From the NFL Locker Room to the Boardroom
There is a long list of professional athletes who have purchased a franchise business. However, there is only one who actually started a franchise from scratch. That is Tafa Jefferson, former offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears.
During my recent conversation with the former NFL player he asked me, “Tom, do you know what NFL stands for?” Naturally, to show how smart I am, I shot back, “National Football League.” He said, “nope, NFL stands for Not For Long!”
Many NFL careers are ended early due to injury, and Jefferson’s career was no different. It ended when he suffered unsustainable ankle damage, and he was relieved of his position even sooner than he expected. But his preparation in school allowed him to not miss a beat.
In college, Jefferson understood football was just a means to an end. The young athlete recognized that being a professional football player is short lived, regardless of your age. It’s just too hard on the body to play for 20 years. He knew that someday he would need a plan B.
So, while in school, he learned all he could about business and entrepreneurship. Jefferson had a passion for entrepreneurship because of his father’s influence. Jefferson Sr. was an entrepreneur and didn’t rely on anyone to make a living -- he made his own living. That’s where the younger Jefferson learned “hustle.” Another business inspiration for Jefferson was his mom. She was a caregiver, and he saw the satisfaction she got from providing that service to people in need.
With a business degree and the life experiences he had growing up with his parents, Jefferson started an in-home healthcare business within months of leaving the NFL.
Jefferson’s company, Amada Senior Care, is a national franchise that provides in-home care to seniors to help them age at home. He said he is grooming his franchise partners to be the “navy seals” of senior care. He is looking for talented, hard-working men and woman who are not afraid of doing great work. One of the tenants of Amada Care is to be confidently humble.
“Business is a contact sport, much like football,” Jefferson said. “You must be confidant, show up to do your best every day, or otherwise, the competitor will eat you alive.”
He added that humility is a key core value of his company. Jefferson says he and his franchise owners are honored and grateful to be able to give this type of care to individuals and families of folks who need the help at home. And, living a life in service of others helps his employees do well in their own lives.
His father always told him “You must treat your business like a farm. You can’t be afraid of rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty. A farmer has to prep the land and get rid of tree stumps and rocks. It’s hard work to get started. but it must be done. Without preparation, nothing will grow, including a new business. Once the ground is ready, then plant the seeds. Keep nurturing the farm every day and tend to the crops. Don’t miss a day. Just like in business, it’s all about consistency. Before you can harvest the fruits and vegetables, you must be patient, very patient.”
Jefferson continued: “People these days are too much in a hurry to get results. Anything that has any value comes with time and patience -- especially in business. The key to success in business or sports is to be prepared and then practice, practice, and then practice some more. When your number is called, you must be ready to stand up and play your position to the best of your ability.”
To be the best at something takes some sacrifice. Famed basketball coach Bobby Knight said, “Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.” Jefferson said his favorite quote is from the late Muhammad Ali, who said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Jefferson’s football training was not wasted. He believes that owning a business requires some of the same attributes as playing pro football. The 10-year franchise veteran says that the five lessons taken from football and applied in business are:
1. Be coachable.
Be someone who likes to engage people and have a sales talent, perhaps. Jefferson loves people who have failed at something. Those people are now coachable. A great franchisee or business owner, for that matter, must be open to being coached.
Business owners, like professional football players, need to have heart. In any business, the owner needs to have empathy for the customer. How else can you anticipate their needs?
Tenacity is the willingness to hustle and get it done. You must be a peak performer and in top shape to be a winner in your game with the stamina to finish strong.
People who are teammates will push each other to do well. People who are committed to the good fight of building a brand will always help each other when the going gets rough -- someone who is willing to “stay in the pocket” when the rush is on.
Strategy is paramount. Your competitors can’t know what your plays are. Your plays are the only differentiator for your business. They are the secret sauce of your company.
Related: 9 Ways to Profit From Your Passion
The most important piece of advice Jefferson offers to people who are starting a business or buying into a franchise is to look for something that will be sustainable. “Look at our business," Jefferson said. "I picked serving baby boomers because I knew there would be a silver tsunami, and I want to be well-positioned when it comes ashore.”
He added, “If it’s all about money for you, then your business will suffer. You have to put passion first. You need to work like heck to fulfill your passion and the money will follow.”