John Ferguson and Kali Franklin Work In Sports Podcast

How to Build a Winning #SportsBiz Culture with John Ferguson and Kali Franklin

By Brian Clapp | July 28, 2021

Almost 390 episodes into the Work In Sports podcast and we’re trying something a little different. Two guests - two All-time great guests - together on one show.

In 2021, one of the main goals I had for myself was to be more of a connector in the industry. I have met amazing people from my career in the sports media, and even more great people from hosting this podcast. I have made it a goal to say after each interview, “who can I connect that person with that makes sense for both parties?”John Ferguson and Kali Franklin Work In Sports Podcast

The goal is to be a connector in the industry by asking honestly and authentically, how can I bring my worlds together in a truly beneficial way?

To be transparent, the idea is great, my execution has been poor. I’ve connected a few people, but far from the consistency I imagined. No one is perfect. 

Nonetheless – today you are in for a treat because I brought together two of my favorites for this episode, and as predicted, they are amazing together.

John Ferguson is the VP of People and Culture at Monumental Sports and Entertainment, and Kali Franklin is the SVP, Head of Talent and Recruiting for Overtime Elite. I’ve had podcast interviews with each of them individually and LOVED the conversation.  

The idea to fuse them together into one conversation, dare I say was brilliant. We originally built this to be bonus content for after our Job Recovery Summit at Hashtag Sports, but this was too good to hold back. 

They are amazing together – I barely even needed to be there – check it out – here are John and Kali.

Questions for John Ferguson & Kali Franklin

John Ferguson:  I read a quote from a CEO recently who said “a great culture wins out over a great strategy every time” -- as the VP of People and Culture your title makes the importance of culture quite clear, do you agree with this CEO’s sentiment and if so, how do you go about creating a winning culture?

Kali Franklin: You have a daunting task right now; I saw recently where you posted that you are hiring for 40 open positions at Overtime Elite. New brand, new startup, that also means new culture. How do you ensure the people all work together on your new team?

John Ferguson: According to a study by the New York Times, 86% of workers were satisfied working from home, with only 1 in 5 wanting to go back into the office full time. Sports is a little different, a lot of what we do is event driven – but how much does this tell you we, the employers, must adjust based on what our employees want and need?

Kali Franklin: Mental health plays into culture in a big way. We’ve seen top level athletes say very publicly “I need a break” but this applies to every one of us. When I came up in the industry it was all about “embracing the grind” and we defined having “it” as being able to work harder and longer without complaining. Do we need to change that sentiment and approach?

John Ferguson: In times of momentous change we see organizations adapt and overcome. We all changed the way we operate last year, we hired differently, interviewed, onboarded, provided different benefits – as you look back, what new methods or approaches stick out to you as extremely valuable and exciting as we move forward?

Kali Franklin: D,E+I has a well-deserved spotlight on it right now, but I’ll admit, it’s often felt like a lot of PR talk and checking boxes. “We hired a DE+I executive!” – check the box, problem solved.  I really want this spotlight to bear new policies and procedures.

I interviewed Scott O’Neil CEO if the Sixers and Devils a few weeks back, and he is also passionate about diversity hiring. He said it is part of their process that for every job opening at Harris Blitzer, 50% of the finalists have to be minority candidates.  

What do you think of a policy like that, and are there other tangible ideas you’d like to see take effect?

John Ferguson: What about you? Policies you have implemented, or would like to see implemented, that can positively affect D,E & I?

Listen in to the Work In Sports podcast to hear John Ferguson and Kali Franklin’s great answers to these sports career questions!

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