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Wildcats@Work: Jon Schmieder

Jon Schmieder '91 earned his bachelor's degree in marketing and has over 20 years of experience in the sports tourism industry. He is the founder and CEO of Huddle Up Group, a Phoenix-based consulting firm.

What is your current job and what are your day-to-day responsibilities?
After more than 16 years in the sports tourism industry, I founded my own consulting firm in Phoenix called the Huddle Up Group (HUG). The core of our business is to help clients build long-range strategic plans for conventions, visitors bureaus, cities, counties, sports commissions and sports organizations.

While we do some facility feasibility studies and sometimes work on niche projects within the sports tourism space, 85% of our business is strategic planning on behalf of our clients. As the founder of a small company with three full-time employees, I have to wear many hats. We are most effective when I focus on partnerships and new business development. However, I’m also involved in crafting and presenting the strategic plans that we produce for our clients.

I’m still working on delegation of things that are not my core strengths, but that is a challenge for anyone that has ever started their own business. I’m getting better, and my team is great, but I have a long way to go.           

How did your time at the UA prepare you to make networking connections and be successful as a professional?
Time management, scheduling classes that fit my work schedule, coaching youth basketball, and just all the juggling of schedules served as great preparation for the road ahead.

The UA alumni network has been very impactful throughout my journey. When I moved across the country, I leaned on connections that I made through the various UA Alumni Association chapters. From Tulsa to Philadelphia, Denver then Phoenix, the alumni chapters have served as a form of family. The structure and connections the UAAA chapters offered gave me great stability as I moved from one place to the next.

If you invest the time, you will get more out of the UA and the UAAA than if you are passive about your engagement. I think the same holds true for the time I’ve spent at Eller. The more involved I was, the more benefit and fulfillment I received.

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
There are two great ones. The first is from my wife, Sharon: “Yes and no are perfectly acceptable answers. Maybe stinks.”

The second comes from my mentor, Rob Cohen, in Denver. Rob always liked to ask what we call the “home run question” and then offered a follow-up. The home run question works with clients, partners, and friends, family — you name it.

You ask the person: “What is a home run for you right now?” You are asking for a big-picture answer, along the lines of what big thing they have in mind that they can’t do on their own. Once they respond, you follow up with this: “OK, if you were me and I wanted to help you with that vision, what would you be doing right now?”

This is a great way to get your partners to buy in, and to put the big ideas on the table. If the home run question is handled in a genuine manner, the results can be game-changing for you and your stakeholders.