What’s it like to make a living where your primary job goal is to create fun? We caught up with Beth Paul to find out at our February Friday Forum!
Beth was appointed General Manager of the Bon Secours Wellness Arena by the Greenville Arena District Board of Directors in March of 2015 after acting as the Interim General Manager for five months. She has been with the Arena for over ten years, serving as its Assistant General Manager and Director of Finance. She was previously the Director of Finance at the Harbor Yard Arena (now Webster Bank Arena) in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Beth spoke on a range of topics, ranging from serious (what it is like to be the only female GM in South Carolina) to light-hearted (think “wraastling”), to the questions you’ve always wondered about (how much Zac Brown Band got paid in 2009). Check out a few of the major takeaways from our conversation with Beth:
Role of Mentorship
Beth feels mentorship played a major role in her career. She never knew the industry existed until a mentor reached out to her. When she got her first job after her graduation from Presbyterian College, she knew right away it was what she wanted to do. When she first arrived in Greenville, she carefully watched Rubenstein, former executive director, so that she could note mistakes and emulate successes.
Diversity in the Industry
“If we only brought the music I like, we’d be out of business.” Beth and her team heavily rely on relationships with their media partners to determine the potential success of a show. “You have to do your market research.” Surprisingly, wrestling is one of Beth’s favorites because it’s one of the best displays of diversity in terms of race, gender, and age. There are little to no alcohol sales at these events, as many view it as a family outing.
On Being a Female General Manager
“Our building is interesting because there’s a large amount of females working there,” said Beth. She never intentionally set out to be the only female GM in the state and one of only a handful in the country, rather hard work and dedication led her there. “I just wanted to always do the very best I could so I wouldn’t be ignored. Gender shouldn’t matter.”
Arena’s Business Model
Beth realizes “The Well’s” economic impact on the area. Major shows have the ability to make a big difference for local business. Some arenas even operate at a loss because they are contributing to other aspects of the community and are subsidized by the government. However, Beth happily reported that the Arena has been operating very profitably for the past 15 years, thanks to a “small but mighty team” and excellent partnerships with the city and county.
Speaking of that small but mighty team…
Beth and her team are motivated for maximum efficiency by their keen awareness of the role they play in the community. “We are directly responsible for creating memories,” says Beth. The Wellness Arena staff has had 100% utilization of days since October, meaning the Arena has not been closed. “It wears on a staff of 22,” says Beth. “We really are a family,” she adds. This family mentality helps them remain transparent and helps them to communicate so that they are all playing to their strengths, as well as recognizing their weaknesses. For Beth, at times understanding her weaknesses is even more important than her strengths – especially on days when the Arena has to be converted from a basketball court to a hockey rink in 3 hours! It’s a labor intensive process and after checking in with the crew, Beth quickly learned that the best way she could help was simply to stay out of the way.
Getting the NCAA to Greenville
“It takes my breath away to think about how we got here,” says Beth in reference to the removal of the Confederate Flag from the Statehouse. “We immediately got together with business leaders to discuss next steps to get the NCAA to Greenville.” Though bids for basketball have been awarded through 2018, Beth says that bids will soon start for 2019 and beyond. “If you look at Greenville, how well it aligns with conference goals of providing student athlete experiences, it’s the whole package they’re looking at now. I truly believe the NCAA will be back soon for basketball.”
Can Social Media Predict Sales?
Social media plays a huge role, not only for the Wellness Arena, but for the industry as a whole. Oftentimes, high social media reach translates to sellouts. After announcing sales, the team tracks social media activity as it is usually a good indicator for sales.
Beth also answered a few questions from attendees, and I have a feeling these may be questions you’ve been wondering about, too!
“If you look at the history of shows we’ve been successful with, the market can support high-dollar, big-ticket shows.” Bringing in Pearl Jam was a huge win. “Every sellout we do gives us more leverage.” Greenville is a strong tertiary market, and Pearl Jam was a prime example of the Arena’s ability to compete. When tickets went on sale, Beth and a few team members were on a conference call with all major markets about the Pearl Jam show, and Greenville’s sales were head-to-head with Toronto. “That’s a really good place to be. There were lots of people hearing those numbers, that’s feathers in our cap.”
“Once customers realize they need to allow time for parking, there are sufficient spaces. There’s no solid plan to change it.” Clears that up.
“We never forget that the business is based on discretionary income. We’re aware of what can happen if we overprice.” A number of factors go in to determining ticket price, including the amount the artist needs and the number of tickets that need to be sold to break even. The average ticket price for a concert is around $55 and hockey prices are around $12.
Finally… Zac Brown Band
“Zac Brown Band was paid $1,000 in 2009 to open for Alan Jackson. They never cashed their check.” Who knew?
The major takeaway of the day was the role partnerships play in Beth and her team’s shared quest to bring fun to Greenville. Even the name of the Arena itself pays homage to the partnership between Bon Secours St. Francis Health System and the Greenville Arena District. With their shared goal of striving to enrich lives, it wasn’t just a kitschy name but a real connection with an emphasis on changing the culture. The team mentality was even evidenced by the structure of the event, which was conversation-style and moderated by Patrick Mieritz, Consultant at Gallup. Not once did Beth shine the light on herself, instead choosing to consistently and ardently praise her team, mentors, Board, and community partners (a lengthy list including local media, VisitGreenvilleSC, the city, and the county, among others).
It may take divas and all-stars to rock a show, but it takes a village behind the scenes. No prima donnas here.
Join us for our next Friday Forum featuring Brandon Maye on “Process Over Prize” this Friday, March 18th. Learn more and register here.