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Football Star & Award-Winning Broadcaster Michael Strahan’s Advice for Entrepreneurs

Photos: Courtesy of Lily Ro Photography and Shannon Schureman

A seven-time Pro-Bowlerwho had a 15-year football career, Strahan and his New York Giants teammates beat the previously undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2007.

The current co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he’s also an analyst for “Fox NFL Sunday” and TV host of the ABC primetime game show “$100,000 Pyramid.”

Now the athlete-turned-entrepreneur, who also produces documentaries and TV shows in addition to his charity work, is sharing his insight on what it takes to be a winner in business and in life.

How did your football career prepare you for the business world?

I think it prepared me for the business world because it taught me how important it was to be organized, to also pay attention to detail and most of all, how important it is to have a good team around you. And to be able to listen to others’ opinions and take criticism and learn on the move. Everything is not going to be so cut and dried, and one thing in sports that’s the same thing in business –you have to learn to adapt when real problems present themselves to you in real time. Those are the most similar things in sports and business, in my opinion.

What qualities make a team successful?

I always say you want people who understand that what makes a team successful is not having one great player. Many see that one great player, but then the team is horrible. You want people who understand everybody has their role and they do their role to the best of their abilities, who understand if the team wins, everybody wins. Instead of one individual’s winning and the team has no success. And they’re still happy. You need people to understand the bigger picture, that it’s all about the betterment of everyone, about encouraging each other to succeed and understanding that success just breeds well and helps everybody. You want people who understand your objective and what you’re trying to do, but also have passion for it and understand it’s bigger than just them. It’s about everybody involved.

How important are effective communication and collaboration both on the field and in business? What can teams do make sure communication doesn’t break down?

I think communication and collaboration are the most important thing. The teams I’ve been on that haven’t been successful are the teams that have pockets of communication but they don’t share, or you have certain people who create their own little cliques of negativity. I think a lot of that is bred from not communicating or sharing your ideas as a whole. When you feel comfortable with your team, and you have people who all feel comfortable with each other and know they’re valuable –that they have value in what they say –I think that breeds sharing. I think a lot of people go through their job and feel like, ‘this is my job and I don’t feel like people really appreciate it.’ When so many people feel appreciated, that even the smallest job has value, it makes people really want to go and give it everything that they have. It makes them more conscious of the big picture and I think that’s biggest thing when it comes to sharing: make people conscious of the big picture. When you don’t have any communication, it doesn’t make it enjoyable. You’re always looking over your shoulder. That’s no fun for any business owner or employee or anyone.

What’s the most important advice you’d give an entrepreneur who’s looking to make it big?

In order to make it big, you’ve got to start small. We all have big ideas and we all see where we want the business to go. But you don’t have to start out by spending a million dollars and trying to make that final product the beginning product. Start small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew until you have a grasp of what the business is, and the contacts and connections, to make sure you expand the business in the right way. One thing I see is too often, people try to get too big too fast. They don’t want to learn on a smaller scale. I see that a lot with athletes, a lot of whom are entrepreneurs; they want to be entrepreneurs but they want to do everything on such a big scale that they don’t think, OK, let’s start out small and figure out the levels of success I can have this way. And if it ends up being what they expect, then expand from there. But start small to create something big.

A friend of mine told me a long time ago, you know how to make a small fortune in the car business? Start out with a large one. And ever since he said that, I always pay attention to these businesses that people want to start, when they want to start on such a grand scale, but a lot of them have no experience in what they’re doing. Learn, learn, learn. Even if you have to go and work for someone else and learn on their dime, in the field in which you hope to start your business, do that as well.

What are some common qualities shared by a successful athlete and successful businessman or woman?

Some common qualities:hard work, focus, the ability to make others see your idea, make them become a big part of it and believe in it. I think common qualities as well from a leadership standpoint are making people feel and know their value to your team. And also, being able to make decisions. I think being able to make decisions, that you can make a decision from afar. Sometimes you’re so close to a tree that you don’t see you’re in a forest. I think a good leader always takes a step back and sees the complete picture. I think that’s what an athlete has to do. A common quality –you step back from the big moment of the game to breathe, reassess and then attack it in the right way or a different way.

You’re a busy guy. How do you balance your work and life?

I think the key thing is I’ve got a great team of people who understand me and my rhythms and my day and my schedule. So, I balance it by –I love to work –I make everything as enjoyable as possible, but I consolidate a lot of things. So, if I know I have meetings, I’ll try to consolidate as many meetings as a I can into certain days, so that then, the next day, I can have a lighter day. So for me, with everything I’m juggling, I just try to put things in a category in which I can have enough time off so I can regenerate my mind, regenerate my body. Some days I just don’t want to do anything. I want to sit on the couch after work and not worry about another thing. I make sure I have time for the small things. And don’t lose sight that even in business, you can have fun at work. But when you’re not working, enjoy your life. I love golf, I play golf. I love driving, I drive my cars. I do things that I enjoy in life and also things that motivate me to keep doing what I do.

What motivates you?

I think proving to myself I can do things I never imagined. To be in the position that I am with all of these different jobs and fields that I didn’t necessarily study or go to college for. But to be able to have success in these fields just from being curious about them, and diving in and not being afraid to fail, is awesome. But it’s also made me more adventurous to try other things without a fear of failure. I think that’s the ultimate freedom –to say hey,I’m not afraid to dive in and try something. If it doesn’t work, I don’t look at it as failure;I look at it as a learning experience and move on to the next.

Do you have your daily routine to get ready for your day?

I always look at my schedule the night before. I see what’s on it and in my head, I mentally tell myself how much energy this is going to take to get to the point in your day when you can relax. Certain days, it’s like you have to hunker down because you’ve got a long one to go. Other days, it’s like when I’m pretty much done with the morning show, I can kind of sit back, relax and kind of enjoy the rest of the day. It just depends on the day. I literally just look at my schedule and convince myself to suck it up ‘til 5 p.m. and then after that, you’re free.

Your brand is about compassion, generosity and happiness. What advice would you give to a small business owner looking for their identity?

My identity is pretty much based on my personality. I love being in a business where I don’t have to change who I am to have success. The biggest thing for me is the authenticity of your brand. If you are your brand, make it authentic. People nowadays are very smart with all of the access to everything. People see authenticity from a mile away. That’s the most important thing. Know your brand, know your brand profile –what you want people to take away from it. And then do your best to always keep yourself in line with that. Don’t let anything deter you. Don’t be deterred sometimes by money. Just always stay focused on what your brand is. Stick with that and the money will come. In due time, it will come in the right way.

Success isn’t necessarily defined by finances. Success sometimes is defined by happiness. Waking up every day and going to work and doing something you enjoy is the ultimate happiness you can have. Put yourself into it, enjoy it and make sure every day you want to wake up and go to that job and be happy and inspire the people around you. That’s really what business is all about. It’s a journey. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

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