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Manage your business

Former NFL linebacker Matt Mayberry is running on a new path


Cybele Weisser

| Nov 18, 2019

Nov 18, 2019



Updated: 11/22/19

The following article is part of Numbers Games, an original Chase Ink series in which pro athlete entrepreneurs offer insights on leadership, accounting and business ownership.

Many entrepreneurs are born with a desire to start their own business. For former Chicago Bears linebacker Matt Mayberry, it came as a sudden awakening.

After college, Mayberry was initially focused on football. But when he was sidelined from the NFL with an ankle injury nine years ago, everything changed. Asked to be a guest speaker at a leadership event, "I walked out knowing that I'd found my calling and what I was meant to do," he says, "It changed my life forever."

Today, Mayberry has turned this calling into a thriving leadership consulting business. He's the CEO of his eponymous training company, which specializes in maximizing the performance of individuals and organizations, author of the book Winning Plays, and one of the most popular columnists in Entrepreneur Magazine

Recently, Mayberry was the keynote speaker at Denver Start-Up Week, a weeklong celebration of everything entrepreneurial in Denver and the largest free event of its kind. He also spoke with Chase Ink about his unexpected career path, setting the right goals, and the critical role that his CPA has played in helping him achieve his dreams.

Q: | What did you learn and take from football that's helped you as a leader and motivational speaker?

I use all the skills I learned in football on a daily basis – teamwork, maximizing performance, building a great culture, and surrounding myself with great people.

In terms of leadership, the best coaches I worked with in football tied everything to a bigger purpose. They taught me that it wasn't just about winning games, that success is also about becoming a better man and a better father.

Q: | You mentioned teamwork. What are the similarities and differences in building a strong team in sports and in business?

Football gives you an immediate result. You play a game on Sunday, you look at the results and the stats on Monday and you immediately know what you have to do better. You can track your progress so easily.

In the business world, it's not easy and it could even take longer than a year to see results. That's something I had a hard time dealing with.

In my research, I found that the best leaders had adopted some of that results-oriented aspect of football. They've tossed out end of year evaluations and instead, they try to find a way to get feedback every month. Great leaders are obsessed with constant feedback.



Q: | What are some of your top tips on motivating and driving productivity in a team?

First, you have to get very clear on your why, both organizationally and as an individual. The best organizations in the world are obsessed with why they do what they do. They're not just about creating a new piece of technology or selling something – they look to really make a difference and contribute to the world. The best business owners are also thinking about themselves on a bigger level. They're thinking about why they do what they do, and that's what ignites them as a business leader.

To increase productivity, treat people well. That sounds very common sense and simple, but you'd be surprised how often leaders fail to do it. The best leaders care about their team on a personal level.

"The three biggest things you need to accomplish today are where you should spend your time and energy."

- Matt Mayberry, Former NFL Linebacker


Q: | And what about yourself? Can you share some of your top tips for working efficiently?

A lot of people make a to-do list. Instead, I make a list of the three biggest things I need to get done that day, and that's the first thing that goes on my calendar. Your day shouldn't be driven by meetings and conference calls. The three biggest things you need to accomplish today are where you should spend your time and energy.

Also, you have to get serious about limiting distractions. For example, I put a timer on my phone for 60 minutes when I'm working and turn the sound off. That gives me a block of time when I'm not distracted by texts or alerts.

Q: | A business owner's key team includes people who may not work full-time for their company, such as their CPA. What support do you get from your CPA?

I can't even describe how important my CPA has been. He's helped me save money, preserve cash, avoid loopholes, and figure out where to invest. He's come up with new ideas and initiatives. But the biggest thing is that I know my CPA is always there, checking up on me. He's in my corner, every step of the way.

Q: | What are the critical characteristics you look for in a CPA?

We have to have a personal relationship. It's so much more than taxes and finances. I have to get along with him and trust him.

Second, I need him to believe in my vision. A lot of professionals just want to do their job. I need this person to be motivated to carry out my dream.

Q: | And what about the rest of your team members?

You have to have what I call the hustle DNA. What that means is, if you aren't willing to wake up early and work your butt off to carry this business to the next level, you aren't the right fit for my team. And you've got to be results oriented. You could be the hardest working person in the room, but if you're not showing results at the end of the day, that doesn't mean anything.

Q: | What's the best goal for someone starting out as a new business owner?

My biggest piece of advice is to focus on one major goal for the year. People tend to make a laundry list of a dozen or more goals, and then they get overwhelmed.

In my experience, the highest performers don't have many goals for the year. They have one massive goal they want to achieve and focus their energy. So pick just one goal. Then be clear about the game plan to achieve that goal.