Emmitt Smith on Football, Fans and Fulfilling Dreams

Apr 28, 2014 4:34 PM  By

Emmitt Smith

Pro football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith (r) meets with Multichannel Merchant managing editor Tim Parry at Operations Summit 2014.

He owns the NFL’s career rushing record, he has three Super Bowl rings (and a “Dancing With The Stars” title), and he’s made dreams come true for hundreds of direct-to-customer businesses that needed to renegotiate warehouse leases.

With all these accomplishments, Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith may be… The Most Interesting Man in the World.

[RELATED: No Herschel Walker Comeback for Emmitt Smith]

Smith was the keynote speaker April 24 at Multichannel Merchant’s Operations Summit. But before he took the stage at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis to deliver “Goals, Dreams and Focus: Lessons from a NFL Hall of Famer,” Smith went 1-on-1 with Multichannel Merchant managing editor .

Here’s the transcript:

Tim Parry: Tell me a little about your keynote, “Goals, Dreams and Focus: Lessons from a NFL Hall of Famer.” What are the key takeaways of your session? What can operations and fulfillment executives learn from you?

Emmitt Smith: The thing I want people to truly take away is there is always room for improvement. No matter how high up the food chain you are or no matter how successful your organization may be, there are always areas of tweaking that need to take place. And we should always take the time to review, assess, and correct: those are the things I learned from sports.

Often times, when you win or you’re successful, you have the tendency to overlook some of the smaller things. Then when you have a setback, you really have a chance to look back at what was glaring once before. It may have been small, but it was glaring, and you may have missed it.

So improving upon oneself or improving on an organization, whether it’s customer service or the product or the logistical train of thought. All of those things are important to becoming a better company, a better individual, and it will catapult you to a level of success that others are striving for.

TP: Your firm, E Smith Realty Partners, has worked with several manufacturers and merchants to get better lease agreements, whether it meant staying in the same facility or moving them to a new location. What is involved in getting the best deal for your clients?

ES: Understanding the overall cost structure, their operations and things that are extremely important. Understanding their cost structure gives us the ability to go in and try to maximize the advantage for the client, whether it’s through tax increment and financing or whether it’s through incentives packages that cities or states or local government may be financing.

We also look at maximizing the client’s ability to actually have a significant impact on the local community, whether it’s jobs and things of that nature, transportation costs, everything.

Understanding our clients’ needs from top to bottom only gives us the ability to see what we can add lift, whether that’s increasing the sales, whatever that may be, I think that just strengthens our ability to work harder for them.

TP: The 2014 NFL draft is a few weeks away. If you were in Indianapolis for the scouting combine rafter than for Operations Summit, what advice would you give the next generation of stars?

ES: I would tell the next generation of players although football is your main focus – as it should be, it is your career – it’s a career opportunity and a life changing moment for you. I would say the same things as I would say in terms of economies. You have the fundamentals to be very successful because you have the discipline, the focus, the work ethic, the dream, the skill sets, and so forth. But – as my Pop Warner coach Charlie Eggert once told me – don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Learn to diversify, continue to expand your mind, and maximize the platform while you have the chance to.

That means develop the relationships in the business arenas that you need to develop. Often times, we don’t know what that is. But the quicker we can figure that out, the more we can leverage the game into helping us off the field as well as managing what we do on the football field.

I would take my offseason totally different right now. The six or seven months that I have in the offseason for training regimen would have begun at 5:30 a.m. and I would be done by 8:30 or 9 a.m. That would mean I would have a 9-to-5 job to have on the job training if I wanted to have it, or get continuing education in my areas of interest if I needed to have that. And then I would start applying those things to areas of focus, areas of investment opportunities, and taking advantage of that.

One thing I’ve learned as a professional athlete is that you will have access to things that you’ve never had access to before. More stuff than you really want to manage. Being able to see through the weeds or see through the forest and drill down to the one thing that truly gives you passion about what you want to achieve in life or to help you take it to the next life. I think you will find that football is a complimentary sport to everything else.

TP: We had a staff meeting for Operations Summit back in September, and the question was asked, “What do you think when I say the name Emmitt Smith?” More than one person in the room answered, “Dancing with the Stars.” How has “Dancing With The Stars” helped your post NFL career?

ES: “Dancing With The Stars” is just another arrow in the quiver. It’s a conversational piece. Plus it was something that allowed my personality to come out, it allowed the viewing audience the ability to see me in a different light. It’s one thing to take a person in an environment they understand completely and know how to master that piece. Now to put them in a totally different environment that is so unfamiliar, with no experience at all, and give them 17 weeks and say “you got to do this,” and watch that transformation.

I think it showed America not only a personal side of me, it showed the sensitive side of me, it showed the work ethic, and the passion I carry and exude in the things that I do, and my will to get better. I think it bridged the gap between the female viewer in the entertainment world and the male and female viewer in the sports world. But it also bridged generational gaps, because it reached all the way down to 7 and 8 year olds who never knew me as a football player, but they had family members who loved and watched “Dancing With The Stars.” So it broadened my fan base.

Dancing is something we can all connect to, whether we can dance great or not. Everybody tries to function and try to move, and that show gave me the ability to showcase my talent in many ways.

TP: Fill in the blank: “I would trade my 3 Super Bowl rings for [blank].”

ES: I would probably trade my 3 Super Bowl rings to see all my kids become successful. Not necessarily financially, but become good people, and good citizens, and be productive citizens in society. Therefore I would feel like I’d done a good job.