and they undoubtedly work (or network) through lunch.  Tucker goes on to point out that those habits and attributes have led to great results.  By Tucker’s estimates, corporate partnerships sales have increased nearly 200 percent and ticket sales have risen 15 percent at the Nets.  As for the Panthers, Michael has doubled the number of corporate partners and increased premium sales by more than $2.5 million per year.  Needless to say, they’ve done their jobs well.

Their successes have led to much deserved recognition including The Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40 Award” and Brandweek’s “Marketer of the Year Award.”  Buffy Filippell, President of, writes of Brett, “His former boss and President of the New Jersey Nets, Jon Spoelstra, calls Brett Yormark the best salesperson in the country” (Filippell 2001).  Meanwhile, in another executive spotlight by Filippell, industry executive Scott Carmichael is quoted as saying, “Michael is one the hardest working, most creative executives in our League. He has done an outstanding job in Tampa raising the bar to unprecedented heights under difficult economic circumstances” (Filippell 2002).

However, neither man does their job for prizes or medals.  They are motivated by intrinsic factors and the desire to be the best at what they do.  According to Michael, “I just wanted the opportunity to influence a company, impact the culture, and build a first-class organization” (Tucker 2009).  Brett echoes similar sentiments as his brother, “Since I am living my dream, I have to make sure I stay in this position and that's a commitment I have made to myself.”  Brett and Michael have said numerous times that you have to be in the sports industry for the right reasons.  They, as they expect their employees to be, are passionate and love what they do.  They come to work every day with the right attitude and a willingness to sacrifice.  In a 2006 interview with, Brett said, “Go out, find the career that you love, have the energy, have the passion, be committed and all of the good things will come” (Lake 2006).

Brett and Michael have long been respected as two of the greatest leaders in the sports industry.  They have a respectable track record of success and will undoubtedly have an amazingly rewarding future.  The careers have not been error free and they’ll make mistakes down the road.  What’s crucial is that they learn from their miscues and don’t repeat them.

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