Rob Williamson moved from his home in Missouri to start the Bismarck Larks in October 2017. After leaving the team in the Fall of 2020, he returned to Bismarck in the Fall of 2023 to become the team’s Chief eXperience Officer. We sat down with Rob and team Owner & General Manager, John Bollinger, to learn what he’s excited to do with the fan experience and beyond in his new role.
QUESTION: Why did you want to come back and what led to your decision?
ROB WILLIAMSON: This return started the day I left back in 2020. John was the last person I saw and he told me, “Now the real challenge has begun – it’s time for me to figure out how to get you to move back to Bismarck eventually.” Over the last few years, my life has progressed. My wife, daughter, and I want to be closer to her family in the Bismarck area. I knew it was time to get them closer to home and do a job I’m passionate about. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re passionate about until you’re not doing it anymore. Making people happy is my passion.
JOHN BOLLINGER: Ever since Rob left, I’ve been jokingly recruiting him to return. We maintained our friendship and when this opportunity popped up, we knew it was the right fit. It was an easy decision. Rob always talked about his passions. He wanted to wake up and do something impactful and not just a job that pays the bills. He made that realization while he was gone and it was just a matter of time until he returned.
QUESTION: What big goals do you have in the next three months? Six months? Nine months?
ROB: My biggest goals are to focus on the experience of every individual who impacts our team and to help our team get better by one percent every day. These small increments to grow success every day are imperative to long-term success. The goal is to get better all offseason to make the experience the best it can be for families, partners, and fans. We want to be the best experience in North Dakota.
JOHN: Rob’s greatest strength is his passion for people. I know he will excel in the next nine months. He cares so deeply about people and providing them with a great experience. That’s one of the most important characteristics to have in a new role like this. His compassion is going to set him up for success.
QUESTION: What about customer service/helping fans/helping people makes you happy/excites you?
ROB: I believe that our team can provide value to people’s lives. We do a good job and sell FUN that makes an impact on people. The core group of front office staff started the team and doesn’t know what Bismarck was like without the Larks. We’ve heard that “life is better in Bismarck since the Larks came to town,” and that’s a huge nod to our team that should excite our office. Seeing people smile and leave with connections and friends is what makes the Larks impactful to Bismarck and something that makes me happy.
JOHN: All I care about in this company is making people happy. I want this to create happiness in our employees, fans, and community. I’ve known Rob since I was 18 and Rob has always been the guy to make people happy. He’s been to 12+ weddings and he’s everybody’s best friend. At the golf course, every member knew Rob. He’s the greatest small talker in the world. You talk to him and leave the conversation feeling better than when it started. I have a great friend that I can work and grow this company with. This life mission is a slam dunk in my eyes.
QUESTION: How is this position going to be different and what areas do you want to excel in?
ROB: It’s different because now I oversee all of the experience. I can dive into what the experience is like from the first time someone buys tickets, walks into the ballpark, watches the game, and leaves the parking lot. Other areas of experience include our partnerships, employees, host families, and everybody else in between. I want to excel in the total ballpark experience. It’s unique because I worked for the team, started the team, and then had three seasons of attending games as a fan. Now I can take all that I’ve learned and create the ultimate fan experience.
JOHN: Rob brings personal touchpoints. I know Rob and he’s going to talk to every fan and seasonal employee in every area of the ballpark. Kaitlyn Mack pioneered this role for us and built the systems and processes. Rob is coming in and taking those systems and processes, and making sure that every fan gets that personal touch and great experience. Care about people is tremendously valuable.
QUESTION: Forget about work, Let’s get personal… Why did you want to come back to Bismarck?
ROB: I’m excited about the friendships I’ve built outside of the Larks. I’ve gotten married and adopted our daughter. For them, to be closer to family is amazing. They are the driving force to come back. I’m happy to have that family and proximity to them. Bismarck and the Larks have unified my immediate family and now we get quality time with our extended family also.
JOHN: This is bigger than work. I got my friend back. I can’t wait for golf rounds, after-work beers, watching our girls grow up together, and heated debates about everything under the sun. I get emotional thinking about it all. It’s a big deal to do it in a place where I am starting my family as I sell Bismarck to everybody to move here.
QUESTION: What’s the last thing you want to leave fans with here?
ROB: I’m excited and thankful for this opportunity and to see us enter this next phase of growth. The team is coming up on 10 years of existence, which is crazy to think about. There are infinite ways to get better and there is no limit to how good we can be. Also, for the community, it’s an open-door policy with me. I’m an open book and I always want to talk to fans about their experience whether it was great or bad. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about how we can create the best experience in North Dakota.