Before he rose through the ranks to become executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the NBA's Miami Heat, Michael McCullough had to learn a few things. The value of a proper work-life balance, for one. The best record to play when you need to get your groove on, for another (the answer, by the way, is Brother Sister by The Brand New Heavies).
We recently sat down with him to see what we could learn about what made him successful — and, of course, what his grooming routine looks like. Here's what he had to say. (Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)
You worked in retail before sports. Have you put those [retail] skills to work in your current role? If so, how?
First, I learned how to actually manage a large staff right out of college. And not just any staff: I ran the Juniors, Dresses, Large Sizes and Furs departments — all Women’s departments! My staff consisted of a great group of women, aged 18-60, all at different life stages, so I learned how to manage with empathy and respect for the work-life balance we all strive for.
What’s your favorite part about working for the Miami Heat?
Ah, that’s easy: I love my people! My staff is incredibly talented and driven and, as a group, we’ve established this internal code where we all are only satisfied with excellence. People really love being here, but I am fond of saying that if you aren’t up to our standards, you will be exposed. We perform at a very high level, and if you can’t contribute to that, you won’t last long here.
We hear you have an extensive vinyl collection. If you could only keep one record, which one would it be and why?
Wow…one record, huh? Shoot, being a good marketer, I should be able to figure out how to negotiate that number higher! OK…so, I’ll give you three (I was never very good with following directions):
- Aja by Steely Dan — When heard them perform this song live for the first time, I was done.
- Diamond Life by Sade — The day I bought this record, I literally spent the entire day in the car driving around aimlessly just so that I could keep listening to it. I still get that feeling when I play it now.
- Brother Sister by The Brand New Heavies — When I need to get my groove on, there is where I’m goin’. And I’m playing it strong — roll up next to me on the road and you’re gonna feel it!
What is your grooming/fitness routine like?
Manicures and pedicures are a must — I don’t even have a problem stating that right up front. I’m clean shaven and I shave my head (because bald is beautiful, y’all!) Fitness-wise, I’m working out five to six days a week doing all sorts of workouts from body-weight stuff to compound strength-training exercises. I teach spin classes twice a week, and I rollerblade 15 miles on Sunday mornings.
Rumor has it you’ve been teaching spin classes for years. Do your students know about your day job? What do they think of it?
Most of my regulars know, and they also know to keep an eye on the schedule. Because when we have a class after a loss, they realize they could be in for a “challenging” class. I love teaching the class because it allows me to play whatever music I want and yell at people!
Miami is a unique and very diverse city. What sets Heat fans apart from other fans?
The whole color-themed playoff campaign started here and Heat Nation owns that distinction. But the beautiful thing about Heat Nation is that it looks and feels like Miami: different races, cultures, languages, and lifestyles all coming together. Where else are you going to parade through the streets banging on pots and pans to celebrate your team’s victories?!
The Heat franchise is a destination franchise for players. Is it a destination franchise for employees/staffers? Tell us why it’s so special.
If you were to spend a day hanging out here, you’d see it for yourself: lots of laughter; loud music playing (from my office, of course); and celebrations for everything from birthdays to new haircuts to name a few. We also have our own workplace traditions like the Wall of Same — come to work dressed like someone else and your pic will end up on the wall.
Complete the sentence: People would be surprised to hear that…
... I hail from Omaha, Nebraska.
You’re the main creative mind for the team. What inspires you?
The challenge inspires me — the challenge to top what we’ve done previously; the challenge to keep pace with my people; the challenge to exceed the expectations of our internal and external customers, clients, fans, and stakeholders. I’m inspired by the music I hear. I’m inspired by my five kids, all of whom are doing great things with their lives. I’m inspired by the opportunity I’ve been given and the responsibility to open doors for others as they were opened for me.