Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 42
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Forty Under 40

Brent Stehlik’s first apartment out of college had a milk crate, a 19-inch TV and a lawn chair. He slept on a blanket on the floor. Harnessing his $18,000 salary from the Tampa Bay Lightning, he didn’t splurge on a mattress for a few months.

Stehlik chuckles recalling his mindset at the time, when he figured that if he didn’t make any sales commissions, then he’d have to live on his salary — and thus the hard floor.

“What I didn’t understand is, if I didn’t have any commissions, I wouldn’t have a job anyway,” he said.

Stehlik, of course, made some commissions. Now, after a 14-year itinerant path that’s led him from ice hockey through minor league baseball and to MLB with both the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, he is the Cleveland Browns’ first chief revenue officer.

Stehlik and his young family had just recently established themselves in San Diego, so leaving earlier this year was not an easy decision. But Ohio is home, and his father, who when Stehlik was a boy took him around the country to see baseball parks, almost wept when hearing the news that his son was coming to Cleveland.

These are go-go times at the Browns under new owner Jimmy Haslam, and Stehlik sees nothing but opportunity. He is in charge of sponsorship, tickets, retail and concessions.

Changing cultures as much as changing business practices has been Stehlik’s early mission. With his bootstrap background in minor league baseball, he expects to liven up the process.

“In some ways, I think we took things for granted because we are the Browns,” he said.

Stehlik is living out of temporary housing, his family not due to meet up with him in Ohio until next month. They plan to build a new house, perhaps ending his vagabond journey. What’s certain, though, is that he’ll be able to furnish it slightly better than that first apartment.

— Daniel Kaplan

Age: 35
Title: Executive vice president, chief revenue officer
ORGANIZATION: Cleveland Browns
Education: B.A., sports business, University of Mount Union
Family: Wife, Molly; children Sophie (5), Boone (3) and Griffin (1)
Career: Tampa Bay Lightning, director, group sales; Frisco (Texas) RoughRiders, chief operating officer; Arizona Diamondbacks, vice president, ticket sales and service; Dallas Cowboys, director, business development; San Diego Padres, senior vice president, business operations; joined Browns earlier this year

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT?: Wanting to win.
How do you strike a work-life balance? Balance needs be a priority. When you are with your family you need to engage; simply being present doesn’t count.
Best business advice received: Always make the career decision that provides you the best chance to learn and grow, and the best chance to produce results.

Worst advice received: That monthly staff lunches and celebrating mediocrity to make people feel good creates a great workplace culture. (Results-based meritocracies, where people are treated with respect, can learn/grow, and where tangible contributions are celebrated — that’s great workplace culture.)
IPOD PLAYLIST: The National, Citizen Cope, O.A.R., Paulo Nutini, Huey Lewis and the News (only the classics), and the theme song from “The Greatest American Hero.”
PERSONALITY IN A TWEET: Humble. Driven. Creative. Thankful. Collaborative.
Stress release: Pizza and beer with my wife
Guilty pleasure: Occasional Saturday afternoon nap
Favorite movie line: “Hey … Dad. You wanna have a catch?” (“Field of Dreams”)