Paul Turner

Paul Turner, CFE, CSSP, is director of event operations and security for AT&T Stadium. He is well known for developing industry best practices for customer service, event management, security, and venue operations. He has created many training and development programs and is a regular presenter at industry meetings and conferences. Turner is also on the faculty of the 2015 Academy for Venue Safety & Security (AVSS). John Siehl, CFE, chair of AVSS, sat down with Turner to learn more about his background and how his CFE designation helps him and the venue management industry. 

John Siehl: Paul, could you give the readers a brief background of your venue management career?

Paul Turner: I’ve been in the industry for 26 years, first starting as a college student working in the performing arts venues on campus. Over the course of my career, I have worked in theatres, arenas, and now stadiums. I have worked for a consulting firm, an NBA team (Portland Trailblazers), and two NFL teams (Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys). I have had the great fortune to work in several venue types and for truly great organizations.

Siehl: Let’s look at your career goals. You mentioned that becoming a CFE was important to you as you worked on your path in venue management. Why have that focus so early in your career? What was your focus?

Turner: I knew that I wanted a lifelong career in venue management and that I wanted to be successful. It was clear to me that those with the CFE designation were the top of the industry and that they knew their stuff. I decided to use the CFE requirements to help chart the course for my career. It took quite some time and a lot of work, but that pursuit accelerated my learning, created new opportunities for me, and helped me acquire the skills I have today.

Siehl: Speak to IAVM members about your philosophical approach to a CAREER vs “having a job.” What, in your opinion, are the differentiating factors? How does that tie to the CFE designation?

Turner: In my mind, the difference between having a job and a career is about relationships and professional engagement. If you work somewhere, you have a job. If you are part of a professional community and you actively contribute to the progress of the industry you serve, then you have a career. The CFE designation is the essence of career building. To earn the CFE, you must make meaningful contributions to the venue management industry through service, attendance at conferences, authoring articles, among other requirements. The great thing is that by earning the CFE everyone benefits—you grow your career, your employer gets a more expert employee, and the industry gains your perspective and contribution.

Siehl: IAVM is introducing a new program, CVP (Certified Venue Professional). How would that designation have changed your career path? What do you see this certification adding to the industry as a whole?

Turner: I LOVE the idea of the CVP program. It is a great stepping-stone toward the CFE. And for those who may not be in a position to ever earn a CFE, the CVP is an important indication of personal achievement and industry expertise. Our industry needs to attract, retain, and develop the very best talent. The CVP program will provide a road map for young professionals and give them opportunities to grow and recognition for their talents and contributions.

Siehl: Tell us about the relationship between your CFE designation and the Certified Sport Security Professional (CSSP), and how it ties to the Academy for Venue Safety and Security (AVSS) relating to safe and secure facilities, managed by competent personnel.

Turner: The CSSP designation is a new professional certification offered through the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety & Security (NCS4). The CSSP is built upon the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that are needed for managing the security and safety functions of sports events and sporting venues. As our industry becomes more complex and the knowledge base more expansive, we need to ensure that the people who are planning for and overseeing the safety and security functions are competent. The CSSP designation recognizes these competencies, and people who have the CSSP designation are seen as leaders in sports safety and security. Programs like AVSS provide rich learning opportunities that can help people gain the knowledge they need to earn their CSSP.

Siehl: Let’s wrap this up with a comment about “tying it all together.”

Turner: I have seen amazing things in the venue management industry over the last 26 years. We have become more professionalized, more collaborative, and we have elevated the industry while establishing a significant body of specialized knowledge. This does not happen by accident. It is through hard work, cooperation, and a desire to be the very best at what we do. The CFE designation is all of that. If you want to have a career in venue management, then I encourage you to look at the CFE and use those requirements as a way to chart your professional development. Because when you earn your CFE, we all benefit. FM