Sports Career Spotlight

We've been featuring executives from the sports industry since 2001. Naturally, some of these executives have moved onward and upward in their sports careers. We believe these profiles remain relevant and valuable because they highlight the hard work, dedication, brilliant successes, and lessons learned in a variety of career paths through the sports industry.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith, VP - Mass Retail Sales

Action Performance Cos.


Age: 58
New title: Vice president of mass retail sales, Action Performance Cos.
Previous job: Executive vice president and general manager, Rauch Industries
First job: Busboy at a restaurant at age 15
Education: Bachelor of science in management sciences (1972), minor in accounting, State University of New York at Buffalo
Resides: Altamonte Springs, Fla.; relocated to the Phoenix area with wife Kathleen
Grew up: Buffalo
Executive most admired: Henry Coords, former president of Fisher-Price
Brand most admired: Fisher-Price
Favorite vacation spot: Florida Keys
Last book read: “Big Russ and Me” by Tim Russert
Last movie seen: “The Notebook”
Favorite musician: B.B. King

Michael Smith is bringing more than 30 years of experience with consumer products and retail sales to die-cast and racing collectibles company Action Performance Cos. Smith has worked with products ranging from children’s toys at Fisher-Price to sporting goods at Champion.

What is the biggest challenge in your new position?
Learning the nuances of the company, including the divisions of the company, the product line and more about NASCAR.

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?
Leaving the toy industry at Fisher-Price and going into the apparel industry at Champion. I had some anxiety going from selling hard products to soft products but later found that the two were very similar in that you had to deal with the same issues but with different customers.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
At Champion we were the official apparel of the Olympics and I was a part of a team that set up an entire management, distribution, sales and marketing center in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics.

What is your biggest professional disappointment?
After the Olympic Park bombing incident, our customer base essentially disappeared because the fans really were scared. That really affected our sales and all of the months of hard work that was put into setting up and establishing our center.

What career advice do you have for people wanting to get into this industry?
You essentially need to know your customers as well as you know your own company. You need to know your company’s philosophy, the direction it wants to go and target audience, among other things.

What is one story you are continuing to watch in sports today?
The evolution of NASCAR is really fascinating to watch. I think that a big reason for NASCAR’s popularity and growth is that they are now racing all over the United States.

This Career spotlight is courtesy of the Sports Business Journal. CLICK HERE to visit their official website.

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