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Broncos Legend Terrell Davis is All Business Now

Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Davis offered a series of business tips at Denver Broncos Business Huddle


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As the keynote speaker at the second annual gathering dubbed the Denver Broncos Business Huddle, Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Davis sounded like a guy on a mission to make the business hall of fame.

It was evident that Davis is not just an ex-player resting on past athletic laurels. His business ventures include hotels, restaurants, a Denver-based real estate company, affordable housing and a line of signature barbeque sauce. Budding billionaire Magic Johnson is a mentor, and Davis regularly seeks advice from the basketball legend-turned -business mogul.

But Davis told the business audience inside the executive concourse of Mile High Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 1 that he had early failures in business after his football career ended, and he’s thankful he failed early and was able to learn from it.

Here are some of the business tips Davis offered:

  • Live life on offense. “You’ve got to think different than everyone else. Develop a glass half-full mentality,” Davis said. “On offense, you’re trying to move the ball, put points on the board. You’re not reactive, you’re proactive.”

Davis shared a pivotal moment in his life, Oct. 15, 1994. He was a senior at the University of Georgia, sitting in the stands at a Georgia Bulldogs football game, out with an injured hamstring, eating popcorn and watching his team play Vanderbilt. He’d missed the previous five games; four games remained in the season.

“I realized those might be the last four games I’d ever play,” he told the audience. “I had a ‘rebirth moment.’ Had I given my best? No. That scared the hell out of me. I was just existing. How many of us are just existing? Be honest. From that day forward, my mental approach shifted. I had hated going to practice, I’d hated going to school. There wasn’t an immediate shift (in behavior), but the mental change was immediate – viewing the glass half-full.”

Davis continued. “I want you to think about that. Visualize your success. My rookie year, I visualized the Super Bowl Trophy and a Super Bowl ring.” With that Davis fumbled for something in his pocket. “Where’s my ring?” He didn’t have one of his Super Bowl rings, apparently. Instead he pulled out his Hall of Fame ring.

Other tips from Davis:

  • Visualization: “That has to be embedded in your brain every day,” Davis said.
  • Motivation: “That’s the gasoline that’s going to fuel you every time you want to quit.”
  • “Be true to the game, and the game will be true to you,” Davis said, quoting Michael Jordan. “And that’s in business, too. Self-reflect and be honest.”
  • “You play to win the game. Hello!” Davis said, as the famous clip of former Jets Coach Herm Edwards uttering that statement played on the screen overhead. “What I love about that is, it’s true,” Davis said. “Why are we in business? To win and make money.”
  • Huddle. “In football, I used to think we’d meet entirely too long. But I understand why. That’s often missing in business; you don’t huddle enough. I love to huddle. I huddle all the time. There’s no ideas formed if you don’t meet and huddle. I prefer to meet too long than too short, to gain too much information rather than too little.”
  • You must be coachable. “As much as I know about football, I still need to listen to and learn from people who know more. If you think you know it all, you shut people out.”
  • Eat your broccoli. “I hate brocoli, but I eat it because it’s good for me,” Davis said. “Think about things in your business you hate doing but you’ve got to do. Do it first thing in the morning. I hated lifting weights. I didn’t lift my first weights until I was a sophomore in college.”
  • Throw out the excuses. “One thing I loved about football is that there are no excuses. There’s a no-excuses policy that’s demanded of players. Just think if you made no excuses, how much you could get done.”
  • Best marketer wins. “It used to be you couldn’t compete with the giants,” Davis said. “That’s not the case anymore.” He then showed on the overhead screen the logos of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, podcasts and blogs, and asked, “How many of you are taking advantage of these platforms? Because I played football (before the publicly accessible internet), I had some brand equity. Now people can do crazy videos and they have 8 million followers. Use your creativity.”
  • (Learn) how to manage people. “Football players make more than their coaches, but I’ve seen real good coaches able to manage players because they have their respect,” Davis said. “There’s something valuable about telling employees they’re part of a team. I try not to use the word ‘employee.’ I’m their counselor, their dad, their bank. I learned some of the best lessons from coaches I played for. Mike Shanahan was one of the best. How do you get someone to listen to you when they make more money than you , and you didn’t hire them? My coaches were teachers.”
  • Take emotions out of business decisions. “A lot of times emotions drive decisions,” Davis said. He related how at a real estate auction he’d attended, one of the bidders got so caught up in outbidding some competitors that he overbid by $200,000 the amount he’d planned to spend.
  • Anticipate change. “In football,” Davis said, “change is constant.”
  • Players out of position can cost you big time. “Managers who shouldn’t be managers, bosses who shouldn’t be bosses. To me, that’s playing out of position,“ Davis said.
  • Failure is a part of success. “We lost to Jacksonville (in the playoffs),” Davis related. “It was the most devastating day of my life. But we took that and were driven by it. And to tell you the truth, if we hadn’t lost that game, I don’t know if we win those next two Super Bowls. A setback is a setup for a step forward.”
  • You must be willing to take chances. “I’m here because I took chances,” Davis said.
  • Copy the habits of successful people. “Mimic and model yourself after them.
  • ”Embrace an active lifestyle,“ said Davis, who’s fit appearance moved emcee Ed McCaffrey to remark that Davis looked like he could still play. “There’s a connection: mind-body-spirit,” Davis said.    
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Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor is the editor of ColoradoBiz magazine. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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