Tony McGee conquered the sport of football before transitioning into the business arena.
After playing tight end at The University of Michigan for four years, he was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1993, which would be the start of a successful 11-year career in the NFL.
But hanging up his cleats and retiring in 2004 did not mean fully parting from the sport. McGee has applied several strategies he picked up on the football field to running his business, HNM Global Logistics, a full service freight forwarder that he founded post-retirement.
Here are five important lessons he learned from competing at the highest level of football that help him in business today:
1. Your personnel is your most valuable asset.
“Just like in any professional organisation, it’s the people that matter,” says McGee. “The owners in the NFL think they’re the most valuable, but it’s really the players.”
As the CEO of HNM, he recognises the importance of surrounding himself with the best possible employees. “When you look at how head coaches and general managers do it, they hire great assistants. That’s the foundation of building a great team.”
2. The small stuff matters.
“The little things really make a difference,” says McGee. “In business, just as in sports, it could be a fraction, or a second, that could determine whether or not you’re successful.” Don’t underestimate the seemingly insignificant details.
3. Own you role.
“Understand your function within the organisation,” says McGee. “It’s my job to get every ounce of greatness out of each of our employees, and to do that, I have to put them in the right places. You may have a guy who’s a pretty good tight end, but he’s a great defensive end, so you have to look at your organisation and understand where someone can be the most effective.”
The ability to make those decisions or play calls are innate, says McGee. “That’s something you really can’t teach.”
4. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
A great leader, in sports and business, puts their team in the best possible position to be successful. In sports, that means providing the best trainers and facilities, the most nutritious food, and proper equipment.
“I have to make sure our team has all the tools that they need to be successful,” McGee tells us. “If my
team has nothing to worry about, they can go out and perform to the best of their ability.”
5. Don’t get cocky.
McGee distinctly remembers something that one of his coaches at Michigan once told him: “When the press writes nice things about you, punch them in the mouth, because they will make you soft.” The greatest athletes and businessmen never take anything for granted; they continually look for ways to improve and opportunities to innovate. There is a danger in feeling satisfied, McGee warns: “If you get complacent, you start losing.”
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