HFA Q&A – Jake Lenz26 April, 2019
HFA Q&A – Jake Lenz
Jake Lenz, President & Co-Founder, HomeField Alliance
HomeField Alliance’s ongoing content feature lets members and others get to know LGBTQ professionals in sports and entertainment. If you would like to participate, or have a suggestion for someone we should interview, please let us know at email@example.com.
Next up is our very own HomeField Alliance founder and president Jake Lenz. When he is not working on growing the organization’s membership and services, his full-time role is as a Chicago-based sponsorship specialist for a financial institution. You can learn more about him in his Outsports profile as well as in his replies below:
1) What would you like HFA members to know about you that they couldn’t learn from your LinkedIn profile?
Outside of work, I play in LGBT tennis and flag football leagues, which has been a great way to meet new people since moving to Chicago. At home, my boyfriend Aaron and I have a pit bull named Ruth who has her own Instagram (@Ruth_Bader_Ginsbark).
2) What is the best aspect of your current role?
One of the best aspects of my current role is the ability to work with our external property partners to build out season-long plans and strategies that help to meet our objectives within the realm of our contract. It’s always interesting to work with other organizations who have different perspectives that bring in new ideas and ways of doing things.
3) What is the biggest challenge you face in that role?
Consumers are generally conditioned to be hesitant to engage with financial institutions, so it can be tough to create open interactions with fans. Sponsorship becomes an opportunity to show the human side of who we are as an organization, while tying that to the passion in a fan base.
4) What impact, if any, has your LGBTQ status had on your career, either positive or negative?
I’ve found that the biggest impact my LGBTQ status has had on my career has come when I have been my authentic self with colleagues and peers. By being out and bringing my whole self to work, I’ve been able to build deeper relationships with colleagues, which has translated into the quality of my work, happiness on the job, and overall self-confidence. At the same time, being LGBTQ in an industry like sports has, at times, caused a sense of career loneliness, especially the times before the inception of HomeField, where I regularly felt like one of the only out professionals in my network and often struggled to find someone else who was like me.
5) What is one thing the sports & entertainment industry can do to be more welcoming to LGBTQ employees?
I think the industry as a whole can do a much better job of showing a commitment to diversity. Pride Nights and Pride Parade participation have shown commitment to the diversity that exists in a fan base, but the business side of our industry remains largely homogenous. By putting people of diverse backgrounds into visible leadership roles, the industry also stands to benefit from greater diversity of thought and quicker innovation.
6) What advice would you give to LGBTQ sports & entertainment professionals who are early in their careers?
Understand that you can’t replicate someone’s career path or predict your own and be flexible along the way. It’s easy in college and early in your career to hear stories and think “that’s what I want to do and that’s how to do it.” However, your career path will be your own and will look very different than mine or anyone else’s, so just enjoy the process.
7) Who do you look up to? (It doesn’t have to be someone you know.)
I’ve been lucky to have both a dad and a step-dad who taught me similar lessons throughout their careers, whether it was building a home repair business or a marketing agency. They both took the approach of working hard to build strong relationships, staying true to their beliefs, and using their skills and knowledge to help others and serve their community and have fun along the way.
8) What is the best piece of career advice you ever received?
While it may be cliché, the idea that everyone, no matter their role, is in sales. Even if your role doesn’t directly involve selling, at a certain point, you’re responsible for making sales happen. If you’re in Operations, you’re responsible for creating workflows that make the purchasing process simple. If you’re in Brand, you’re responsible for building consideration that makes sales conversion more probable. In any instance, you’re responsible for a certain point in the sales cycle, whether or not the customer ever sees it, and often times responsible for selling in ideas internally to see them through.
9) What is your favorite thing to do to de-compress away from work?
Play a bit of tennis, spend time with my nieces or find something new to cook.
10) What are you currently reading?
I just finished a series of books by Ari Weinzweig on the Zingerman’s business story in Ann Arbor, and am moving onto It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.