A window into the working worlds of people from across the sports industry now that nothing is as it was.
Jon Stainer is Managing Director at Nielsen Sports Americas. He lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, with his wife, Charlotte, and four children: Harrison (12), Amelia (10), Jackson (9) and Isla (6).
How are you feeling now on a scale of 1-10?
I’m an 8/10 right now. I do find I fluctuate during the day, not just during the course of the week and that’s largely due to the volume and complexity of items being fired at me, professionally and personally! Right now, I’m in the middle of eight hours of back-to-back meetings and this is my 30 minutes break in the middle. Business is good, we have great momentum after the COVID shut-down but it is hectic. We’re hiring eight people; focusing on closing the quarter and the fiscal year strongly; working on our product roadmap and the launch of a new return on sponsorship investment framework for brands in 2021 and preparing ourselves for the delayed starts to the NBA season (about 9 days away) and NHL season (in January). On the personal front, I have all 4 kids in school, which is a win for everyone; Amazon Prime deliveries clogging up my wardrobe and my working visa extension in flight. We’re missing friends and family back in England but at the end of the day those that are nearest and dearest to us are healthy and safe so I’ll take that as a win in 2020!
Who was the last person you spoke to before me?
I spoke to Jay Kaufman at the NBA. He’s SVP Global Research & Insights. We’ve got a longstanding relationship with the NBA providing audience measurement, fan insights and sponsorship evaluation services. We were talking about the upcoming season, starting next week.
Are you working from home or the office? If both, what’s the split like?
I’ve been working from home in New Canaan, Connecticut since 13th March and it looks like we will continue working remotely until June 2021. If you asked me back in March how long I thought we’d be at home, I would have said two months max but it looks like it might be 15 months before we return to an office.
How have things changed since Covid? How has your employer adapted?
I’ve definitely got into a working rhythm with the virtual environment and my team has adapted brilliantly, though I really miss the face-to-face interaction with colleagues and clients. With no travel, I like to do all my one-to-one meetings on Monday and Tuesday – this gives me a good sense of the priorities and challenges for the week across the business and sets us up for our team meetings later in the week – our weekly revenue call and leadership rally meeting. In every meeting I always start with a check-in on personal health both with the individual and their nearest and dearest.
Nielsen has kept people front and centre in its priorities throughout the pandemic and has been very proactive in caring about the physical and mental health of its global workforce. The business implemented a Global Mental Health Day Away on 30th October giving the entire business the opportunity to unplug at the same time, which was a really nice touch. We have various webinars and resources to support the mental health and physical well-being of associates and the business implemented a Smart Work Program to build a more collaborative, more flexible work experience that values everyone’s time. We actually implemented an initiative to reduce our total meeting time in the interest of being more efficient, flexible and purposeful. The company target was smashed and a tidy donation was made to the Nielsen Global Support Fund.
“We actually implemented an initiative to reduce our total meeting time in the interest of being more efficient, flexible and purposeful. The company target was smashed and a tidy donation was made to the Nielsen Global Support Fund.”
Where do you work? What’s the environment like?
I find it hard to work in one spot so I tend to move around the house a little but it really depends on what the kids’ school schedule looks like. When we were in full lockdown with all four kids at home I actually moved to the playroom to free up my desk for one of my daughters and to ensure everyone could be on Zoom calls at the same time. Our kids are currently physically in school so the work environment is absolutely fine, just a little noisy between 3pm and 6pm, but ultimately it’s very manageable.
Who do you share your ‘home office’ with?
At the moment the home office is just shared with my wife. She’s learning to trade so she hooks herself up in the kitchen ahead of the opening bell and we really keep ourselves to ourselves other than a brief five minutes here and there to catch up over a cuppa. When the kids are at home on virtual classrooms and learning it’s a different ballgame with more man marking in play especially with our youngest who’s in 1st Grade.
How have you changed as a manager? As a person?
I don’t think I’ve changed as a people manager. I’ve always placed a lot of focus on people and so COVID has just allowed me to do more of these things. Yeah, it’s thrown some challenges I was not expecting to face at the start of 2020 but at the end of the day my primary purpose has been to continue to focus on people whether they’re in our team or with our clients.
How do you run a meeting?
This is very much situational but without fail I check-in on the health and well-being of individuals as well as their families regardless of the type of meeting. With our weekly leadership rally meetings I have turned the agenda over to the team and they rotate owning the agenda and running the meeting each week. I like this as it gives me more of a chance to listen and it drives more diversity of topics and a more inclusive culture.
How would you describe your work/life balance?
My what? I’d say it’s highly confused! My personal life has become my professional life and vice-versa. I’m pushing it a bit hard on the professional front right now but that’s largely situational – sports came back en masse in the US in Q3 and that’s meant a very busy period of client servicing and selling alongside the team leadership duties and my responsibilities to Nielsen’s senior leadership team.
What does your daily routine look like? How do you run your job and your life?
It depends on the time of the year.
During the summer and with the kids on holiday I was up and in the gym anytime from 6am before starting work and the evenings were governed by kids sport or an opportunity to spend time outside or go for a swim at the local pool. There was definitely fluidity in the routine during the summer.
Now it’s winter and the kids are at school, the days largely look the same! I’m up anytime from 6am and I spend the first 30 minutes of the morning religiously clearing emails and checking on news before taking my eldest to school just after 7am and then my other three kids just before 8am. I’m then back by 8.15am, coffee onboard and ready to start the day from 8.30am. The workouts tend to happen in the evening – we’ve set up a gym in our garage with a punchbag, treadmill and a weights bench – and I spend time with my kids each evening, in particular with my youngest reading with her before bedtime. Each evening involves some form of work, normally working through the emails that didn’t get attended to during the day! I work long hours but I build in family time where necessary and I feel very fortunate that I can take my kids to school pretty much every morning at the moment. I know I will cherish these memories in years to come.
Jon working from his home office in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Early mornings or late nights?
Both, I’m pretty good at both ends of the day!
How do you focus?
I use walking and talking as a good way of managing stress and creating focus. I normally identify a couple of meetings each day that I can do whilst walking outside down our lane or around the backyard. I find that I retain information better and have more creative thoughts when I’m taking a call on the move.
How do you cope with stress?
I use reflection a lot. I find this is a really good way of gaining perspective of similar stressful situations I’ve been faced with before and the decisions I made around these situations. It’s my may way of building a coping strategy and I generally find it leads to a much more positive outlook of the stressful situation in question.
How do you unwind?
Getting in the gym but honestly it can be as simple as just throwing or kicking a ball around with the kids, getting the colouring pens out, listening to music and enjoying a glass of wine.
Who do you consider your mentor to be?
I’m mentor-less right now so I’m turning more to my Dad for advice and support.
If we started this year again, what one thing would you change?
I would have told my pre-COVID self to carve out time each day to be a bigger part of my kids’ daily routine.
What one thing will you take with you into the ‘new normal’?
Hybrid living. I’m looking forward to attending an industry event in person; to jumping on a plane to see a client; to the daily commute to the office but I’m also looking forward to the opportunity of working virtually and being close to the family. I’m excited about my future ‘hybrid life’!
Who are you speaking to next?
I’m speaking to our day-to-day contacts at the NFL – Alisha Strother and Adriane Berman. This is more of a check-in on ‘how we’re doing’ but I view these meetings as a great learning opportunity for me and the team. Every chance we get to speak to a client is a chance for us to get smarter about their business and the industry.