5 Lessons I've Learned

By Gene Chizik

There are a lot of similarities in football and business. Pursuing a strong vision, recruiting the right talent and creating a team culture can help football teams and businesses alike be successful.

Just like I learned what to do and what not to do in coaching from experience, I have learned some valuable lessons in running my businesses, which range from restaurants to commercial properties.

Below are 5 lessons I’ve learned in business, and I hope they help you.


#1 Be willing to take risks

It goes without saying that you have to be smart with investments, especially in a business world you are not an “expert” in. The trap is we too often let fear of the unknown keep us from jumping into opportunities.

My experience has been if you do your research, talk to other knowledgeable people and trust your instincts, you will make good decisions. If an opportunity looks attractive and you have vetted it out, don’t let fear of failure keep you on the sidelines. You might regret it.


#2 Avoid knee-jerk reactions

In the restaurant business, you face challenges every day no matter how good your staff might be. In a primarily pressure-packed environment, it would be easy to overreact when things go wrong, or someone makes a mistake. When you lose your cool as a manager, it usually doesn’t end well…and the problem that caused the outburst is not likely to get solved.

When things go wrong, I’ve learned to process the negative information, consider what to do, and then take action to resolve the problem when I’m in a calmer, clearer state of mind.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to act when your emotions are high. If you take time to collect yourself and come up with a reasonable plan of action, you will fix the problem AND maintain the respect and trust of your employees. The trust of your employees is paramount!


#3 Find great mentors

If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s imperative to have good mentors. I recently went through a challenging process of finding the right tenants and crafting the right contract to protect my commercial real estate interests.

I didn’t have a lot of experience in this area, so I sought help from several mentors with vast knowledge of the subject. They walked me through the critical items in negotiating the contract. It was invaluable advice. Have the humility to admit you aren’t an expert in everything. Find a mentor to help!


#4 Be humble or be humbled

“Be humble or be humbled.” That is one of my favorite phrases, and I always use it with my children. When I go somewhere to talk about football, I’m an expert. I’m also humble enough to know I am not an expert in every area of business. That is why I seek out the wisdom of others with more experience.

The bottom line? Leave your ego at the door, or you’ll get yourself in trouble. In business, so much is coming at you, you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s usually the main problem. My goal is to become the same expert in business that I was in football. I’m humble enough to know it will take a lot of hard work and experience you can only get by actually doing it. Remember this: you are never too old or experienced to learn!


#5 Don’t be “dumb tough”

We like to think we have all the answers. In football, I liked to tell my players not to be “dumb tough.” Persevering when we face obstacles is one thing. Being stubborn and failing to recognize or admit a mistake has been made is another thing. Their mistakes can send you into a tailspin that you can’t recover from.

It’s okay to make a mistake as long as you recognize it, fix it and never make it again.  Just don’t be dumb tough!


If you have a lesson you’ve learned, share it at the end of this article. The more we learn from each other, the better off we’ll be.

Margaret Stewart