Born and raised in England, Phil Rawlins has always had a love of football. An industry expert, Rawlins boasts over 17 years of expertise in the high technology industry and an additional 20 years of experience in professional sports management.
Phil Rawlins began his career at Hewlett-Pickard (HP) working in sales before moving to the sales development team. After working with the company for seven years, Rawlins left to start his own company, The Sales Consultancy. Over the next 11 years, Phil grew the company at an average rate of over 50% increases every year. During that time, Rawlins relocated to the USA to expand the company. In 1998, The Sales Consultancy merged with Target Marketing Systems before being acquired by Siebel Systems Inc in late 1999.
In 2000, Phil Rawlins became the owner and director of his hometown football team Stoke City F.C. Under his direction, the club rose from the third tier of English football to the English Premier League. In 2008, Rawlins acquired a franchise for Austin, TX from the United Soccer League. In 2011, he moved the team to Orlando with the express goal of joining Major League Soccer (MLS). In 2013 after just three seasons in Orlando the team was awarded an MLS franchise and officially started playing in the league in March 2015.
In 2017, Phil Rawlins stepped back from day-to-day operations to become Life-President. Additionally, he and his wife Carrie started a small boutique consulting company specializing in working with soccer teams and leagues worldwide.
Phil currently resides with his wife Carrie and their two children in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I was excited by the future of professional soccer in America. I could see that the game was finally going to take-off with the MLS and I wanted to be a part of that growth and development. I wanted to help grow the sport here so that the largest sport in the world was also popular in America. While the sport is still behind the big 3 sports in America for viewership and interest, it has shown consistent growth over the years.
What do you love most about the industry you are in? Soccer is a truly beautiful sport; and, it is that love for the game that is best to share. Ever since I was a kid in Stoke-on-Trent, I have loved to watch the game and that passion has not dimmed whatsoever as I have moved from a fan to investor and then president of a soccer club. Being able to spend every day working within the industry surrounding my favorite sport is a dream come true and is something that I never imagined could have happened when I was just that small kid in Stoke.
How do you motivate others?
I think it’s very important that the people you work with see you as approachable and open to their ideas. I have always done this with an open-door policy. Unless I was in a meeting or on a conference call my door was always open. I have given several public speeches on the importance on letting the next generations lead and letting them speak and listening to them. It’s also important that your team see you as a hard worker who leads by example by being the first in the office and the last to leave during crucial times. This ideology was particularly important during the week leading up to the June 18, 2016 game which honored the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy. While I was recognized by the NSCAA with an Inspiration in Sport award for what the club did in the weeks following the tragedy, but It was truly a huge “team” effort where we took the very best inputs from everyone throughout the organization to honor the victims of that terrible tragedy.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
After I was appointed Life President of Orlando City in 2017, I got to retire from day-to-day operations. I have always loved the town of Steamboat Springs in Colorado; and as many know, I am an avid skier. My “work life” balance now exists in cooking and skiing and exploring the world, and love, and happiness with my wife, Carrie, and our children.
During the time I built the club, my work life balance was difficult, especially in an environment where weekends are often the crescendo of your week! It was a 7 day a week job, so taking regular breaks each day helped to manage my stress.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
Understand your community and your market, everyone is slightly different. Know that you are going to face lots of pushback and rejection, but you need to push through it. Most importantly, however, make sure that you have a true passion for what you are doing and a drive for success. Lots of people want to be in the sports management industry and it takes a passion and love for the game to be successful in the role.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
When I moved the team to Orlando, I made four promises to the city, the community, and the team:
- Achieve Major League status
- Be a cornerstone of the community
- Financially back the team until success
- Build and open a soccer stadium in downtown
I came through on all of those promises, going from the minor leagues to Major League Soccer in less than 5 years. Lots of people said I was crazy to choose Orlando, that soccer there would never work there, yet on opening day 2015 we played our inaugural MLS game in front of a sold-out stadium of over 65,000 Orlando City fans. And in 2017, my dream was completed when we opened a soccer stadium in downtown Orlando that was pretty unique at the time! The stadium has proven to be the prototype for soccer stadiums being built around the U.S. now; and I’m particularly proud of the 4,000 capacity, safe standing section known as “The Wall”.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
At this point in my career I meet lots of people who are anxious about retiring, I’d like to offer a small piece of advice for that community – if you can afford to, go for it. There are a thousand new things to explore and achieve right now in your life! While my wife and I still run a small boutique consulting firm, I have the freedom to choose my hours and I get the spend the rest of my time with my family and pursuing my hobbies and interests, it’s the best of all worlds.