Here's Michael Strahan's entrepreneurial secret: Growing up, the NFL Hall of Famer never wanted to be a professional football player.
The son of a military man, Strahan had a nomadic childhood: Texas to North Carolina to Germany to Texas to Germany. So instead of focusing purely on football, he spent his younger years building the skill sets that enabled him to become one of America's most multifaceted entrepreneurs following his retirement from the gridiron in 2007. Today he's the co-founder of nine-year-old talent management agency SMAC Entertainment, which represents clients including fellow NFL Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Tony Gonzalez. He's also an award-winning television personality, designer of the NFL's new MSX fashion line, and author.
"I didn't grow up wanting to be a football player," Strahan said Friday at the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference. "I looked at life as like: Everything is open. You can be anything that you wanted. So ... after I retired, everything was still on the table for me."
Strahan's transition from NFL star to entrepreneur wasn't seamless, which made the challenge all the more worthwhile. Notably, pro football gave him one particularly valuable entrepreneurial skill: the ability to thoroughly study and prepare. "If there are any athletes who are going to watch this--or anybody in general who's known for doing one thing, but you're trying to get into another business--when you go into the room, know what your business is," he said. "Know what you're talking about. Lead the meeting."
Overpreparation can easily bleed into micromanaging. As a player, Strahan constantly worried about whether his teammates were as prepared as he was--until he eventually realized that he could lead more effectively by example, trusting his teammates to do the same. Indeed, Strahan said, hiring people he trusts and letting them do their jobs has been the key to his success at SMAC. "It was the best thing I did," he said. "Relieves a lot of stress off me, a lot of anxiety, and it made work enjoyable ... We're not bogged down by the everyday minutiae."
Strahan's other top piece of advice for entrepreneurs: Follow your instincts, especially in turbulent times and challenging environments. "I have found that trying to stick with what your gut feeling is really has been important to me and my business, and what I've been able to do," he said. "If you're trying to pivot and you think there's a chance for you to pivot, stick with it."