This is strange. "The Staubach Company," reads the motto in the brochure, "Where Real Success Is Earned." Right. But how else, if not by earning it, does a company become a real success?
Roger Staubach could tell you. That's Roger T. Staubach, former (1969-80) quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, one of the most resourceful field captains in the history of football. And, yes, one of the most successful. The Cowboys' all-time leading passer, he marshaled them four times to the Super Bowl (two times to victory) and set four Super Bowl records for himself: most touch-down passes (8), most yards passing (734), most attempts passing (98), and most completions (61).
With a career like that, he might as well have hit oil. What unearned success?
He won't tell you himself, not in so many words, but around the office of The Staubach Co. they talk about "the infamous Rolaids commercials." That is what chief financial officer Jim Leslie calls them, the advertisements that came out in 1981 when it seemed as if Roger Staubach was on every radio station and television channel in the country, spelling out relief, one idiotic letter at a time, for all those folks who suffered from gas.
That was easy success -- easy money at any rate.
Sports heroes are a bit like rich kids: They get to the tops of their heaps through inheritance. They don't really earn it; it came with the genes, a gift. They've got to take care of it, discipline it, grind it down to something useful. Otherwise, like a rich kid's capital, it is a wasting asset.An athlete's body is a wasting asset anyway -- but this only means that he or she is all the more tempted to cash in on its market value in the quickest, easiest ways that come alone. Like endorsing a cure for painful gaseous buildup in the digestive tract.
"Rog took a lot of ribbing on that one," says Leslie, a native Nebraskan who left Coopers & Lybrand in 1982 to join The Staubach Co. He may also have learned a lesson about earnings -- that it is folly to let Sunday's hero do the work for the weekday's businessman. At any rate, 1982 was the year that Rog got "real serious" about the business.
The business, founded with a partner in 1977, is commercial real estate, mostly the tenant-service end -- leasing and brokerage. And soon after Staubach got serious about it, revenues began climbing. In June 1983, they were $1.05 million. By the following June, they had more than doubled to $2.8 million. In June 1985, they had almost doubled again to $5.4 million. Profitability in 1984 was in excess of 20%; this year, says Leslie, it is still as strong. The business grew in personnel, too. The year of the Rolaids commercials, there were 20 people working at The Staubach Co.; today there are 120.
So that was a real success -- earned, too -- especially considering that real estate was hardly the quarterback's second great vocation. He had sort of wandered into it. In 1969, recently discharged from a tour of duty with the Navy in Vietnam, more recently recruited by the Dallas Cowboys, Staubach had been looking for something to do in the off-season. A friend of his happened to be in town -- the same man, in fact, who had recruited him for the Naval Academy -- and he suggested that Staubach sell insurance for Henry S. Miller Co.
"I wasn't really interested in selling insurance," says Staubach today, very plausibly. He doesn't look like a man who would be interested in selling insurance. He looks like a cowboy, not the football sort, the Marlboro: lean and leathery. "But they promised to send me to sales school, and since all I had from the Naval Academy" -- he means besides the Heisman Trophy and seven varsity letters -- "was an engineering degree, I figured it was a pretty good deal. So I went for it."
"Yeah, you know: where you learn to make appointments." He mimics a salesman on a cold call. "You can't see me at 2 o'clock, huh? Well, what about 2:45? No good? OK, let's say 4 o'clock. . . . No? Tomorrow at 7:30?" His perfectly weather-beaten face creases in an easy grin. "Sales school," he says.
Staubach sold a good deal of insurance, not liking it much, but grateful (now) for the experience. It introduced him to real estate, the main business of Henry S. Miller Co. "They didn't want an athlete selling real estate, for some reason," he recalls. "But I persuaded them to let me give it a try." Soon Staubach was chalking up new sorts of stats. "I remember the first building I ever sold. It was in 1971, an apartment building in Tyler, Tex., and after that I was always one of the top producers down there."
In 1977, he and an associate at Henry S. Miller, Robert Holloway Jr., broke away and set up their own business, The Holloway Staubach Corp. Dallas was growing fabulously by any measure: The population had increased by nearly 22,000 from 1977 to '80, and more than 23,000 new housing units were completed in 1977 and 1978. Real estate operators were making millions on the boom, especially on the glamour side of things -- development. In fact, The Staubach Co.'s offices are in an elegant blackglass box, part of a five-building office complex that Staubach and Holloway co-developed on the LBJ Freeway.
But the glamour side of the business is also the high-risk side, and it didn't appeal to Staubach -- or not as much as it did to Holloway. And so, as part of 1982's "getting real serious" program, Stauback bought out his partner and took responsibility for the company. He wanted to concentrate on the safer aspects of the business, leasing and brokering office space for tenants. Today, those two units account for 85% of company revenues (with syndication adding another 8% and property management 7%).
This conservatism of Staubach the businessman is something of a puzzle to admirers of Staubach the quarterback. There's very little of the one in the other. From the decor of the office reception area, for instance, you would hardly know that the owner of the place can claim former glories: There's just a small bronze statue, off in a corner, of a man throwing a pass. For the knowledgeable, a legend is inscribed on the base: "The Hail Mary -- Never Give Up." But otherwise, the atmosphere is staid old Boston, with somber wood paneling and prints of tall ships and antique maps.
Where is the Cowboy? Where is the Cowboy Capitalist? Fans remember the quarterback as almost recklessly brave. When the pocket that was meant to protect him collapsed, the passer of Hail Marys never fell to his knees but scrambled for the extra yardage, oblivious of the risk. "I was a runner," he says of his playing style, speaking disinterestedly as if about some acquaintance. "Even as a child, I wasn't afraid of anything. One thing was, I was never accident-prone like some guys. And, well, I disdained losing, that's for sure." He shrugs: "I was a runner. If I could get a first down by running, I would."
He has people like that working for him: Bob Breunig, for example, the Cowboy's great middle line-backer who was Staubach's on-the-road roommate, is now his executive vice-president. There is a spooky serenity about Breunig (men of great physical prowess can be like that), but there is also a competitive glint in his eyes. This is a man who worried, even while he was Dallas's darling, that his college contemporaries were already getting ahead of him in business. Now Breunig is in charge of Staubach's development interests -- a separate entity called SBC Development Corp., of which Staubach owns one third. Last year, SBC had about $22 million in sales (at a cost of sales of about $20 million), which isn't bad, considering the conservatism of the boss. Nevertheless, Breunig would like to do more development, a lot more.
He will have to wait. "I think the market is telling us to be careful," says Staubach the businessman. "Some real estate companies around here, they can't give you rhyme or reason for doing what they do; they just think they can make money as it. In this town we think there's a need for someone to represent the tenants, and that's where we've been putting our major efforts. I'm not against development; I just don't want us to get way out ahead of ourselves."
Staubach is aware, even slightly amused, that the businessman isn't as brave as the quarterback. "There's a paradox in me, between the way I played and the way I am off the field. Some people say they'd hardly know it was the same person."
Leslie's resolution of the paradox is that Staubach is loath to take risks with the jobs and careers of his employees. "He feels an almost fiduciary responsibility toward the people here," says Leslie. "It makes him real cautious." That may be part of it. Another part may be that he hasn't moved so far from football as it might appear: He has just changed roles -- from quarterback to coach. Staubach credits Cowboys head coach Tom Landry with teaching him much of what he knows about management. He had other models -- Captain Hughes, for instance, under whom he served in the Navy. But Landry ("he was trained," Staubach points out, "as an industrial engineer") had a businesslike approach to football, organizing the team into profit centers, so to speak, then managing by objectives, which was an inspiration to his former quarterback. Coaches don't scramble, don't take desperate dives into the line; they mind their x's and o's -- planning, preparing, practicing. Management is just that; managers have to leave the heroics to the quarterbacks. "We will expand into the development field," says Tom Landry's prize pupil, "but only when we're ready."
It remains to be seen, however, whether business success -- even when "real," even when "earned" -- can bring Roger Staubach the sort of satisfaction he got out of life as a quarterback. There's something missing in coaching-managing -- an element of personal struggle, perhaps, in which the player dares everything for a triumph. Which is why, undoubtedly, conversations with Staubach usually turn to politics. He is up-front about his interest in politics. "When the children are taken care of," he laughs a little ruefully," and when my wife is ready for it." He is also straightforward about his brand of politics. "Conservative but not ultra: I'm totally opposed to anything ultra, conservative or liberal." When he spoke at the Republican National Convention last year, introducing Nancy Reagan, he came away thinking that the quality of of the cheering was a bit contrived compared with what he was used to. But he wouldn't be in it for the cheering. It would be the competition, a new standard of real success to be earned, on his own. "Politics," says Roger Staubach, almost reverentially, "now that's a tough, tough ball game."