Q & A with New Minnesota Stars CEO, Djorn Buchholz
IMS sat down with Djorn Buchholz yesterday immediately following the Minnesota Stars press conference where it was formally announced that former Thunder GM and Aztex CEO will now take the reigns of the Minnesota Stars.
Buchholz talked to IMS about his feelings in coming back to the Twin Cities as well as his plans for the team. He spoke about his years with the Thunder and his career-changing year spent in Austin, Texas with the Aztex and the confidence that brought him. He also explains why he thinks things will be different this time around with the Stars.
IMS: Djorn, it has to feel pretty good to have left Minnesota for Austin where you were successful and then be asked by the league to come back to Minnesota, a market you’re already familiar with, and run the team?
Buchholz: Sure it does.
We did a lot of good things here in the 6 years I was here. We also had our ups and downs. The difference is there was a new opportunity in Austin. Unfortunately a lot of my time spent here in Minnesota was trying to figure out where the next paycheck was going to come from. To be honest that’s what we were fighting.
Going to Austin I didn’t have to worry about that. It allowed me to take a lot of these ideas I had in my head for 6 years and put them to use. I actually had a marketing budget and knew that if I came to the owner with a good idea that he liked he’d actually invest a little extra money into it. We did that and it worked. We increased attendance and we also did better on the field.
We always wanted to be able to do things and get creative but we were never able to because there was no funding and no one could write us a $10 thousand dollar check to take a chance. I did that in Austin and it worked.
Yeah, I have an affinity to be in Minnesota but now I have Aaron Davidson and the NASL group who wants to make this thing work. I’ve got some ideas that someone can get behind now and put these things into action. We’re still going to be smart, but we don’t have to be desperate anymore. (Note: The Pioneer Press’s Tim Leighton reported today that the team will have just under a $2 million dollar budget for this year.)
IMS: Aaron Davidson has said he’s secured Michael Hitchcock and Playbook Management International, or PMI, to assist the league’s teams with “team services.” Can you explain how that will work with the Minnesota Stars? (Note: Michael Hitchcock is the former GM of FC Dallas and spent 12 years as an executive in MLS before launching PMI.)
Buchholz: Michael Hitchcock is a sales guy. That’s what he does. He’s going to help us devise a sales team, the strategies that go into it and our goal is to sell more tickets that this team ever has. He’s going to help us do that.
IMS: How many tickets sales people do you foresee hiring?
Buchholz: Our plan right now is to have 3 or 4 full time staff as ticket sales people. We’re trying to get that up and running right now. For now we’re using myself, Angie (Blaker), Alex (Haueter) and Manny (Lagos) to do that.
IMS: Last year there was talk of the NSC utilizing the MLS Sales Center on the NSC Campus to help but not a lot came of that. Do you have plans on tapping into the resource?
Buchholz: We are already in early discussions with them. We are going to try to utilize them and their people to help us in this process.
IMS: How about your sales people doing some training with them?
Buchholz: Definitely! They’ve placed 30 out of 31 individuals with MLS teams and that one they didn’t place was because he took a job doing something else. So we definitely would like to utilize that and have some of our people sit in on some of that training.
IMS: Will any part of your job now be to find a new owner for the team as quickly as possible?
Buchholz: Yes, we’re looking for new owners but we’re not going to jump at the first person that comes by. That’s not the plan. What we have to do is we have to clean our own house by doing well in ticket sales and sponsorships and we have to show the support. Then I think the ownership piece will come. Our focus is not on going out and finding a new owner. We need to fix ourselves and get ourselves looking attractive and get it firing on all cylinders and then when we get to that point someone will come along.
IMS: I’ve known you for quite a while and there is something strikingly different about you then there was a year and half ago, a confidence you seem to be carrying.
Buchholz: Yes, I think a lot of that comes from me walking into Austin in a brand new environment, spearheading a lot of that charge and having it work. That gives me the confidence that what we did there can be replicated here in Minnesota.