Former Flyers Star Don Saleski Turns His Sales Expertise On S.J.
Don Saleski, a rugged winger who fans nicknamed Big Bird for the Stanley Cup hockey champion Philadelphia Flyers of the early 1970s, laughs about his entry into the business world.
It was 1980 and he had joined the sales and marketing team of ARAMARK, the food services and vending company. Saleski insisted he take a month-long ride with the vending machine crews to learn about their world.
“So there I was in the lunch room of some company in Philadelphia,” says Saleski, “and I was filling a vending machine when I heard a couple of guys leaving behind me and one said, ‘Oh, that’s so sad. It’s Big Bird. He’s out of hockey, and probably has to take a job putting candy bars in vending machines.’”
Flyers fans didn’t need to worry. Big Bird Don Saleski was on his way to an enviable business career that has earned him income and success far beyond what he achieved on the ice.
Now 58, he’s actually retooled and rejuvenated his sales and marketing energies in South Jersey, working as a partner in a highly-focused financial risk management boutique company that serves the healthcare industry.
The company is Professional Receivables Network (PRN), which was founded 12 years ago by a former nurse, Randy Cook, and infused two years later with cash and operational competence by Kathleen Sullivan. PRN leadership became a triumvirate two years ago when Saleski consulted with them on marketing strategies and liked the company so much, he bought in.
With 85 employees in its Cherry Hill office, PRN concentrates solely on the healthcare industry, bringing the infirm (patients), the doctors and hospitals (providers), and the insurance companies (payors) together to carve out “revenue cycle solutions.” PRN’s clients include several hospitals in the Delaware Valley.
“PRN has a great customer base and we outperform the competition,” says Saleski, “but we also make our clients better by showing them more efficient practices. We do more than help them get their money -- we educate clients how to perfect internal procedures to reduce future problems.”
It is in the past that Saleski first touched down in South Jersey and then began an impressive run of selling, managing and perfecting the operation of sports, entertainment and food service enterprises.
Saleski actually lived in Berlin, N.J., in 1974, a Stanley Cup season when South Jersey was a place where Flyers and their fans caroused and cavorted. But when Saleski met wife Mary Ann, she hustled him off to Media, where they’ve been living ever since.
After leaving hockey in 1980, Saleski finished his 30-day vending machine tutorial and swiftly began a 25-year corporate rise not with just ARAMARK, but also with a subsidiary, SMG, co-owned by Hyatt Hotel, and later the ClubSystems Group (CSG), run by Jay Snider, son of Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, out of Snider Capital.
– He had numerous titles and tasks with ARAMARK, the worldwide leader in professional services, including providing food services and facilities management. He moved from sales and marketing vice president to Mid-Atlantic Area VP, managing operations that did everything from feeding employees at major companies to hungry fans at major sports stadiums.
– He later was an Area President for ARAMARK who oversaw the operations of ballparks like Shea Stadium, Fenway Park and Nassau Coliseum.
– At SMG, he was senior vice president for development and was instrumental in building new arenas in diverse locales such as Reading, PA; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Belfast, Ireland.
– By the turn of the century, and now with CSG, he got acquainted with financial risk management, when CSG provided Technology to help the private country club marketplace manage receivables. CSG serviced 2,600 clubs.
By 2005, he tired of the travel that took him from Media 3 to 4 days each week. So he started his own sales consulting firm, Business Edge Development.
Mary Ann Saleski, who had become vice president of charitable giving at Comcast-Spectacor, had hooked up with Cook and Sweeney at PRN, a company that prides itself not only customer care, but employee relations and community service. She knew they were seeking sales and marketing help and volunteered her husband.
“I was immediately attracted to their philosophy of doing business,” says Don Saleski. “Four things about PRN: First, they’re focused on a high level of customized service. Two, boutique vs. the big corporations I was used to, let them be nimble. Three, they are a model for how to treat employees, from recruiting and hiring, to training and retention. Finally, PRN has some very interesting proprietary software that allows them to effectively serve its clients.”
It’s clearly outside the sports and entertainment world, but Big Bird has found a new industry, healthcare, for his sales, marketing and operation expertise.
And a new locale.
“Being part of the South Jersey community and PRN is a renewal for me,” says Saleski. “I’m rejuvenated.”