They became friends in 1994 when they worked selling tickets at the old Dolphin Stadium. Ivan Marin and Danny Katz eventually moved their way up the ranks in the ticket office, hiring and training part-time staff members for events. When event promoters started calling to hire them and their staff to run the ticket operations at off-site events, the two friends saw a business niche.
In June 2000, they started Complete Ticket Solutions with three employees working out of Katz’s Plantation home. Their idea was to handle the box office for events such as sports, concerts and festivals. Three weeks later, because of connections from working at the stadium, they got the contract to staff and set up the box office for the NFL Experience, a fan event at the Super Bowl in Tampa.
“It was like ‘Yeah, we can do this,’” Marin said, remembering the phone call. “Then I hung the phone and we said ‘How can we do this?’”
But the business partners made it happen, and moved on to contracts with the University of Miami and the Homestead Speedway. They expanded operations to include online ticket selling, custom printing of tickets and wristbands, and setting up personalized call centers for event ticketing.
“We don’t say ‘you have to do all of this or nothing,’” Marin said. “We offer A to Z services, but you can pick and choose.”
Now, nearly 13 years later, Complete Ticket Solutions in Fort Lauderdale has 11 full-time employees and handles ticket operations for about 65 to 80 events a year. They do online ticketing for 60 additional events annually. The company has worked five Super Bowls, the Olympics in Greece, and local events such as Sun Fest in West Palm Beach and the Coconut Grove Art Festival.
But the robust growth means they have not grown strategically, Katz said. “One of our problems is expressing to existing clients what other services we offer. We don’t know how to properly market ourselves to our own clients.”
Katz said because he and Marin are primarily operations people, they have relied on word-of-mouth to bring in business. Sales is not their strong point. They brought in their first full-time sales person three years ago, their second a year ago.
They asked The Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover to help with their marketing efforts. The Herald brought in Broward SCORE, a nonprofit with volunteer counselors from the business community that mentor small business owners. The SCORE turnaround team included Miguel Hernandez, president of Genesis Financial Associates, which offers offsite financial administration. With experience in retail sales and financial planning, Hernandez’s strength is strategic planning, growth and funding. Phil Sanfilippo, a consultant, has 30 years of experience with companies like PepsiCo in marketing, managing sales teams, developing training programs and running turnaround programs. Nancy Leve, owner of Virtual Fundamentals, has 30 years of marketing and advertising experience. She specializes in digital marketing, SEO and Web.
One of Complete Ticket Solutions’ challenges is that it doesn’t have a clear grasp on its target market. The company prides itself on personal customer service, but doesn’t have a systemized way of organizing customer contacts. It wants to reach out to clients to let them know about new services, but isn’t sure how.