I have a sign in my office that helps me keep my entrepreneurial edge whenever I read it. The sign says, UNDERESTIMATE ME. THAT’LL BE FUN!
That’s my life story. A farm boy, short on formal education, has traveled the world, written six books, helped start 15 companies, and trained, consulted, and coached billion-dollar companies. The one step that most prospects make when dealing with me is that they underestimate my passion, work ethic, personal vision, and the sheer intensity of GST (Getting Stuff Done).
I just read an article about basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal, who is still seen by many as a Hall of Fame basketball player and all-star Celebrity endorser. Yet, quietly, Shaq has surprised the same business world that underestimated his business acumen. Although he has made over $400 million as an elite athlete and endorser, Shaq has quietly become the SHAQTRAPRENEUR. It seems that Shaq is a bit brilliant at running and building a business.
Just this last week, Shaq was made the PRESIDENT of basketball operations for REEBOK. Yes, Reebok, the same company that spurned him years ago and wouldn’t carry his shoe. With a quick GOOGLE search, you’ll find that Shaq owns over 50, count ’em, 50 brands. He invested in Google in 1999, long before its IPO. He’s built businesses and bought franchises with an eye for those with tremendous growth potential. He owns 155 Five Guys restaurants, 40 24-Hour Fitness locations, 17 Auntie Annies Pretzel franchises, and 150 car washes. He owns significant stakes in Papa John’s Pizza and Krispy Crème Donuts. He owns movie theatres and is starting his restaurant chain, BIG CHICKEN. Big Chicken began in Las Vegas and has expanded to 14 stores in 7 states and will open another four in the next few months.
The guy has the magic touch for business and the weight he can throw around as an endorser. Most people do not know this, but he can officially be addressed as Shaquille O’Neal Ed.D (Doctor in Education) in 2012 from Miami’s Barry University. His Doctorate came in Human Resource Development, a program centered on organizational learning and leadership.
Yes, he has been severely underestimated.
He was asked in a recent article in INC. magazine what his foundational business philosophy was. It’s simple, really. He said, “When you talk to people smarter than you, it enhances your intelligence. I do things with people I like who are smart. It’s not complicated.”
In the same interview, he said, “Any company I start or get involved with, it’s got to be something that I can see will help people. And I’ve got to enjoy doing it.”
Bingo. How many entrepreneurs or business owners fail because they don’t enjoy their work? This simple act of enjoying what you are doing will help to validate all the hard work, time, pain, and lack of sleep you will endure.
The message is that your background, age, ethnicity, or heritage should mean nothing regarding your ability to be successful beyond your imagination. It all starts with you. It all starts with having a vision you trust and just going for it. If for no other reason, you can look at all of your doubters someday with a smirk and say, “Underestimate me. That’ll be fun!