MBA students get advice that won’t go to waste

August 12, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

Orin Anderson, former director of ticket sales for the Phoenix Suns, told Colangelo College of Business students how he used persistence to build his career in business development.

Orin Anderson, former director of ticket sales for the Phoenix Suns, told Colangelo College of Business students how he used persistence to build his career in business development.

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Rejection letters. No one likes getting one after they apply for a job, and more than a few of those defenseless pieces of paper have wound up in about a hundred pieces.

Orin Anderson, director of business development for Pinnacle Aviation in Scottsdale, got more than his share of impersonal, thanks-but-no-thanks correspondence when he came out of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., in 1991 and had his heart set on working in the National Basketball Association. But he decided to go on a different kind of offensive with those rejections.

He put them to good use. He collected them.

It made for a most interesting show-and-tell item Thursday when Anderson, speaking to a group of master’s students as part of the Colangelo College of Business Dean’s Speaker Series at Grand Canyon University, passed around his white binder containing all the rejection letters he got that seemingly should have discouraged him but instead motivated him.

“Don’t take it personally,” he told the students. “Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, it’s not personal. It just isn’t. It’s just telling you that you’ve got to take a different road. If you were driving to Los Angeles and the road was closed, you would just take a different road, right?”

Anderson’s navigational instincts definitely took an aggressive route. He told of how, after getting a rejection letter signed by Jerry Colangelo, the Phoenix Suns’ owner at the time, he walked into the team’s office and asked to see Colangelo — without an appointment.

“The very fact that I did that seems ludicrous now,” Anderson said, “but at the time it made sense.”

Smiling and dialing

He didn’t get an audience with Colangelo, but he did get an interview with one of Colangelo’s managers. And just a few months later, Anderson was one of nine employees being paid the paltry sum of $1,000 a month to try to sell tickets to the top two rows of the new arena the Suns were opening the following season in downtown Phoenix.

The ones who sold the most had the best chance of advancing. He advanced and kept advancing, all the way to director of ticket sales.

“Smiling and dialing,” he said, smiling still.

That meant he had a role in Colangelo’s mission to bring several sports teams to Phoenix — the Diamondbacks (baseball), Coyotes (hockey), Mercury (WNBA), Rattlers (indoor football), Sandsharks (indoor soccer), and Smash (indoor tennis). Talk about an education.

“I consider that my MBA — six pro-team rollouts in five years,” he said. “We were there until midnight and were back at 6 a.m., but it was a blast.”

From there, Anderson went on to be a vice president for Bank of America and VP of ticket sales for the Sacramento Kings before he returned to Phoenix and eventually wound up in his current role.

Anderson’s title now says business development, but he doesn’t view his role any differently than when he was smiling and dialing for the Suns.

“Everyone wants to avoid saying they’re in sales,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter what you’re doing — you’re still in sales. It’s not a bad thing. Change it in your mind if you have to. It’s not about selling the widgets, it’s about selling an experience.

“Real professional business development is how I connect the experience with someone who’s willing to give up something for it.”

New perspective

Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean, was excited to have Anderson speak to the graduate students on four of his favorite topics: business development, basketball, banking and business jets.

“The last two years of Dean’s Speaker Series events have provided a large variety of business perspectives,” Gibb said. “Orin was the first to really address business development. It was also great to have someone who worked with Mr. Colangelo and the Phoenix Suns share stories about that experience.”

Anderson also shared what he did when he was on the other side of the hiring fence. He didn’t send out form letters, he said. He wanted to get to know the applicants, even if he didn’t hire them, just as he wanted to get to know his employees.

“People don’t know that they’re valued,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure they know.”

And you’ve got to make sure they have goals, too. Anderson painted an interesting picture of what it would be like if a basketball court didn’t have baskets at either end. The players simply would keep passing the ball around with no goal in mind.

“The moment you’ve got goals in anything,” he said, “you’ve got something you’re working toward. And I think that’s critical.”

But even the most skilled player gets rejected at least once in awhile. And it’s critical to make that an experience you don’t throw away.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or


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