Amber Cox, President and COO Phoenix Mercury, discusses her first job at a wholesale greenhouse and the things that helped her get to where she is today in the sports industry.
What was your first job?
My mom and stepdad owned a wholesale greenhouse that was practically connected to our house with thousands of plants of every shape and size. I helped with all phases of the business, including washing pots, planting, mixing dirt, loading trucks and taking orders. the best part was our “dirt room,” which was a giant space with concrete floors and high ceilings. It included a basketball hoop. I spent more than half of my childhood and teenage years in that place, working on my game and chasing my basketball down before it disappeared in the dirt wagon.
What did you learn from that first job?
Hard work. By the time I was in middle school, I was working 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day in the summer. And when your mom is the boss, there is no slacking.
What was your first job in your current industry and what were your duties?
I was the first sports information director at my alma mater (William Woods University) in Missouri. I compiled stats, wrote press releases and assisted in weekly nominations for player of the week in our various sports.
What were your salaries in your first job and first industry job?
Working for my parents, I made $5 or $6 an hour. And they let me back in the house every night! When I worked as a SID, I was a graduate assistant. I was able to complete my MBA and continue living and eating for free a bit longer. That was the life!
Who is your biggest mentor?
Jay Parry, the senior vice president of the Suns brand and business development. Jay hired me eight years ago when she was the president of the Mercury. Next to my mom and grandmother, Jay has had more influence on me than any other person. Jay works harder than anyone I’ve ever met and is a leader everyone wants to follow. She’s taught me to demand the best from myself and those around me without losing sight of the fact that we work in an incredible industry. Don’t compromise your work (“The devil is in the details”), but don’t lose sight that the real fun is in the journey.
How is being president of a sports team different from being president of a more traditional business?
Being a part of two championship runs is like nothing I could have dreamed as a kid. And a journey no other job can replicate. And as a basketball fan, watching Diana Taurasi play night in and night out for seven seasons — that’s a dream come true. But the WNBA means more than wins and losses to me. Growing our fan base and bringing in more sponsors means this league will be around for years to come and give girls an opportunity to play professional basketball for a living or even do my job. I’m very passionate about making sure that’s always a dream that’s available to boys and girls.
What advice would you give someone entering your industry today?
Do what you love and love what you do. And as my grandma always says, “Don’t let anyone outwork you.”
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing today, what would you be doing instead?
I’d be the lead singer in a southern rock band, touring the country doing covers of Lynard Skynard and the Steve Miller Band.