Former Athletes-Turned-Franchisees Share Insight Into What It takes to Run a Successful Business

Opening a business on your own can seem like a pretty intimidating thing, especially when starting over after leaving a different career. That’s why for some, like these former professional athletes and coaches, the best decision to make is to join a different team: a franchise.

Below are sports stars who changed careers to become a franchisee. Check out their set playbook on how to run a successful business. Because on the field, it’s never a one man game.

Keith Smith, former NFL cornerback for the Detroit Lions

Franchise: i9 Sports

It’s hard to leave the field and when you do you, you kind of lose your identity. I tried to coach high school football, but it was too much time away from my family and took too much of my time, but working with this franchise I get to give back to the community, and it allows me to get paid, be apart of something I love and include my family.

It employs skills I learned as an athlete: accountability, organization, professionalism, dependability, time management and communication. I’m able to work and handle different situations and people. Having experienced different coaching styles, I’m able to employ my own style and deliver in a way that get kids to respond. I can help to be a guide not just on the field but in school and other aspects of life. In all likelihood, these kids won’t go pro, but I can give them the tools that will help them succeed.

Tony McGee, former NFL Cincinnati Bengals tight end and Greg Lansing, current men’s basketball coach at Indiana State University.

Franchise: Dunkin’ Donuts (currently in the process of opening a location in Indiana)

GREG: This is all still new to me. Why not get involved with someone like Tony and other guys, so I can follow their lead while stepping into new territory myself? So I decided to listen to these guys and it’s an unbelievable product, anyway. I personally really like it and frequent it whenever I can. With a great team and a passion for the product, it’s the perfect way to get involved with a franchise opportunity.

TONY: It’s important that any concept you go into that you believe in the company and the product. If you believe in it, you’ll be passionate about it, and you’ll be successful.

It’s not an easy process, but I like the product. You have to be behind it and it needs to be something you’re going to be an advocate for. You have to get your skin in the game.

The best thing you can do is rely on our background and what you’re good at. Be a good teammate, that’s what I’m going to try to do, and I know the guys I’m working with are doing the same and that’s the most important thing.

Everette Brown, former linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys

Franchise: Tropical Smoothie

The biggest thing I’ve learned is perseverance, because when you’re a franchisee and opening a franchise you’re ultimately responsible for your store. You have to have support of the franchise and be held accountable by following a blueprint already set in place.

Still, nothing comes easy. Like being an athlete, you want to go out, and you want to perform. It’s the same thing with Tropical Smoothie.It’s a long-term commitment with a long-term strategy.

For athletes considering jumping in the franchise game, Patrick Cunningham, the senior director of franchising at Dunkin Donuts, believes they could make an ideal franchisee.

“Former athletes are very disciplined and work extremely hard to develop their skills and excel at it and they’re good at following guidelines and instructions,” he says. “On top of that, they have leadership and team building skills and they’re used to performing in high stress situations and achieving high levels of success.”

Still Cunningham warns that being a franchisee isn’t for everyone -- athletic or not. To make sure this career path makes sense, he suggests doing due diligence, including speaking with franchisees, asking questions, researching the company and understanding what it takes to be successful.

“It is a long-term partnership, and you want to make sure there’s a high level of comfort going in both ways and know what each side is getting into.”