After 15 years in the mortgage industry, David Schroeder wanted to try something new.
He left global bank HSBC, where he'd worked for seven years, managing 450 salespeople in 23 branches nationwide, and became managing partner and president of Quint, a startup sports travel business. The company organizes trips to the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and other events for corporate groups and individuals.
Since Schroeder joined the business in March 2007, the company has grown from 11 to 27 employees and moved its headquarters from Atlanta to Charlotte. Quint is the official corporate hospitality provider to the NFL and the Derby, organizes trips to other events and runs an Internet-based loyalty program, where companies can reward employees with points for their accomplishments.
Schroeder, 38, lives in Davidson with his wife and three children. He spoke with the Observer about the switch, the importance of a strong team and the perks that come with the new job. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: How did you find Quint?
In my last role, one thing we would do is take brokers and the highest producers on trips to reward them for the job they'd done. I selected Quint in 2002 to help with that. At the time, they were kind of the classic entrepreneurial story: two guys in a basement. Over the course of working with them, I became very comfortable with who they were and their company.
About three years ago, a couple business partners and I were thinking about what we wanted to do next, and we approached Quint and said we enjoyed working with them and would like to explore opportunities.
Q: What appealed to you about the concept, besides the relationship with the founders?
Historically, and I did this at the bank, you try to find tickets on the secondary market and do some kind of tailgate party in the parking lot or a bar across the street. What Quint has done with the NFL is create something unique. We get tickets directly from the NFL, do the hospitality inside the stadium, in a really high-end space with gourmet food and an open bar, with dedicated security entrances, celebrities coming in and out – it's just a totally different experience.
Q: Why did you decide to leave the mortgage industry?
I've had a long history of working with small startup companies, and that's always attracted me. I was getting that itch. Also, I have a deep love for sports, so this was attractive to me.
Q: What was the hardest part about the transition?
Having worked at the bank seven years, the hardest part is leaving those relationships. What's also difficult is leaving something where, for 15 years, you're an expert in the business, and you go to something like this, where I was a novice.
Q: How did you become an expert?
I basically poured myself into the business for a year of 60-, 70-hour work weeks of absorbing, learning, asking a ton of questions every day. That's humbling, but it's also exhilarating. It certainly helped that we had a background with the company, so I knew our new partners very well. I read books on the industry, but there's no experience like direct experience.
Q: Was there a financial concern, too, going from a successful bank job to a startup?
Absolutely, but as much as I loved the bank, it was clear to me for some time that my path was going to be to go back to a smaller company. My wife and I planned for the better part of two years to make sure our lifestyle was aligned with that.
Q: What would you have done differently in making the change?
I don't think there's anything I would have done differently. But I think a lot of people decide to start their own business or invest in a small company thinking it will be a lifestyle change – I'm going to spend more time with my family. While this provides more flexibility, I'm definitely working more than I was at the bank. The difference is, I'm energized about it.
Q: What are some other lessons you've learned?
People should be prepared to roll up their sleeves. Sometimes, when you're in a corporate environment, more of your job is making sure the pieces are moving, and here, they're not going to get moved unless you do it.
The other thing is, you have got to be passionate about what you're doing and who you're working with. Resources are so tight that you have to have that level of trust with people you're working with. We have put a premium on communication. We changed our work structure about six times in two years as we got to know each other better and how we can better align our talents.
Q: What are the best things about the new job?
That kind of control, and the lifestyle. When I go to the Kentucky Derby, it's 15-hour days. But I'd be lying if I didn't say it's exhilarating. It's a great thing when you can put together a product you believe in and something that has incredible potential for growth, and you're working with people you love. What more can you ask for?