Former football player tackles the restaurant industry

Ker's WingHouse CEO Crawford Ker on the skills he learned from football that lead him to success in the restaurant industry.

Business Lessons From the Gridiron

By Small Business FOXBusiness

After playing for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, NFL standout Crawford Ker was forced to retire early due to injury.  But for Ker, this was a new beginning.

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With $500,000 left in his bank account, Ker invested every penny towards his dream of owning his own business.  He said he went back to his roots and built on his early experience in the restaurant industry.  Two years after retiring from the NFL, Crawford Ker opened the first Ker’s WingHouse Bar & Grill in Largo, FL.

“My Dad was in the restaurant business so I was always around it growing up,” Crawford Ker told Fox Business. “Before playing football, I was a waiter and worked in various restaurants.  When I retired, I used a lot of my football background in my sports bar restaurant.  I was lucky enough to get a great location and it took off.”

Over the past 20 years, Ker's Buffalo-wing restaurant chain has expanded, opening a total of 24 locations in Florida.

So what’s behind Ker’s WingHouse’s success? The pro-football player- turned-restaurateur said he used lessons he learned on the gridiron to build his business. 

First up; set smaller and more achievable goals.  Like football, business is a game of inches.  

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“Small goals are very important,” Ker said.  “A lot of times you get overwhelmed from setting too high of standards and get very disappointed when you don’t meet them.  In football, it’s about not turning the ball over, not fumbling.  In business, it’s about not losing money.  You’ve got to be very careful and you’ve got to be prepared.”

Ker says it’s also important to pass the ball—let go and trust your teammates or employees.

“I played offensive guard so I always had my hands full blocking Reggie White, but I didn’t worry much about what Emmitt Smith or Troy Aikman were doing.” Ker said.  “It’s very important to delegate in your business so your team can have success.”

During his football career, Ker played under some legendary coaches, including Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson. He said both taught him how to be a great leader, and what’s behind building a dream team.

When private equity firm Third Lake Capital acquired Ker’s WingHouse Bar & Grill last year, Ker spoke about finding the right teammates who would let him remain the hands-on CEO of the company.  The deal gives Ker the opportunity to potentially open new locations in an industry that is getting more competitive every year.

“No job is too big or too small,” Ker said.  “I will do whatever it takes to be successful.”

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