How Small Business Owners Can Be Positive Influences on Their Teams – Gary Brackett, Super Bowl Champion

From the spotlight of the gridiron to the spotlight of stages across the country, Gary Brackett has found tremendous success throughout his career. Brackett played linebacker for the 2007 Super Bowl Champion team, the Indianapolis Colts. He was a captain for the team alongside NFL legendary quarterback, Peyton Manning. After retiring, Brackett opened a series of restaurants throughout the Indianapolis area and wrote the book, “Winning: From Walk-On to Captain in Football and Life.”

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for tuning into today’s show. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick, and I am joined by a special guest, Mr. Gary Brackett, who is a super bowl champion, entrepreneur and sought-after speaker. Gary, thank you so much for joining us here on the show.

Gary Brackett:
Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So I should also add that you wrote a phenomenal book called Winning, From Walk-On to Captain in Football and in Life. So congratulations to all of your success. I would imagine that COVID has put a little bit of a damper on your speaking right now, right?

Gary Brackett:
Yeah. No question. I think obviously no one had COVID in their 2020 plans, so the speaking industry definitely took a hit. But you have to be able to pivot, so more opportunities online doing workshops and really doing one-on-one coaching is really what we transitioned to.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s great. That’s phenomenal, which is something I want to talk to you about today. So there’s a lot of leaders out there that are shaking off 2020 in their businesses, and they’re saying, “Oh, how do I get re-energized about 2021?” Some of them are still financially challenged in keeping things together and also keeping their troops motivated, their team members. And I know that’s something that you know a little something about and something that you speak to. So I’m going to let you pick it up from there. How do people come back, business people come back from times like COVID has shown us in 2020?

Gary Brackett:
Yeah. I think, for me personally, heading into the year, I had 10 restaurants, I had seven franchisees, really on the cusp of exploding in the restaurant industry. But then with the cancellation of sports, with the cancellation of restaurants really, for awhile, we went to just delivery only, none of those models proved viable for me. So really just taking a hard look, and I had to make a difficult choice to really transition. So transition out of the restaurant game by shutting down all the stores. We weren’t going to be financial viable. And just figuring out something else.

Gary Brackett:
And I think, for those members that are struggling, I would tell them that whatever business they are, whatever relationship or thing, don’t attach your identity to that. If your identity is attached to yourself, your own personal values, your own personal work ethic, there’s nothing that you can’t overcome. A lot of times, I tell people that you survived 100% of your bad days. So if 2020 was the worst for you, you survived it. Now that you survived, you have to be intentional and purposeful about how you design your life moving forward.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, for sure. And it’s so important to keep that enthusiasm, isn’t it, through difficult times like this? Because that’s the one thing that’s going to get you up in the morning and get you out and get you headed in a new direction, right?

Gary Brackett:
Yeah. No question. When I played nine years in the NFL, I was a captain on the team for six of those years with Peyton Manning. And I’ve always felt like, and I got taught this young in my career, the speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack. So those are the managers, those are CEOs. You could feel a certain type of way, but inside your organization, people are mimicking or mirroring your energy. So it’s so important as a leader to really have that positive mindset, that motivation, that inspiration, because your troops are looking at you.

Gary Brackett:
So figuring out, for yourself, how do you heal? And then how do you go out and lead others by always looking at opportunities, always looking at the bright side, using losses as opportunities to learn? And if you do that, you can transition and pivot. Even though there’s losses, there’s still a ton of opportunities out there in the marketplace. So now you just have to be smart enough to be able to attack those.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. That’s a good point. You just touched on something that’s very important to note, that there are a whole new group of opportunities due to COVID that can be good businesses to get into, right?

Gary Brackett:
Yeah. No question. And not only that, I think the workforce and how we engage in the workforce and how we allow our employees, some of them that don’t necessarily need to be in the office, how can we be flexible and build job descriptions and job titles that could be more appealing to people to want to come work for us? No longer, in my opinion, do you have to be relegated to your own demographic, your own area code, to hire. If someone’s going to work online, if someone’s going to work from home, they can work from wherever. Well, you just improved tenfold your availability of talent. So just being creative about how you’re bringing on job descriptions and how you’re communicating with your internal SOPs and how you can utilize now this new world that we’re in to your benefit.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right. And I know you know something a little bit about loss and having to come back from it. I read here from my producer that says that you lost your mother, your father and your brother in a 17-month period of time. That’s got to be tough to come back from, right?

Gary Brackett:
No, absolutely. That happened my first and second year in my NFL career. And it’s crazy because I think this is my new leash on life, if you will, is, man, tomorrow’s not promised. For me, those three individuals. But if you look at just COVID, how it affected, how many millions of people have lost their lives since 2020. So that dream, that purpose or that thing that you’re waiting on, stop waiting. If that doesn’t tell you now is the time to really fulfill some of those dreams that you have, man, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. You’ve got to start getting after it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. Your book, The Walk-On to Captain, that’s an amazing feat in and of itself. Talk to us about what you look for and what CEOs should look for in the way of characteristics when hiring leaders for companies.

Gary Brackett:
I think the most important part is understanding your own company’s vision. So after I transitioned, I actually went and got an EOS implementation. I don’t know if you’ve read the book Traction by Gino Wickman. EOS is the operating systems that a lot of companies operate in. And really having a vision for your organization, knowing your core values, knowing your core focus, that allows you to, when you come in and when you’re attracting people inside your organization, they can self-select. They can look at what’s already existing and figure out whether or not they want to be part of that team or not. And I think by first looking at internal and making sure your internal house is in order, then you could go out, and then you look attractive. There’s one thing to go out there and think you’re going to find someone attractive, but they also want to go somewhere that’s attractive. So people have options.

Gary Brackett:
So you also have to make sure that you’re taking care of your end of the bargain by controlling your controllables inside your organization, making sure everyone’s communicating effectively. And at that point, when you do find that person with energy, that person with the, we call it GWC, they get it, they want it, they have the capability, well then, they’re going to go into the organization, and you’re going to have responsibilities due to them. They’re going to have accountability, and they’re going to be excited because they’re in a place where they can add value and they can contribute.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, for sure. And I love that, GWC. That’s phenomenal. That’s a great way to do that. Let me ask you this, in terms of some of the questions that we get into the show, people will ask often, “What do you do with that star salesperson, that top producer, that blows all the other people away in terms of how they perform and such, but they don’t go to meetings, they don’t adhere to the rules, they come and go as they want, and sometimes they can be a bad Apple, or I should say a bad example, to all of the other employees?” How do you deal with that? How does the NFL deal with somebody like that?

Gary Brackett:
It depends on what team you’re on. If you’re Oakland, you keep him, and he tears up your whole company’s organization or structure. I think most people in that sales role that are on fire, there’s a reason behind it. There is something that they’re doing. So one, figuring out what they’re doing and trying to figure out how you can then clone that, how you can develop best practices by what it is this salesperson is doing. Because if they’re successful, they’re probably using some sort of system. So can we figure out what system they’re using and then communicate that across our organization?

Gary Brackett:
Two, I think managing expectations is something that CEOs and managers don’t do a good enough job at. I’m not for equal or fairness. It’s equity. What’s good for one person isn’t necessarily not good for another person, but that salesperson, we’re going to have a conversation. I’m going to talk to them and say, “Hey, look, I love what you’re doing. You’re knocking it out of the park. You’re getting compensated for it. But at the same time, people are looking at you, and these are the areas that I need you to clean up on. So can we communicate exactly what I need from you as far as my expectations? And I want you to meet those?”

Gary Brackett:
And so for me, as a CEO, I’ve never fired anyone in my life. I set expectations, and if you didn’t meet them, you self-selected. You didn’t want the job. I didn’t fire you. You fired yourself.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. You’re just setting up the framework for them to either succeed or fail. And to your point, you never fired anybody because they made the call on themselves, one way or the other.

Gary Brackett:
That’s exactly right. But then as a CEO, you can live with that because like, “Hey, I didn’t lose a guy. A guy, he didn’t want to be there, and he wasn’t great for the team.” And one thing Coach Dungy was adamant about was, “I don’t want the 53 best players. I want the 53 best team.” 53 members are on your team. So you can have the great players, but they’re not going to play team ball, you can’t win with individual mercenaries. It doesn’t set good company culture, so you’ve got to get rid of them. But then I believe wholeheartedly in addition by subtraction. Sometimes when we subtract some of those things from our business, everyone else can pick up the ball and run with it. And it really adds to everyone else.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, for sure. The old adage, you’ve got to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back of the jersey, right?

Gary Brackett:
That’s exactly right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Well, I want to thank you, Gary Brackett, super bowl champion, entrepreneur, a much sought-after speaker, for joining us here on the show today. This has been fantastic. I know our visitors, I should say our viewers, will get a lot out of your visit today. So thank you so much.

Gary Brackett:
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks.


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