How Michael Strahan’s NFL Profession Helped Him Turn into a Savvy Enterprise Chief

Here’s Michael Strahan’s business secret: When he was growing up, the NFL Hall of Famer never wanted to be a professional soccer player.

As the son of a military man, Strahan had a nomadic childhood: Texas to North Carolina to Germany to Texas to Germany. Rather than just focusing on football, he built the skills in his younger years that enabled him to become one of America’s most diverse entrepreneurs after retiring from the grid in 2007. Today he is the co-founder of the nine-year talent management agency SMAC Entertainment as well as an award-winning television personality, designer and author.

“I didn’t grow up wanting to be a soccer player,” Strahan said Friday at the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference. “I looked at life like this: Everything is open. You can be anything you want. So … after I retired, everything was still on the table for me.”

Strahan’s transition from NFL star to entrepreneur didn’t go smoothly, which made the challenge all the more rewarding. Professional football in particular gave him a particularly valuable entrepreneurial skill: the ability to study thoroughly and prepare. “If there are athletes who are going to see this – or someone in general who is known for doing one thing but trying to get into another business – when you walk in the room you know what your business is.” is, “he said. “You know what you’re talking about. Run the meeting.”

Over-preparation can easily lead to micromanagement. As a player, Strahan was constantly concerned about whether his teammates were as prepared as he was – until he finally realized he could lead by example more effectively and trusted his teammates to do the same. In fact, Strahan said, key to his success at SMAC was hiring people he trusted and let them do their jobs. “It was the best I did,” he said. “Relieves me of a lot of stress, a lot of fear and made my work pleasant … We are not bogged down by the everyday little things.”

Strahan’s other top advice for entrepreneurs: follow your instincts, especially in turbulent times and challenging environments. “I realized that it was important to me and my company to stick to what your gut feeling really is and what I could do,” he said. “If you try to pan and think you have a chance to pan, stick with it.”

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