7 Things an NFL Veteran Taught Me About Starting a Successful Business

Thinking about how to start a successful business?

Well, trial and error isn’t always the best approach.

 

As an experienced digital marketer, I always find it necessary to network with people who have seen a great deal of professional success. As much as I love to take a trial & error approach and do everything myself (then fail and adjust), I do find it helpful to learn from others on a regular basis.

 

They can sit there and tell you exactly what roadblocks they experienced in their journey, so you can avoid similar pitfalls. They can also tell you about when they’ve won, which actually removes a lot of the trial & error and saves you valuable time.

 

Most importantly – now, in future business partnerships, I am fortunate enough to have access to my own perspective, combined with the perspective of successful business owners I’ve met with. When I am able to sit with a business owner or co-founder of a company and understand what’s happening in their world, it makes it easier for me to understand where I can fit in and help them using my marketing expertise.

 

A talk with #83…

 

I was fortunate enough to speak with Vincent Jackson recently about business and marketing.

 

For those who are not from one of the cities where he caught TD passes, Vincent Jackson is a 12-year NFL Veteran wide receiver. After an All-American college football career, he was drafted in 2005 by the San Diego Chargers and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012.

 

From there, the rest is nothing short of legendary. He went on to have multiple seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards, made a lot of fantasy team owners happy (including mine a few times), was selected to three Pro Bowls, and is a 4-time ‘Man of The Year’ award Recipient.

 

Now, he lives in Tampa full-time with his wife and three kids. Vincent was recently even recognized as ‘Citizen of the Year’ by the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

 

His story is more multi-faceted than that, though.

 

Vincent Jackson is also a very active in business, and has been through all kinds of entrepreneurial ups and downs.

 

As an avid entrepreneur, Vincent owns several restaurants around the country, recently ran two Orange Theory Fitness studios. However, now he focuses the majority of his time on his passion for Real Estate & Development.

 

In 2012 he co-founded CTV Capital. As the Chief Executive Officer, Vincent is involved in acquisitions, operations, marketing and managing its companies for growth and success. His vision has been incredibly important for the expansion of the company.

 

I was just looking to pick his brain for advice on how to start a successful business, his thoughts on marketing, and a few more things. During our talk, he said something that really stuck with me.

 

So much that I took note of it and positioned this whole article around it…

 

Here it is:

“I believe it is vital to create a foundation and platform that engages your employees (or team members) to actively participate in the development of the model. Surround yourself with driven people and trust them. While being flexible and open-minded, maintain a distinct vision of your business’s end-game. When your staff has a vested interest beyond compensation, the results usually surpass your own expectations. I may not always be the smartest guy in the room, and accepting that makes me a better businessman. Listen and you will learn.”

 

The “business equivalent” of five flame emojis. 🔥

 

So many takeaways.

 

For everyone reading this, I want to examine his quote further for you. Below, I’ve noted each individual component in detail with a summary to make sure it sticks.

 

This is relevant whether you’re a current business owner, an investor, marketing professional, aspiring entrepreneur, or even somebody in the process of figuring out how to start a successful business.

 

1. Involve others in early development stages.

VJ: “I believe it is vital to create a foundation and platform that engages your employees (or team members) to actively participate in the development of the model.”

 

When an employee or partner is involved early in any process, it comes with a ton of benefits. For example, if they’re part of the development, an employee will focus their energy on problem-solving rather than simply blaming management for the state of the business. When things are collaborative from the start, everybody shares successes and everybody shares blame – creating an environment of problem solvers and creative thinkers rather than finger-pointers.

 

I hate to use the “millennial” type of example, but in today’s business world, people legitimately care and want to make a difference. If they feel they are empowered to make a difference, they will be happier with their company and its culture.

 

2. Find and build out your circle.

VJ: “Surround yourself with driven people and trust them.”

 

In any business, you need to surround yourself with the right types of employees, team members, partners, and investors. As Vincent mentioned, they need to be driven people, and they need to be trusted. To find a the right people, look for people who dream big, have positive attitudes, ask a lot of questions, have skills, and well – you like them.

 

You have to be able to trust their decisions and get along with them easily. This will enable things to get done and will allow you as the business owner to take a step back and focus on future successes rather than being super involved in the day-to-day operations.

 

3. Having clear focus on the end goal.

VJ: “While being flexible and open-minded, maintain a distinct vision of your business’s end-game.”

 

Make sure you develop some sort of framework around what your business is and what it stands for. Have some sort of mission statement, core values, or set of beliefs. This gives you something to guide your decisions. You can ask yourself through every decision – “does this align with my mission?” and it will make things cohesive.

 

After that, you need to stick to the plan. Make every decision point to that end vision. Successful business owners master the ability to balance flexibility and open-mindedness with a clear vision. You need to know exactly what you want to achieve as the end goal, but be willing to change the methods you use to get there along the way.

 

4. Making a team passionate, beyond money.

VJ: “When your staff has a vested interest beyond compensation, the results usually surpass your own expectations.”

 

Everybody loves a big paycheck, but to have a passionate employee, there has to be more behind it than just money. This is key for figuring out how to start a successful business. Everybody can always leave and find more money elsewhere so they need a reason to stick around. Creating a passionate company culture is all about establishing strong connections through recognition, training, development, and relationships. The company also needs a vision that everybody can rally around and feel strongly about.

 

When this happens, as Vincent said, the results will usually surpass your own expectations. It’s interesting to hear that from a business owner’s standpoint because it proves (for any non-believers out there) that a happy company culture results in tangible, successful results. Your employees are even more essential to your success than your product or service itself. So keep people interested. Keep them believing in you. Keep them believing in the company.

 

5. Always having self-awareness.

VJ: “I may not always be the smartest guy in the room, and accepting that makes me a better businessman.”

 

This was the most important thing I took away. I wrote about the importance of self-awareness previously in another article – and Vincent basically validated my beliefs. In business, you have to know what you know, and more importantly, know what you don’t know. You are not always going to be the expert.

 

If you don’t know about digital marketing or the skills involved in marketing, don’t make decisions about it. Don’t have a random thought or belief that Facebook Ads don’t work if you’ve never used the platform. Don’t rule out the power of a good blog if you’ve never had one. Don’t act like SEO and Content Marketing is a huge hoax if you’ve never implemented it. If you just have a “hunch” that Google AdWords is a waste of money but have never ran a campaign, you’re wrong by default because you’ve never tried it.

 

The solution to this way of thinking is to hire the right people. Put the right minds in the right areas of your business and take a step back. Trust their expertise and don’t be stubborn. That’s why you don’t work with people who you won’t trust to begin with.

 

6. Being willing to listen.

VJ: “Listen, and you will learn.”

 

Listen to consumers. Listen to your employees. Listen to your competition. Listen to industry leaders. Listen to online reviews. Listen to social media conversations. Always listen. And I mean really listen – not wait for somebody to stop talking to you can react with your own opinion. In business, learning to actively listen will put you in a position of success.

 

The market isn’t wrong. It never is. You might think that you can change their perceptions, but they like what they like, and they don’t like what they don’t like. That’s how it will always play out. Same with your employees. They aren’t wrong. People don’t just feel something for no reason. If somebody is feeling negatively, it’s not up to you to criticize the fact that they feel negatively. It’s up to you to fix it and adjust.

 

Listening will put you ahead, because surprisingly, not everybody knows how.

 

One more (that wasn’t exactly quoted)…

 

7. Give back.

 

In his business advice, Vincent never directly told me to focus on giving back. However, it is apparent through his actions in the Tampa community that it is important. Once you’ve reached a certain level of success, or even before you reach that level, always be willing to give back. It’s even more special if it ties back to where or what you came from.

 

Vincent specifically provides service to military families and their children through his Jackson In Action 83 Foundation. As a child of military serving parents, he moved around quite a bit during his childhood before achieving success in sports and business. Now, he gives back by helping others realize they can get somewhere in life despite their situation.

 

He is not only helping businesses grow in Tampa – he’s helping the youth grow and helping them realize their dreams are attainable.

 

jackson-foundation

 

Karma is completely real and it always comes back around. I urge everybody to give something this week, even if it’s as simple as buying somebody a pumpkin coffee in the drive thru at Dunkin Donuts. It will come back around in an incredible way, bigger than you could have imagined.

 

In summary…

 

I hope Vincent’s advice on how to start a successful business was helpful in showing you the importance of building a team, being a passionate leader, having self-awareness, and giving. The key is to get others involved and make them feel empowered and entirely part of the process so that they are living, breathing advocates of you and your company. This will naturally trickle down to the consumer and everybody will have a good experience.

 

For those still perfecting their skills and creating a path for themselves, I also hope this article motivates you to connect with business leaders in your local area. Outside of doing the actual work and learning, there is nothing more valuable than connecting with others.

 

As always, feel free to share this article or comment below if you have any feedback for me.

 

 

 

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About The Author

Jake Kurtz

I'm a digital marketing professional based in the Sunshine State, specifically Tampa. I write about marketing, careers, self-improvement, productivity, and more.

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