Leadership / 06.22.22
Shayne Ballard Is Living the Magic of the Moment and the Dream of a Lifetime
Like so many others, Shayne Ballard stumbled into ticketing. “It is not like I grew up as a kid saying, ‘I am going to work in the box office. I am going to work in ticketing,’” he says. “I did not even think about that being a real job.”
But to make ends meet after being laid off in another industry, Shayne applied for a part-time ticket office position at Dallas Summer Musicals (now Broadway Dallas). “Once I got in there, I thought, ‘Hey! This is something that I am really good at, and it clicks with me. Working for Dallas Summer Musicals and being able to be part of that magic, there is real magic that happens whenever the lights go down, the curtain goes up and you are transported away to these different places; there's a real magic to that.”
Shayne, wife Mandie and daughter Breanna at Dallas Summer Musicals before a show.
It helped that Shayne had a passion for the performing arts. “I am a self-proclaimed band nerd,” he says. “I was in band during middle school, high school and college. I really enjoyed performing in the band. It allowed me to have an outlet artistically and socially. Growing up, I also enjoyed watching old movies that were musicals. A lot of the old musicals I really love, I watch them over and over again, everything from ‘The Music Man,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and ‘Anchors Away’ … For me to actually go to work for Dallas Summer Musicals later was cool because that is where my wife and I went on our very first date, to a production of ‘South Pacific.’”
It wasn’t long before Shayne was working full time in the Dallas Summer Musicals ticket office, rising to become ticket services manager. He stayed there for seven years and then moved on to positions with the AT&T Performing Arts Center and the American Airlines Center. Quickly, Shayne came to realize that his experience in the ticket office could even lead to his dream of working for the Dallas Mavericks. In 2015, that dream became a reality when the NBA team hired him. “Making that jump from performing arts to the Mavericks, that is something that I am really proud of,” he says of the move that he considers his greatest professional achievement.
Shayne and Simone Hogan in the Mavericks’ ticket office on game night.
Shayne’s persistence (a talent he also admires in others) clearly paid off, but he is quick to acknowledge that he had a lot of help along the way.
“I had laid the groundwork by building the connections within the ticketing community here in Dallas and getting to know people. I try to gather stuff from all the different people I worked with in my career. I have learned a lot. I do not have one person that I put on a pedestal above others. My boss Debbie Irvin [at Dallas Summer Musicals] was the first person who gave me a chance in ticketing, so obviously she is high on my list … I worked with Stephen Hotz [also at Dallas Summer Musicals], who was just amazing at doing some very complex things and making it look easy, which is kind of what ticketing is all about,” he says.
Shayne says, “Then in my next job [at AT&T Performing Arts], Mike Richman was very helpful to me. Working with him, I really learned a lot about personal relationships with people, how much it adds to their productivity and how much it adds to the work experience. In my current job, I [have the good fortune to] work with Mike Childers, [who is Vice-President of Ticket Operations]. He has worked for the Mavericks for over 30 years. He has been here almost the entire time the Mavericks have existed, so he has an amazing wealth of knowledge and his ability to do his job so effortlessly is something that I hope to achieve one day.”
Shayne and Mandie on the California Pacific Coast Highway.
Shayne went on to explain what he likes most in a leader — and one thing stands out. “I value a leader who has the experience, [one who] has been there and has done what they are asking you to do and knows how to do it. I appreciate leaders who do not just tell you what to do, but they know how to do it themselves.”
Perhaps with that in mind and understanding that there really is an awful lot of hard work behind all the perceived magic of the industry, Shayne says, “I am a big advocate for trying to educate and familiarize other departments about what we do and why it is so vital. Pre-pandemic, when we still had will-call windows, I asked our CEO Cynt Marshall if she would work a will-call window for 30 minutes. I wanted her to have the chance to interact with the part-time ticket office staff who work for the arena, as well as have a better feel for what we did. It was a great success. She wound up staying for over an hour. The staff loved having her there, the fans loved it and she loved it.”
Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall works will call before a game.
Shayne also stressed how important it is for leaders to treat their staff as more than just employees. “More than half of your life is outside of work, so I think it is important for a leader to appreciate and care about that and not just in passing ask, well, how is your family?” he says. “[I think it is important for them to] really care and know and stay in touch with what is going on with your life outside of work. That is something that is really important to me as a leader. It is not only appreciating [my employees] for who they are at work, but who they are outside of work.”
Shayne and his ticket operations colleagues (left to right, Brittany McGee, Aubrey Molina and Simone Hogan) at Disney World as part of Disney Institute Training.
Outside of work, Shayne is focused on his family, his wife Mandie who he calls “the greatest love of my life” and his 20-year-old daughter Breanna. “They give my life meaning,” he says. “This July will mark 22 years Mandie and I have been married. She has been there when I was down to pick me up, and she has been there [during great times] to celebrate. I get tremendous joy from being able to reciprocate by being there for her and celebrating all her success. Then for my daughter, who is living on the other side of the world right now, it gives me an immense amount of satisfaction and happiness to see the success that she is having in her life … In the type of work that we do, we do not have a 9 to 5 job. Working in the entertainment industry and ticketing industry, I sacrificed a lot of evenings, a lot of birthdays and a lot of time away from them … They have been more than understanding. Having them support me and be there for me has been crucial.”
Breanna and her “child,” Haley.
Apart from his work and family, Shayne enjoys spending time with his friends. “I value friends who have a good sense of humor and who you can just be yourself with,” he says. And he has plenty of other things to keep him busy in his spare time too. “I enjoy going to theatre and performing arts … I have season tickets to Dallas Summer Musicals. I am not opposed to a good Netflix binge, but I also enjoy yard work and gardening. One other thing I do that takes up a lot of my time is sound for my church; I am pretty heavily involved in sound and lighting on the technical side. I enjoy traveling. We are continually trying to check new National Parks off our list.”
Shayne and Mandie at Rocky Mountain National Park.
Shayne says, “I also love New York City. I went there once when I was a kid, back when I was 10 years old. We went up to the top of the World Trade Center. I went back for the first time as an adult about eight years ago, and I have been back six or seven times since then … I love the culture; I love the food. The museums are amazing. I love jazz music and the fact that you can go see a Broadway show, go eat and then go to a really late-night set at a jazz club. I think that is really amazing. I just love the vibe of New York City.”
Shayne in Times Square.
Along the way, Shayne has had a chance to indulge his passion for both Broadway musicals and jazz, perhaps no more so than the night when he and his wife found themselves in front row seats for a Harry Connick Jr. concert (coincidentally, their second date had also been at a Harry Connick Jr. concert).
“That was probably one of the most enjoyable concerts I have seen,” he says. “When you are in the front row, you can see all the interaction between the band and all the little things that are happening off to the side. As a musician or as someone who played in some jazz bands, being able to see all that up close, just made it for me, as did seeing his talent. He is an amazing performer. I feel like [saying that was the best live event I have seen] slights so many other things. I have seen some amazing Broadway productions. There have been some amazing plays and some amazing musicals I have seen that were just tremendous. And I have seen some amazing, very small, intimate performances at little jazz clubs, places that were just mind-blowing as well. But if I had to pick one [as being the best], it would probably be front row at that concert.”
Shayne, Mandie and Breanna at the Grand Canyon.
When it comes to his own talents, Shayne readily admits that despite all the years he spent playing the saxophone, he never expected to make a career of it. So, if not that, which talent would he most like to have?
“I wish I could do everything, and no one could ever ask me a question that I didn't have the answer for,” he says. “But that is not really a talent. That is just knowledge. Managing people and your team is so crucial ... I don't think I am bad [at it], but there is always room for improvement. I wish I did a better job of communicating with my staff and letting them know that I appreciate them. I really value the people who work on our team. I am always looking for ways to try to improve and be a better leader for them, letting them know that they are appreciated and valued. When it comes to my communication skills, I wish I could better put into words what I feel.”
Shayne (far right) and the Mavs’ ticket ops team (left to right: Brant Parker, David Yri, Simone Hogan, Aubrey Molina and Mike Childers) at the start of the 2021-2022 season.
Still only in mid-career, it may seem a bit early to ask what advice Shayne would give himself if he could go back and do anything differently, but he quickly responds with two distinctly different answers. “Don’t take out any student loans, that would be number one,” he says. “And number two would be to think outside the box. [In my own case], never in a million years would I have thought that I could work for Dallas Summer Musicals or the Dallas Mavericks. In my mind, all those people were either players or performers. I did not think about the fact that they have to have an accounting department, they have to have an HR department, they have to have all these other areas, so [when it comes to planning a career] there are opportunities for people to participate and be involved with making amazing things happen behind the scenes. Just be flexible and think outside the box because there are so many opportunities that can come your way when you do not allow yourself to be shoehorned into one little area. If you can think outside the box, the world can be your oyster and you can have a lot more possibilities available to you.”
When Shayne began working at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, he got his first opportunity to attend an INTIX conference. “[When I] went to work for the Performing Arts Center, Jennifer Aprea was very involved in INTIX and was on the board of INTIX at the time. She was the person who was hiring for the job I had applied for. [Jennifer] was one of the reasons I was very interested in going to that job because INTIX was something I was very interested to participate in.”
Shayne says, “I remember [my first conference] well because it was in Chicago, and I froze my butt off. It did not get above zero the whole time we were there. It was the one where the INTIX bash was on a boat in Lake Michigan, but the boat was frozen to the dock. That first conference was a game-changer for me. I experienced something that I had not experienced anywhere else except for the people that I work with directly at the ticket office. These people all speak the same language. They have this community. They understand where you are coming from. Even before my first two sessions, I knew it was so right. This is what I need, to be able to interact with these people, to have this community and to grow in this field that I really enjoy and love.”
Shayne with ticket operations team member Aubrey Molina on her first trip to Broadway as part of INTIX 2020.
Shayne says he relies on INTIX to keep up to date on what is going on in the industry and to both learn from and share with others.
“INTIX is that safe haven. It is the ‘Cheers.’ It is where everybody knows your name and it is where everybody is coming from the same point of view,” he says. “For me, it is an opportunity to talk to people who speak the same language you speak, who know the pains you experience day in and day out. It gives me a chance to blow off steam at times with people who understand why what is frustrating is frustrating. It gives me a chance to grow. It gives me a chance to be challenged, hear new ideas and build new relationships with people across the country and even outside of the country. I value that camaraderie, I value that common ground, and I value the community so much.”
When asked if he had anything else he would like to say before our interview wrapped up, Shayne returned to his passion for what turned out to be a rather unexpected career path.
“I love what I do. I can't imagine having to do anything other than this. Don't get me wrong, our job is hard, our job drives me crazy sometimes. I feel like we are just chasing our tails sometimes. I think everybody probably feels like that at certain times, but I love it and I would not want to do anything else other than what I do. It does not make any sense to me as far as why I love it so much, but I do. This is corny, but ticketing has been the ticket to my success in my life. I cannot imagine having walked a different path. My new goal is that I want to work at the Mavs long enough to get at least one championship ring. I need the Golden State Warriors to quit doing their thing so they can give somebody else a chance!”
Left to right: Simone Hogan, Shayne and David Yri of the Mavs’ ticket ops team supporting the Mavs on the road in Milwaukee
And if he had three wishes at this stage in his life, what would they be? Without missing a beat, he replies, “No. 1, I would like to know that my daughter would be healthy and successful in life. No. 2, I don't want to be rich, but I would like to know that financially for the rest of our life, we are going to be comfortable and be OK,” he says.
Shayne says, “My third wish is actually more of a dream. I feel like right now in our world, everybody is looking for a reason to jump down everybody else's throat. We see it at the ticket office; people are getting really mad about some ticketing thing, and I wonder why do we need to get so upset about this? I really wish everybody could just take a chill pill, step back and cut each other some slack; not look for reasons to argue and look for reasons to get mad at each other. It does not matter who is standing across from you, you have common ground with that person. You will have something in common in your life with that person.”
Just as Shayne has found something in common with all the ticketing peers he has met through INTIX, whether they work in sports, performing arts or any other area of live events.
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