In a 2009 Sports Illustrated article about why many professional athletes go broke, it was reported that “78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.” And all of this takes place within two years of retiring from the NFL. Gary Brackett, a former linebacker and defensive captain for the Indianapolis Colts, actively chose not to be part of that unfortunate majority and became a restaurant franchisor.
This is how a former Super Bowl champion set himself up for success after his career with the NFL ended.
How Gary Brackett’s History of Hard Work and Persistence Paid Off
Originally from New Jersey and a graduate of Rutgers University, Brackett has encountered a number of obstacles along the way. After initially signing with the Colts as a free agent, he lost both his parents as well as his brother within an 18-month timeframe. However, that loss only motivated him to work harder, to focus on being a leader in everything he did, and to always set a positive example for those around him.
And that’s what he did. He had a highly successful career in the NFL, playing in the Super Bowl twice and serving as the defensive captain for the Colts for six years.
An injury in his ninth season eventually brought his career to a close, but he didn’t let that setback stop him in his tracks. Rather than waste the opportunity, he took full advantage of the educational benefits provided by the NFL. So, after being released from the team, Brackett attended George Washington University where he got his MBA.
Brackett told me that one of the things he always encourages players to do is get an education; not in case they don’t make it to the NFL, but in case they do. That education will ensure they can continue to prosper long after their professional sports career is over.
If you want to hear more about Brackett’s time with the Colts and what inspired him to make a move into the restaurant industry, listen to the podcast now.
Making the Seamless Switch from Football to Restaurant Franchisor
“When I was finished playing my career, I had built up a brand,” said Gary Brackett. “But I had to figure out how to monetize that brand. Restaurants were a way to do that.” That is when he and a partner decided to invest in a restaurant called the Stacked Pickle, a Buffalo Wild Wings-type sports bar in Indianapolis.
“When I was finished playing my career, I had built up a brand. But I had to figure out how to monetize that brand. Restaurants were a way to do that.”
After investing in a second restaurant that performed even better than the first, Brackett began to feel an itch to grow and do more. Because his partner didn’t share the same mindset, he decided to purchase the brand from him. Three years later, the Stacked Pickle now has nine working restaurants with one more on the way.
One of the coolest things about talking to Brackett was getting to see someone remain so positive no matter how many obstacles life throws at you. Granted, Brackett’s business and brand are both booming right now; however, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had failures along the way as he’s worked on building the Stacked Pickle franchise. He’s just done a great job in moving past them.
Here are some of the ingenious lessons he shared with me:
You Need a Plan
According to Brackett, there is no way to successfully scale and grow a business (of any kind) if you don’t create a carefully measured plan. His preferred method? He defines the end goal and then works his way backward.
You Need to Invest
“I think you need to invest in yourself,” he said when asked about financing. His theory is that if you’re willing to put your own money in, and you have a well-laid-out business plan, then investors and banks will be more than willing to step in and invest, too.
“I think you need to invest in yourself.”
You Need to be Able to Go on Vacation
Want to know whether or not you have a scalable and successful business model on your hands? According to Brackett, you’ll know that’s the case if you can go away for 60 days and not have your business fall apart.
You Need to be Picky
If you want to be a franchisee and you want to know which franchise is the right one, Brackett suggests visiting their home office and stores to see how things are run. “Identify if this is the kind of company you want to grow with.”
“Identify if this is the kind of company you want to grow with.”
Honestly, this lesson applies to anyone looking to jump into business with someone else.
You Need to Not be Afraid to Fail
This is something I hear a lot in my interviews and I think it’s a lesson worth repeating. As Brackett explained: “So many people are afraid of failure that they don’t get started. Don’t get discouraged if it didn’t work. Pick yourself back up and go at it again.”
“So many people are afraid of failure that they don’t get started. Don’t get discouraged if it didn’t work. Pick yourself back up and go at it again.”