On June 8, 2017, I interviewed NFL Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl Champion Emmitt Smith (click here to watch the full interview).
After building a legacy on the gridiron, he retired and is now building a real estate empire through investing and development.
For this exclusive interview, Emmitt answered 5 questions that were submitted by the Best Ever listeners.
Question #1 – What is your Best Real Estate Investing Advice ever?
“One of the simplest forms of investing advices I’ve ever received came from Jerry Jones himself. He told me years ago, he said “Emmitt, have a big front door and a small back door.” A big front door and a small back door. Now, how does that play in the context of real estate? Well, obviously, from a development standpoint, I obviously want to do big projects. And the more projects that you do that are of quality and size and the more that you are capable of getting done, then you have a big front door… In other words, take in as much as you can, and let out little on the back side.”
Emmitt’s applies this big front door, small back door concept to his overall business approach through risk mitigation. “How can we set up our contracts where there’s brokerage service or development contracts to the point where we can alleviate as much of the risk as possible and try to be as fair as possible with our contractors as well? So that’s important… Whether we utilize an architecture firm that has technology to find collision in the drawings that we may have and mitigate those things before we’re on the job site, which is absolutely huge, because it saves us money on changing orders and everything else. All of that is important.”
“Those are some of the things that we try to do – contracts for language and risk mitigation in terms of design criteria.”
Question #2 – How do you identify which opportunities to pursue?
“Number one, from a real estate development standpoint it’s about an eye for a piece of property… What does this property want to be? No matter if it’s an old redevelopment play, or if it’s a piece of land that’s vacant, but it wants to be something. Then figuring out how to make it happen.”
“Some people see challenges and don’t want to touch it. Other folks see challenges and they want to run right to it because it’s those creative minds that pull off something that someone else doesn’t want to do, which is a lot more riskier, but yields a much larger return.”
“I’ve got to be passionate about what it is that I’m trying to get accomplished. But then I extrapolate that from the site standpoint to the demographics and the trade area around it. What’s in that trade area and what’s not in that trade area? And I try to move the things that are in the trade area off the table, and figure out who really needs to be here and how does the demographic stack up with that tenant profile.”
Questions #3 – What separates the NFL players who leave the NFL and lose all their money with the NFL players who leave the NFL and make more money?
“I think we all run the risk of doing things that we’re not aware of. One thing I’ve learned is it’s better for me to invest in myself than to invest in others, because I’m not going to cheat myself. What happens when you invest in others, others sometimes (again) claim that they can do XYZ, until the rubber meets the road and you find out that they can’t, so you’ve made a significant investment in the person just for them to let you down. Not only that, but then the actual management, who you’re investing in and how you’re investing in these people, also their credibility becomes critical, too.”
“I just think that often times we are excited about being in business and not really taking the time to understand the business. Everything that I’ve done, I’ve tried to immerse myself in it to understand the business and how the business actually works itself, and asking questions, versus being an absentee owner, being an involved owner from start to finish. So you learn that lesson one time, versus having to learn that lesson three or four times.”
Question #4 – What are you most proud of?
“That’s hard to say, outside of just my kids. I’ve got two kids now that are going off to college; one’s already in college, one just graduated from high-school, and she’s off to college going to Texas A&M to play soccer. And I’ve got three other kids coming from behind them, and they all are good kids. I think I’m most proud of my children in terms of how they’ve been able to handle not only the success of their parents and who we are, but just how they carry themselves as young men and women.”
Question #5 – What’s a trait you learned in the NFL that has been applied in business?
“I would say teamwork. Checking your ego at the door, and understanding that you do not become successful by yourself. It involves a lot of people in terms of helping you become successful. Like I said before, I did not hand the football to myself, I did not block for myself, I did not call the plays, and the same thing applies in business. I’ve got people that help keep me on time for my schedules, I’ve got folks that are in the marketing side, I’ve got folks on the executive director side, I’ve got CEO’s and everybody else that has a job and a responsibility. Doing your job and doing your responsibility protects everybody else, and in some cases I’ve got people that have the ability to do more, a lot more bandwidth than others, and that’s a beautiful thing. To me that’s a first, second and third running back. Not only is he there to run the ball, but on third down he can go out and catch the ball and he can also block, which is also extremely important for key people and key personnel in any organization. If you’ve got somebody that has the ability to not only be a broker, but also has a law degree too, so that expedites certain things too, that covers your back.”
“Having engineers that have the capability of not only being a CEO, but also seeing your estimator too, so when it comes down to creating processes and procedures for your organization to run off of and run in the most efficient way, all of that is great knowledge to have. Then you have folks that just handle one piece, but they do that one piece very, very good, and that’s a wonderful thing to have.”
“Teamwork becomes such an important thing in every aspect of what we do. In my household it’s the same way – teamwork. My wife and I have got to be on the same page in order to raise all five of our kids and keep them all humble, hungry and knowledgeable in terms of their growth. That is an important aspect of who we are as people, to not only have the ability to share knowledge with one another, but to establish that team environment.”
Watch my full interview with Emmitt Smith here and learn:
- His screening process for finding trustworthy team members
- How he prioritizes his time
- How he overcomes the unique challenges he faces being who he is
- Why he is willing to take the higher risk developing real estate
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