Leadership / 08.24.20
Ticketing Leaderboard: Brendan Bruss Shares His Personal and Professional Journey
Golf is a courteous game — a gentleman’s sport with rules and etiquettes that keep things orderly. It therefore seems fitting that the game has been a lifelong passion for Brendan Bruss, Chief Operating Officer for PMI Entertainment Group, as well as a current Board member and Treasurer for INTIX.
You will understand if you know Brendan or if you have heard him provide the financial update at the annual INTIX business meeting, for he is indeed always gracious and exudes an organized confidence in everything that he does. Then throw in some dry humor — like the joke about cutting bacon from the INTIX business meeting breakfast budget — plus an intense love for his family and friends, and an unwavering dedication to our industry.
“When I started with PMI Entertainment Group, one of my first assignments was to go out and get new ticketing software for our ticketing company Ticket Star,” says Brendan. “I attended INTIX in Philadelphia in 2004, and to this day have found my ticketing colleagues were the best resource I had for all aspects of the venue business, and several have become good friends.”
L-R: Steve Demots (Paciolan), Brendan and Tom Gillis (Ottawa Senators) at a Packers Game.
Good friends make you feel good, and it is clear that Brendan and his pals have a strong bond. Generally speaking, he values a person who is nice and respectful of others and who likes to laugh. In his friends, he also welcomes an affinity for good food, cocktails and constant humor.
“I love to barbecue,” Brendan says. “I’ve tried to master briskets and all the barbecues, like pork shoulder and ribs. I do it for family and friends or just to go through the process and see how it turns out. The funny thing is that only one of my daughters eats meat with me, so many times I do it and give it away.”
Brendan and his wife Stephanie are parents to three independent young ladies, Téa, Sasha and Cella. Two are sophomores in college and one is in her senior year of high school. They come immediately to mind when asked about his greatest achievement in life.
“No doubt, it was adopting our daughters at the ages of 3 and 1 from Russia, and becoming legal guardians for a third daughter,” Brendan says. “It sounds funny making that an achievement, but I don’t look at anything from my work as a greater achievement than raising three daughters into great women.”
Brendan and his family.
Growing up in Wisconsin about two-and-a-half hours north of Green Bay, Brendan is a lifelong Packers fan, and his family has held season tickets for three generations. Today, they watch from section 122, row 48, behind the Packers bench around the 45-yard line. He has cherished memories centering around his team and his favorite venue, Lambeau Field, and he continues to make new ones with his siblings, family and friends.
“[The best live event I’ve been to was the] 1996 NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field,” says Brendan, recalling the season that saw the Packers go back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 29 years. “I watched the game with my Mother, a die-hard Packers fan, and my siblings.”
It would be understandable if Brendan had named Brett Favre or Reggie White among the people he most admires, but these great Packers players did not make the cut.
“I don’t know that I have thought of a single person I admire [most], but I often think of my parents who both passed about seven to eight years ago,” he says. “As you get older and have lost your parents, you think of their qualities and what they would have enjoyed seeing.”
Brendan’s love for his family is clear. Though when asked about the greatest love of his life, his dry sense of humor is once again apparent.
“Well, I shouldn’t say golf considering that my wife and I are about to celebrate 27 years of marriage, and our first date was 37 years ago. So, golf,” he says.
Golf is at the forefront of our conversation with Brendan, and it is clear that the sport has brought him an immense amount of joy over the years.
“I have played golf since I was 7 or 8 years old,” says Brendan, adding that he and his neighborhood friends play together regularly. “There are 12 of us who have taken a golf trip to Palm Springs every year. Four of us went to Ireland in 2017 for my 50th birthday, and eight of the 12 went to Scotland in 2019 when the last of us turned 50. That was our excuse!”
Brendan and friends on the famous Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole at St. Andrews in Scotland.
Brendan admits he is not much of a collector. In terms of treasured possessions, though, golf comes up once again, as does his marvelous wit.
“I don’t collect anything really. I only have two autographed items: a Packers helmet signed by Bart Starr and Brett Favre, and a basketball signed by John Wooden and Bobby Knight. Otherwise, it would be my golf clubs. Certainly not our dog,” he says.
So, naturally, we had to ask about Brandy, the Bruss family’s golden retriever.
“She’s three-and-a-half, and we have had her since she was a puppy. The vote was 4-1,” Brendan says while revealing that his was the dissenting vote. “I like dogs, but I knew taking care of her would fall to the parents, and that has proven to be 100% correct. I knew as [the girls] were in high school and would be going to college, so they were not going to be around much.”
Speaking of quiet times, this is something Brendan enjoys and seeks out. Especially at his cottage, where he likes to sit at the lake with a fresh gin and tonic and a book. Fiction is his most-loved genre, and his favorite writers include David Baldacci, John Grisham, Daniel Silva and Steve Berry.
View from the Bruss family cottage deck, with a selection of gins and tonic.
“I go to the cottage with family and friends, or a lot of times I’ll go alone, especially in the winter to remove snow and have the peace and quiet. It is only 88 miles from Green Bay,” says Brendan, adding that his cottage is also where he enjoys his other favorite pastime, trout fishing. “The Peshtigo River runs through that area. It is all national forest. You are walking through the woods trying to find a spot to get into the water. It is a nice, peaceful time.”
Sunset views from the cottage deck.
INTIX comes to mind when Brendan looks back at other good times in his life. If he could be granted three wishes today, what would they be?
“Can they all three be that COVID-19 never existed and we were back at INTIX New York 2020?”
Brendan at INTIX 2020 in New York.
This is definitely a wish that so many of us would make these days. In the meantime, as we work together to help one another and drive our industry to the other side of the pandemic, INTIX remains a steadfast source of support, engagement and friendship.
“I’m not the typical person in that I didn’t come up through the box office, but instead was in charge of the organization,” Brendan says. “That being said, the content and connections from INTIX help me with technology, ideas and inspiration that crosses all aspects of managing a venue and sports team.”
He continues, “[INTIX is different in that it gives me] a connection between the patrons that buy tickets, the technology that drives our industry and the people who run a wide variety of venues. It has more of a cross section of people operating different venues in different sectors than any other [organization or conference].”
Does Brendan look to INTIX to learn about trends or develop relationships? He wryly admits that it is both. “At my age now, it’s rekindling old relationships. I don’t have the energy to develop new ones!”
As for his most memorable INTIX moment, “It was cutting bacon out of the INTIX budget after I became Treasurer. That is a joke; it did not go that way,” he says. “Steve Demots, Tom Gillis and I met Wayne Gretzky’s father in Toronto at Gretzky’s sports bar and grill. That is the mildest form of fun we have had that’s fit to print over the years.”
He continues, “We have a saying, ‘We sell fun.’ Really, it is hard to complain about running a business centered around producing memorable experiences for people. I get to work with concerts, a hockey team, a ticketing company, a food and beverage company, a consumer show production company and more. The people that we have that make it happen are outstanding and if I can help lead a productive company, I have helped them have a better go at it.”
Looking back on his most memorable career moment, Brendan recalls taking over as President of the Green Bay Gamblers Hockey team in 2008.
“We were in last place, and I hired Jon Cooper, who is now the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. We went from worst to first to winning the Clark Cup Championship in 2010 in front of a sold-out crowd at the Resch Center. That was special.”
Other special memories include his many trips to Southern California for work. “Many visits over the years have made that a favorite to get out of Wisconsin in winter,” Brendan says, adding that the city he calls home gets very cold, with lots of snow and long stretches of -25F weather.
Of where he would most like to live, Brendan says, “As much as I have recently started to really get tired of the cold weather, I still really love Northern Wisconsin, the forest and lakes. If not, Copenhagen. Wisconsin, Denmark, the same thing.”
Again, we just had to ask the follow-up question. What is Brendan’s connection with Denmark?
“I really do not have a love of Denmark, but I have heard Copenhagen is an awesome city,” he says, adding that he has never been there before. Seems Brendan is indeed a man with a bit of a sense of adventure!
He is also game to try something new when it comes to hobbies. The talent he most wishes he had?
“I’d like to be able to draw and paint,” Brendan says, and the reason is simple. “I don’t have that talent. It is something that I would actually really enjoy doing. Over a gin and tonic. Just canvas, paint, and a gin and tonic.”
If he was not enjoying a highly successful career in ticketing, Brendan says he should have been a doctor. And a bilingual one at that.
“When I was growing up, nobody ever told me, ‘If you become this, not only is it a great profession, but your earning power is significantly higher than many other practices.’”
And the language he wants to speak?
“Spanish. I am actually working on it now. I took it in high school and college. It is another goal of mine, which I’d like to learn for future travel.”
Si, Brendan. Nosotros entendemos. Or, more simply put, we understand.
You May Also Like
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.
Tags: Leadership , INTIX 2020