Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Do Entrepreneurs Have In Common With Their Fantasy Football Team

I’m sure it’s not just me, but I have been made acutely aware over the past few days that the 2012-2013 NFL season has officially begun. Not only is my husband in at least four Fantasy Football leagues (with buy-ins of $100 or more – where does this money come from?), but this is also the guy whose college DLP TV had the “ESPN” logo permanently burned into the bottom right-hand corner of the screen so that you could see it even when the TV was off. Oh, he’s also a die-hard Packers fan (sorry about the start to the season). Needless to say, I had my fair share of football over the weekend; and while I was dutifully contemplating this upcoming blog post (with Faith Hill warbling in the background), I started thinking: I wonder what connections there might be between professional football and entrepreneurship?

It turns out there are many more than I would have imagined. A simple Google search using the terms “NFL” and “entrepreneur” yields multiple “Top 10” lists of NFL players turned entrepreneurs – complete with information on how and why they ended up in their new professions and some even with specific financial information on just how successful these athletes have become off of the field (see “The NFL’s 10 Richest Entrepreneurs”). The endeavors include everything from car dealerships to restaurants and franchises, liquor stores and wineries, construction companies, technology products and services, non-profit organizations, sports and fitness-related businesses, and even an advertising and design firm (owned by Dhani Jones, an NFL linebacker, and coincidentally one of highest valued at $3 million).

I found it fascinating to read through the varied endeavors and motivations of the likes of Drew Brees, Donte Stallworth, and Daniel Wilcox, to name a few. Brees owns a Jimmy John’s franchise, and explains that it started with simply a true love for the product that began during his freshman year in college at Purdue. Wilcox owns a residential and commercial remodeling business, and notes that part of his entrepreneurial passion stemmed from the desire to be his own boss. Another noted the desire to prove that his was “more than just a football player.”

Competition was also an explanation by many of the athletes for their entrepreneurial pursuits. Rosevelt Colvin, a Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, is quoted as saying, “As an athlete, you’re always competitive. You look for another challenge to tackle, to be a part of.” Professional athletes are groomed to maintain a high level of discipline, perseverance, and focus on teamwork – all characteristics that serve entrepreneurs well (see also "The Best Entrepreneurs Are Hyper Competitive and Hate Losing" and this article on what playing sports can teach about entrepreneurship).

The NFL itself even recognizes the synergy between players of its beloved sport and entrepreneurialism. In 2005, it founded the NFL Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, which provides both current and former footballers week-long intensive courses at prestigious business schools like Harvard and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Course topics range from business plan assessment and human resource management, to property management and personal investments. According to one article, since the program’s inception, close to 700 players have undergone the program, and testimonials on the program’s website indicate that players have found it truly valuable. An article from 2008 stated that 48% of participants in the program become interested in starting a business, and since completing the program, 25% of the players have started their own businesses.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that this newfound knowledge of the NFL’s entrepreneurial spirit will make watching endless hours of football over the coming months that much more enjoyable. However, I do have a renewed sense of appreciation for the players, and their aspirations both on and off of the field. I also have an inkling that, the next time I’m watching Drew Brees throw a touchdown pass for the Saints, I may get a craving for Jimmy John’s.

I wonder if anyone in our Entrepreneurial Services Group is up for a fantasy league where we draft former and current NFL players and get points for their successes as entrepreneurs?

A Post by Karen Wenzel, Guest Blogger

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