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Shaq Talks Doing Small Business On A Massive Scale

Shaq Talks Doing Small Business On A Massive Scale

October 27, 2021

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Shaquille O'Neal (more famously known as just Shaq) is one of the greatest basketball players in history. He has two scoring titles, four NBA championships, and 15 All-Star game selections under his belt. But what you may not know is that he's also an avid business owner. 

In fact, Shaq owns 150 car washes, 40 fitness centers, 17 Auntie Anne's Pretzels, several Las Vegas nightclubs, and - at one point - over 10% of the Five Guys franchise portfolio.

"Like anyone else, I’m not a one-dimensional guy. I delegate hours to do different things [outside of basketball]."
<blockquoteauthor>NBA star Shaquille O'Neal<blockquoteauthor>

A few weeks back, the Trainual team had the privilege to sit down with Shaq at Playbook 2021 for a live Q+A. There, he broke down how he approaches small business on such a massive scale. 

By being a life-long learner 

It wasn't until Shaq met fellow NBA star and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson that he ever considered owning a business. In that meeting, Magic told him, "it's okay to be famous. But at some point, you need to own things."

Shaq took the advice seriously, went out, and bought himself a copy of The Dummies Guide To Building A Business. Looking back, he says that book taught him everything he needed to know to land his first $15M shoe deal with Reebok in 1992. 

Since then, Shaq has doubled down on his continued education. He went back to get his Master's in Business from the University of Phoenix. With that knowledge, he secured more deals and started building franchises. But for Shaq, it's not just about what you learn in school or earning another degree. 

In his everyday life, Shaq is constantly looking for new things to learn. He's currently working on learning about cryptocurrency and NFTs. And when asked to tell us more, he politely declined, explaining, "I don't like to talk about things until I'm well-versed. Until then, I don't want to say something that will mislead anyone."

However, once he is comfortable and confident in a subject, Shaq takes it upon himself to pass that knowledge forward. And one way he does that is by being an open book for younger players, providing insights on the sport and life alike. But a lot of the time, it comes down to leading by example.

"I just try my best to lead by example in everything I do."

Well aware that his life is on display, Shaq explained how he often thinks about his mother, Dr. Lucille O'Neal, who's an avid television watcher. And before he says or does anything, he asks himself, "will mom be happy if she sees this?" If the answer is no, Shaq knows it won’t live up to the example he wants to set. 

By taking advantage of opportunities

For Shaq, his creative endeavors are all about "fulfilling dreams and taking advantage of opportunities." He is often inspired by others’ accomplishments, like Magic Johnson and even Jeff Bezos. And he thinks to himself, Damn! I want to do that, too!

A few seasons into his career, the opportunity to do some of these things started to present themselves. And Shaq explains, "if I were losing games [at the time], I wouldn't have taken advantage of these opportunities. I would have focused on my game."

Shaq at an event
Source: Forbes

Luckily, that wasn't the case because Shaq wanted to do both (win rings and buy businesses). So, he surrounded himself with people who were experts at their craft. And while he was on the road with his team, he relied on the people he hired to manage the business deals and sponsorship opportunities.

But that didn't make getting any deal easy. Nike actually didn't want to give Shaq his own shoe line because, as Shaq puts it, "big guys don't sell." But that didn't deter Shaq from going on to the next opportunity. 

Instead, Shaq decided to tell Reebok that Nike was interested. And while that doesn't mean you should lie to get deals (you shouldn't), Shaq's gamble paid off, landing him that huge 1992 Reebok deal (and his first shoe, Shaq Attaq 1). This was the moment Shaq realized he had a knack for business.

Over the next 29 years, Shaq built his incredible net worth by taking advantage of similar endorsement opportunities. And he fulfilled some other big dreams as a result. 

In 1993, he struck a rap deal with Jive Records to perform alongside his favorite rappers. And in 1996, he landed a leading role in the movie Kazaam. Shaq noted that this role only happened because he often played basketball in his neighborhood with the director's kid.

Today, Shaq is still taking advantage of the opportunities that come his way. Whether it's the chance to endorse a new product, raise more for charity, or invest in an up-and-coming company, Shaq is always open to what's next.

By being a team player

Despite being a larger-than-life legend, Shaq is still only one person. And it takes a team of people to scale himself to run dozens of small businesses simultaneously. And while he sees his many businesses as a full-time job (where he gets final creative control), he doesn't micromanage his team. 

"It's called being a master of delegation," he explained. "And I trust in [my team's] ability to do their job." That's because Shaq focuses on hiring the right people. And that means people who are equal parts expert and personality.

"[Perhaps] my greatest attribute is that I always hire people smarter than me. I love not being the smartest person in the room."

As a result, Shaq can delegate tasks to his team of experts and confidently step out of the day-to-day. And they’ll keep the businesses running. 

On the rare occasion that Shaq needs to get involved, the ask gets pushed up to his 3 agents first. They then decide if it should be rolled up to Shaq or simmered back down to the team. 

Shaq calls this his business playbook - similar to the one his basketball teams used. And he makes it a point that "everyone knows that they're part of the team and that the team couldn't be successful without them." 

This goes back to his days on the court. Reflecting back, Shaq explained that he never felt defeated when he missed shots. That's because as much as he was a valued player, he wasn't a one-man team. He could always count on his teammates to step in and help win the game instead. And he wants the people he employs to feel the same way. 

By believing in yourself

Several of Shaq's answers throughout the day talked about mindset - and all of them pointed back to his time with the Lakers when he worked with iconic coach Phil Jackson. 

"Not many people know this. But the game [of basketball] is 85% mental and 15% skill."

During their time together, Phil pushed Shaq physically and mentally to new limits. This includes asking Shaq to do the seemingly impossible and swim a giant log across a lake - just to prove that he could. 

But he also was the coach who had Shaq put his head down and focus solely on basketball (even though it meant pausing his creative pursuits). He said, do this, and you'll be number one by the end of the season. That same year, LA took home the NBA championship, and Shaq earned his first MVP title. 

Today, Shaq applies that same mental stamina to his businesses. "In my mind, I got to be number one," he shared. 

That doesn't always make running an empire of businesses any easier. But when Shaq faces an obstacle, he relies on another mental trick. 

"[When I feel defeated,] I smack myself on the hand and say it could be worse," he told us. And it's a theory he developed while visiting the Walter Reed National Military Hospital in 2009.

During that visit, Shaq met a man who'd lost his arms and legs while on tour. The man told Shaq that once his prosthetics arrived, he was ready to go back to Iraq. To Shaq's surprise, the man was serious and smiling. 

This brief interaction put things into perspective for Shaq. And he vowed not to complain again - even when the going gets tough.

By believing in what you’re doing

Source: Forbes

In addition to believing in himself, Shaq also has to believe in what he's doing. And he can only do that if he does "honest business." Meaning, Shaq only owns and collaborates with a brand if he believes in their product. 

In fact, Shaq refused to endorse Wheaties multiple times because he doesn't eat that cereal brand. "I'm a Frosted Flakes man," he stated as a matter of fact. And by passing up the Wheaties opportunity, he was able to land an endorsement deal with the brand he actually spends his money on.

Shaq applies this same principle to his investments, coupled with a filter for whether the investment will create positive change. That's because a few years back, Shaq heard Amazon founder Jeff Bezos speak at a Las Vegas conference. There, Jeff explained that he "invests in things that are going to change people's lives." And Shaq took it to heart. 

For example, Shaq invested in the security system Ring in 2016 after having success with the security company himself. He had just moved out of a gated community. And he was impressed by how comparatively inexpensive and easy-to-install the system was.

So, when he had the chance to meet Ring founder Jamie Siminoff, Shaq acquired an equity stake and eventually became their spokesperson. Funnily enough, this investment brought Shaq full circle when Amazon bought the company in 2018.

By doing good for others

Shaq is famous for many things, and one of them is his ability to do good for others. He contributes to an incredible collection of charities, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Be The Match, and Kids Wish Network. 

Shaq even has his own non-profit called the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, which creates opportunities for underserved youth to achieve their full potential.

Plus, Shaq often ties his many endorsements to raising charity. Like his Frosted Flakes deal, which donates a percentage of each box's profits to schools affected by COVID-19. Or his Shaq-a-Roni pizza at Papa John’s, which donates $1 from each purchase to The Papa John’s Foundation (a non-profit that supports local communities).

Aside from his non-profit work, Shaq also credits his for-profit success from “doing the right thing.” For instance, after scoring the shoe line with Reebok, a mother angrily explained that his premier shoes were too expensive. 

This resonated with Shaq. As a kid, he could never imagine asking for a several hundred dollar pair of high-tops. So, Shaq worked with Walmart to build an affordable option. He priced them at roughly $25 a pair. And once they were released nationwide, he sold over 400M pairs and clearly served a need.

All that said, we know Shaq’s experience is not the average business owner’s. But there are still some incredible lessons we can learn from this legend. After all, couldn’t every small business use a little more Shaq Attaq?

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Article

Shaq Talks Doing Small Business On A Massive Scale

Shaq Talks Doing Small Business On A Massive Scale

October 27, 2021

Jump to a section
Share it!
Sign up for our newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Shaquille O'Neal (more famously known as just Shaq) is one of the greatest basketball players in history. He has two scoring titles, four NBA championships, and 15 All-Star game selections under his belt. But what you may not know is that he's also an avid business owner. 

In fact, Shaq owns 150 car washes, 40 fitness centers, 17 Auntie Anne's Pretzels, several Las Vegas nightclubs, and - at one point - over 10% of the Five Guys franchise portfolio.

"Like anyone else, I’m not a one-dimensional guy. I delegate hours to do different things [outside of basketball]."
<blockquoteauthor>NBA star Shaquille O'Neal<blockquoteauthor>

A few weeks back, the Trainual team had the privilege to sit down with Shaq at Playbook 2021 for a live Q+A. There, he broke down how he approaches small business on such a massive scale. 

By being a life-long learner 

It wasn't until Shaq met fellow NBA star and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson that he ever considered owning a business. In that meeting, Magic told him, "it's okay to be famous. But at some point, you need to own things."

Shaq took the advice seriously, went out, and bought himself a copy of The Dummies Guide To Building A Business. Looking back, he says that book taught him everything he needed to know to land his first $15M shoe deal with Reebok in 1992. 

Since then, Shaq has doubled down on his continued education. He went back to get his Master's in Business from the University of Phoenix. With that knowledge, he secured more deals and started building franchises. But for Shaq, it's not just about what you learn in school or earning another degree. 

In his everyday life, Shaq is constantly looking for new things to learn. He's currently working on learning about cryptocurrency and NFTs. And when asked to tell us more, he politely declined, explaining, "I don't like to talk about things until I'm well-versed. Until then, I don't want to say something that will mislead anyone."

However, once he is comfortable and confident in a subject, Shaq takes it upon himself to pass that knowledge forward. And one way he does that is by being an open book for younger players, providing insights on the sport and life alike. But a lot of the time, it comes down to leading by example.

"I just try my best to lead by example in everything I do."

Well aware that his life is on display, Shaq explained how he often thinks about his mother, Dr. Lucille O'Neal, who's an avid television watcher. And before he says or does anything, he asks himself, "will mom be happy if she sees this?" If the answer is no, Shaq knows it won’t live up to the example he wants to set. 

By taking advantage of opportunities

For Shaq, his creative endeavors are all about "fulfilling dreams and taking advantage of opportunities." He is often inspired by others’ accomplishments, like Magic Johnson and even Jeff Bezos. And he thinks to himself, Damn! I want to do that, too!

A few seasons into his career, the opportunity to do some of these things started to present themselves. And Shaq explains, "if I were losing games [at the time], I wouldn't have taken advantage of these opportunities. I would have focused on my game."

Shaq at an event
Source: Forbes

Luckily, that wasn't the case because Shaq wanted to do both (win rings and buy businesses). So, he surrounded himself with people who were experts at their craft. And while he was on the road with his team, he relied on the people he hired to manage the business deals and sponsorship opportunities.

But that didn't make getting any deal easy. Nike actually didn't want to give Shaq his own shoe line because, as Shaq puts it, "big guys don't sell." But that didn't deter Shaq from going on to the next opportunity. 

Instead, Shaq decided to tell Reebok that Nike was interested. And while that doesn't mean you should lie to get deals (you shouldn't), Shaq's gamble paid off, landing him that huge 1992 Reebok deal (and his first shoe, Shaq Attaq 1). This was the moment Shaq realized he had a knack for business.

Over the next 29 years, Shaq built his incredible net worth by taking advantage of similar endorsement opportunities. And he fulfilled some other big dreams as a result. 

In 1993, he struck a rap deal with Jive Records to perform alongside his favorite rappers. And in 1996, he landed a leading role in the movie Kazaam. Shaq noted that this role only happened because he often played basketball in his neighborhood with the director's kid.

Today, Shaq is still taking advantage of the opportunities that come his way. Whether it's the chance to endorse a new product, raise more for charity, or invest in an up-and-coming company, Shaq is always open to what's next.

By being a team player

Despite being a larger-than-life legend, Shaq is still only one person. And it takes a team of people to scale himself to run dozens of small businesses simultaneously. And while he sees his many businesses as a full-time job (where he gets final creative control), he doesn't micromanage his team. 

"It's called being a master of delegation," he explained. "And I trust in [my team's] ability to do their job." That's because Shaq focuses on hiring the right people. And that means people who are equal parts expert and personality.

"[Perhaps] my greatest attribute is that I always hire people smarter than me. I love not being the smartest person in the room."

As a result, Shaq can delegate tasks to his team of experts and confidently step out of the day-to-day. And they’ll keep the businesses running. 

On the rare occasion that Shaq needs to get involved, the ask gets pushed up to his 3 agents first. They then decide if it should be rolled up to Shaq or simmered back down to the team. 

Shaq calls this his business playbook - similar to the one his basketball teams used. And he makes it a point that "everyone knows that they're part of the team and that the team couldn't be successful without them." 

This goes back to his days on the court. Reflecting back, Shaq explained that he never felt defeated when he missed shots. That's because as much as he was a valued player, he wasn't a one-man team. He could always count on his teammates to step in and help win the game instead. And he wants the people he employs to feel the same way. 

By believing in yourself

Several of Shaq's answers throughout the day talked about mindset - and all of them pointed back to his time with the Lakers when he worked with iconic coach Phil Jackson. 

"Not many people know this. But the game [of basketball] is 85% mental and 15% skill."

During their time together, Phil pushed Shaq physically and mentally to new limits. This includes asking Shaq to do the seemingly impossible and swim a giant log across a lake - just to prove that he could. 

But he also was the coach who had Shaq put his head down and focus solely on basketball (even though it meant pausing his creative pursuits). He said, do this, and you'll be number one by the end of the season. That same year, LA took home the NBA championship, and Shaq earned his first MVP title. 

Today, Shaq applies that same mental stamina to his businesses. "In my mind, I got to be number one," he shared. 

That doesn't always make running an empire of businesses any easier. But when Shaq faces an obstacle, he relies on another mental trick. 

"[When I feel defeated,] I smack myself on the hand and say it could be worse," he told us. And it's a theory he developed while visiting the Walter Reed National Military Hospital in 2009.

During that visit, Shaq met a man who'd lost his arms and legs while on tour. The man told Shaq that once his prosthetics arrived, he was ready to go back to Iraq. To Shaq's surprise, the man was serious and smiling. 

This brief interaction put things into perspective for Shaq. And he vowed not to complain again - even when the going gets tough.

By believing in what you’re doing

Source: Forbes

In addition to believing in himself, Shaq also has to believe in what he's doing. And he can only do that if he does "honest business." Meaning, Shaq only owns and collaborates with a brand if he believes in their product. 

In fact, Shaq refused to endorse Wheaties multiple times because he doesn't eat that cereal brand. "I'm a Frosted Flakes man," he stated as a matter of fact. And by passing up the Wheaties opportunity, he was able to land an endorsement deal with the brand he actually spends his money on.

Shaq applies this same principle to his investments, coupled with a filter for whether the investment will create positive change. That's because a few years back, Shaq heard Amazon founder Jeff Bezos speak at a Las Vegas conference. There, Jeff explained that he "invests in things that are going to change people's lives." And Shaq took it to heart. 

For example, Shaq invested in the security system Ring in 2016 after having success with the security company himself. He had just moved out of a gated community. And he was impressed by how comparatively inexpensive and easy-to-install the system was.

So, when he had the chance to meet Ring founder Jamie Siminoff, Shaq acquired an equity stake and eventually became their spokesperson. Funnily enough, this investment brought Shaq full circle when Amazon bought the company in 2018.

By doing good for others

Shaq is famous for many things, and one of them is his ability to do good for others. He contributes to an incredible collection of charities, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Be The Match, and Kids Wish Network. 

Shaq even has his own non-profit called the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, which creates opportunities for underserved youth to achieve their full potential.

Plus, Shaq often ties his many endorsements to raising charity. Like his Frosted Flakes deal, which donates a percentage of each box's profits to schools affected by COVID-19. Or his Shaq-a-Roni pizza at Papa John’s, which donates $1 from each purchase to The Papa John’s Foundation (a non-profit that supports local communities).

Aside from his non-profit work, Shaq also credits his for-profit success from “doing the right thing.” For instance, after scoring the shoe line with Reebok, a mother angrily explained that his premier shoes were too expensive. 

This resonated with Shaq. As a kid, he could never imagine asking for a several hundred dollar pair of high-tops. So, Shaq worked with Walmart to build an affordable option. He priced them at roughly $25 a pair. And once they were released nationwide, he sold over 400M pairs and clearly served a need.

All that said, we know Shaq’s experience is not the average business owner’s. But there are still some incredible lessons we can learn from this legend. After all, couldn’t every small business use a little more Shaq Attaq?

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Shaq Talks Doing Small Business On A Massive Scale

Shaq Talks Doing Small Business On A Massive Scale

October 27, 2021

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