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Volume 21 No. 38
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The Godmother with heart: Filippell defines sports job placement

Providing a communication channel and a service that helped connect employers and potential employees — including myself — more than 100,000 times is a remarkable accomplishment. To do it and be universally loved and acclaimed makes it even more outstanding. There is a scene in the film “Mr. Mom” where Teri Garr, playing the role of an advertising executive, positions a client’s tuna fish business as “Schooner Tuna — the Tuna with a Heart.” At the end of the day, Buffy Filippell will be known for combining her vision and ability to “fill holes in the industry” with a compassionate approach for recruiter and job seeker, and a heart that beats with true equality and diversity.

I have referred to Buffy as “The Godmother” since she and I worked together to create the NBA Job Fair, which helped catapult a number of current sports executives, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Dionna Widder and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Drew Cloud, into opportunities where they excelled and established themselves. Much like a godmother, Buffy and TeamWork Consulting saw a need, filled it and then created a number of spinoffs to capitalize on that void. What Don Corleone did for olive oil, Buffy did for employment opportunities, but in a much more caring and nurturing way.

Buffy Filippell created TeamWork Online in 1999 to match job seekers with sports properties.
“Buffy is a trailblazer and visionary to whom I will always be forever grateful. The opportunity I had to attend the TeamWork Online NBA Job Fair in 2006 changed my life forever as it provided a first-class experience to impress and prove I had what it takes to the industry leaders in the NBA, and ultimately land my first job and establish strong personal relationships,” said Widder, Cavaliers vice president of ticket sales and service.

Buffy was also successful in positioning and promoting industry luminaries such as Tim and Tod Leiweke and Andy Dolich through TeamWork Consulting and her executive search business. But while she continues to provide high-touch executive search for clients, her early entry into the digital space through the creation and development of TeamWork Online was a game changer. By embracing the digital space, she has turned into an industry destination for employers, prospective employees, students and professors wanting to learn more about the industry to plan their college curriculums and find internship opportunities. Buffy has created her own circle of labor, if you will — the intern gains experience and becomes a job seeker, an employee and, ultimately, a manager serving as an employer posting opportunities online.

Dolich describes Buffy’s growth and evolution best. “In life, some are the wind, others the weather vanes who constantly change position based upon the prevailing jetstream. Buffy Filippell was able to create momentum from a standing start to become a force of nature in the business of executive recruiting and job placement and search in the sports industry. Thousands have benefited from her vision and commitment to turn dreams into realities.”

It was a watershed year in 1999, when Buffy decided that the time was right for a digital matchmaking service for sports jobs. Korn Ferry, where Buffy had previously worked, launched Future Step, an online recruiting service. and were starting. The Houston Texans and the now defunct XFL were two of her first clients to use this new recruiting software, with more than 56,000 candidates applying for 122 jobs in the first four months. The NBA and its new team marketing and business operations department soon followed to help teams find ticket sales representatives. became a “portal page” where one could see all of the employers using the TeamWork software and be directed to the respective websites for their jobs. In Buffy’s words — “a Google page for sports jobs.” This has grown into a database approaching 4 million candidates and more than 100,000 hires.

Filippell speaks with Mount Union students and sports executives.
When asked her goals in starting TeamWork Online, Buffy offered the following:

Equality: A level playing field where every candidate and every employer, no matter where they are from or what they are doing, would have an equal chance of 1) “getting seen” for a job — free for candidates — and; 2) finding great candidates — an international sports employment search engine regardless of the resources of the candidates or the employers.

Revenue generation: The system was designed to help the teams generate more revenue by finding the right talent first to sell their tickets. Recently, TeamWork has had a direct impact on ticket sales through co-hosting networking events, where TeamWork purchases tickets and hosts events with professional teams throughout the country so employers and job seekers can network.

Diversity: TeamWork intended to drive inclusion. Speaking at schools with high minority enrollment, and holding workshops that demystified the sports industry and its opportunities, has paid huge dividends. Of the 100,000 online hires initiated by TeamWork, 43 percent have been women.

Education: Assist colleges/universities and their students by educating them on the types of positions and salaries in the sports industry. This component offers opportunities at all levels, including internships and enhanced digital career educational tools through TeamWork U, along with an upgraded premium offering called MVP Access.

Compassion: A recruiting process that was thoughtful. It includes preventing poor candidate experiences from damaging the reputation of the organization by having thoughtful communication that explains not only the process, but details why a candidate was selected and how the unsuccessful candidates can improve their chances.

When I began calling Buffy the Godmother, I did so because in my faith and heritage, a godmother is a Sherpa providing advice in a warm and caring manner and being genuinely concerned about the future of that godchild and where they go in the world to make their mark.

As Carly Simon once said, “nobody does it better.” Thank you, Buffy.

Bill Sutton ( is the founding director of the sport and entertainment business management MBA at the University of South Florida and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.