November 15 2017

Experience What's Next: Brian Smith, SVP, People + Culture

HR, Experience What's Next

Experience What’s Next – monthly tips from our HR Department.

Mary Sirico, Talent Acquisition Manager

In May, Octagon veteran Brian Smith was named SVP of People & Culture overseeing all global marketing HR efforts for the Octagon Sports and Entertainment Network which includes more than 1,000 team members from our Octagon, FRUKT, Rogers & Cowan and Milkmoney agency family.

When it was announced earlier this year that Brian was promoted to SVP of People & Culture at Octagon, two thoughts immediately came to mind:

1. Well deserved and congratulations. He’s the kind of leader you can (and want to) rally behind.


2. What the heck is an SVP of People and Culture?

This month on Experience What’s Next, we break from sharing our tips and tricks of the trade to introduce you to our sometimes/somewhat unconventional HR leader.

From the comfort of the therapy couch in my office, Brian gives an inside look at #WhatsNext in HR.

Mary Sirco: A very belated congratulations on the new role!

Brian Smith: Thank you! I’m really proud to have earned this title because it shows that Octagon is looking beyond the daily tactics of HR and focusing on what’s most important - our employees. I am fortunate for the opportunity to be a business partner to the organization.

MS: What does the title change mean to you?

BS: Let me start by saying that a title is just a starting point, its really about the actions we take. I believe an employee’s relationship with HR should go far beyond what people typically think of when they think of HR. HR is more than benefits and payroll, not that those things aren’t important, but we have the ability and desire to do more. So I’m pushing our team to build an HR platform focused on our people and our culture.

I’ve stayed at Octagon for 10 years (not including the 3 weeks I left for a bad lapse in judgment – we all make mistakes) because our leaders allow me to concentrate on the people across our agency family and create an environment where visiting my office isn’t like going to the Principal’s office. It’s a place you can stop by, speak candidly and usually have a laugh.

I’ve always strived for my personality inside and outside of the office to remain the same. I don’t fit the typical mold of Fairfield county. I drive a F150 , spend my winters snowmobiling, and travel to New Hampshire and Maine to ride my quad and I’ve found it best to bring that unexpected demeanor to HR.




MS: What excites you most about your new role?

BS: Within this new role it’s my responsibility to bring a people-focused perspective to the head table, always thinking how we can foster our better represent our values. Most of our talent comes here to work in sports marketing/events. That’s what gets them in the door, but there’s more to who we are as an organization than sports. In my new role, I’m challenged to focus on our people, and I get to lead the programs that make us a family and not just a company. That’s how I view HR.

MS: Are there any successes you’re particularly proud of that highlight the objectives of your new role?

BS: I’m really proud of our new mentorship program. Employees can elect to be matched with leaders at our company, to help them develop goals, problem solve, expand their skillsets, and sometimes just to have someone to lean on for advice. It’s important to be a good manager in leadership and a lot of the programs I’m building will focus on that. Compensation will always be a factor in keeping people satisfied but we’re also focused on other factors that keep good talent happy, like connections with their managers and senior leaders in the organization. We’re trying to deliver on that.

MS: You mentioned earlier that you’re an adventure seeker on the weekends. Give us a glimpse into your life outside of Octagon.

BS: Chaos.

MS: No your life outside of Octagon.

BS: My kids Cole and Molly, and my wife Lynn, are the center of my universe. I do everything I can to be the best father and husband possible. As soon as you walk in the door the kids want all of you and sometimes that’s challenging. Octagon has always been supportive of my balance between work and family and that is a huge help to me trying to stay in the moment and be present for them. I’m pretty proud to say I’ve got a daughter with a healthy dose of sass and a son that’s a wiseass. I like to think I had something to do with that. My kids are pretty big Ranger and Yankee (thanks to Lynn who is diehard Yanks fan) fans and it’s great to be able to share that – whether it’s getting a pizza and watching the game at home or going to one. But while the kids’ schedules can dominate my time, I do mix some things in for myself like snowmobiling and four-wheeling.


lightning round:

What’s your go to karaoke song? I don't do karaoke, but if i did – 'Simple Man'.

What’s one place you haven’t visited but you’re dying to go? Tuscany, Italy for some food and wine.

What store would you max out your credit card at? [Octagon President] John Shea would probably recommend I spend some time at Brooks Brothers. 

Choose a movie title for your life. Backcountry Roads



Experience What's Next

Octagon’s Talent Acquisition team has a blast engaging with talent interested in the field of sports and entertainment marketing. We are always on the look-out for ways in which to match them with our great opportunities.