Sefi Donner: Founder, Sports Events 365

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After 3 years as a lawyer, I, Sefi Donner, decided to follow my heart and go into the International Business World. From 1994 to 1998 I worked for a Medical Imaging company as a Business Development Manager. In 1998 I established my own company, a trading and consultancy company, assisting Israeli companies to start their International activity. In parallel I lectured in various organizations about International Marketing. In 2006 I established Sports Events 365, starting with one employee, growing gradually and employing nowadays more than 50 people.

How did you get into the industry?

In 2006, the year when Sports Events 365 was established, the idea was to become the “Google” for upcoming sports events – a search engine operating as a Web entity, but very quickly the demand for tickets made us change our perspective, and we became a selling broker. The next thing that happened was requests from Travel bodies that needed extra assurances for the quality of service for their clients and high level of guarantee to supply in a market that suffers still from bad reputation. Our full commitment to the highest standard of service is what gave us the “green light” to enter the travel market as preferred supplier, since the news that there was a trustworthy broker travelled fast and as the list of our travel partners grew it was easier to persuade the next body we’re OK to work with.

Any emerging industry trends?

We see two key directions: Web solutions that are becoming more and more automated on one hand, and travel agents that must become travel experts, and have to find a special niche of operation with a body of knowledge that will save the clients time and effort. In our minds, if you can have one of the two, you are relatively safe. Those that will not adapt, will face really hard time. The technology is hard because the investment is huge, and companies must be sure to get high quality solutions (And not all solutions are good) and at the same time educate the people that work in the industry to be true professionals with skills, knowledge and understanding of the client’s needs.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Being excellent online is both an opportunity and challenge.

As people look for more individual experiences – we are right in the best spot.

Online we offer services for the independent traveler because we sell the event ticket only, and they need to know how to book flights, hotels and all other travel services.

Working with the travel industry we never compete with our partners. We expect them to offer additional services with the event ticket, so their product will be a travel package of some sort. They will even earn more on the other services they sell, on top of the commission we pay them.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Naturally we want to be able to combine our event tickets with additional travel services, online. The challenge is that we work globally, so we will have to either stay highly technological or become more locally present in our key markets. The next step will be selling event tickets with accommodation.

Including more and more events in our offering is another important goal.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We are looking towards Asia and particularly, China. I think everyone in the travel industry does. We already have a Chinese website, and some key partnerships, but this is just the beginning.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

I have to orchestrate the progress in so many levels. I can’t run ahead with one project and leave the rest behind because we need the synergy and fine tuning between all the company’s divisions so they all work as one. We can’t sell if we don’t have the tickets sourced, we must price them properly, upload, do the marketing, offer the service both online and offline, have both the websites and back office fully operative and do the actual delivery of tickets which means making sure the tickets arrive on time to 100% of the orders.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Supplying tickets can be a challenge and we do face last minute issues we need to deal with. One particular game, the tickets were still in England on match day while the match took place in Athens, Greece. We were adamant that they MUST be supplied as on the buying side there was a business partner I couldn’t disappoint. The final solution was to have someone board a flight to Athens on the same day and deliver the tickets, but until this decision was reached and executed, we had several very difficult hours. The client entered the stadium 20 minutes before the game started.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

I always say that the “regular” order, one that is easy: Book & supply, is not showing the fantastic side of Sports Events 365, although most orders work just like that.

It is when clients are facing a difficulty and they get to see the whole company harnessed to help out that I feel really proud. Because we always deliver. We leave no stone unturned and check every option until the problem is resolved, no matter what was the barrier or problem we faced.

In the early days, for example, we managed to persuade the Italian Football Association that tourists should be allowed into closed matches (closed to the away fans). We said that they do not present any threat to the public safety (Fan clashes being the reason for closing matches in Italy to the away fans), and that the local police regulations should not apply on tourists, since they come from a different country and we can’t disappoint them. It is of the highest value for Italy to enable tourists the experience. It was hard, but we succeeded and some matches that were closed for people outside of the hosting city allowed tourist into the stadium just for Sports Events 365 international clients!

How do you motivate others?

It varies from one person to another – firstly- identify what is the motivation, and secondly – supply horizons for growth.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Starting a business in the ticket market is not too difficult but in order to grow you need excellence, details oriented mind and lots of persistence. Sometimes the effort is not proportional to the monetary worth, however it is necessary for building a future.