Success is as success does, in football or in business

HALL OF FAME football coach Don Shula came to Providence March 1 for the opening of his restaurant in the Hilton Hotel.  /
HALL OF FAME football coach Don Shula came to Providence March 1 for the opening of his restaurant in the Hilton Hotel. /

Don Shula says it wasn’t his idea to get into the restaurant business, but it’s been a successful endeavor: His company’s revenue is reported to exceed $50 million.
Starting with the original Shula’s Steak House in 1989, he has grown Shula’s into a national brand, with 26 restaurants with four different concepts: Shula’s America’s Steak House, Shula’s 2 Steak and Sports, Shula’s on the Beach and Shula’s 347 Grill, the latest of which just opened in the Hilton Hotel in downtown Providence.
When Shula came to the city for the March 1 official opening of the restaurant, he sat down to talk about success on and off the gridiron.

PBN: How are athletics and business alike?
SHULA: There are so many similarities that are common to coaching and the restaurant business or whatever your occupation might be. I do a motivational speech called “Everyone’s a Coach” and did a book with Ken Blanchard [“Everyone’s a Coach: Five Business Secrets for High Performance Coaching”], and we talked about the similarities and what it takes to be the best that you can be, whatever you are doing, whether you are a parent or whether you are on the job or whether it’s sports. It’s about the hard work and the attention to detail.

PBN: People talk about success being part inspiration and part perspiration. Do sports and business match up along those lines?
SHULA: Obviously football practices are a lot tougher than anything you could think of in the business world as far as preparation goes, because it demands so much of you physically. But there are many similarities in the mental part as far as the willingness to do the little things that make a difference.

PBN: Why did you go into the restaurant business?
SHULA: That was probably the farthest thing from my mind when I was playing and coaching. And then a friend of the family who was in the restaurant business approached me about taking an existing restaurant [in Miami Lakes] that wasn’t doing too well, redecorating it, putting my name on it and making it a steak house. I resisted for a year or two.

- Advertisement -

PBN: Why did you resist?
SHULA: I just didn’t feel like it was what I wanted to do. Finally, though, I decided to give it a try. So they redecorated the steak house, put my name on it, and the business went from doing $1 million a year to about $4 million a year. So when we had success with that one, we opened in Tampa and in Troy, Mich. Then we opened in Cleveland and then in Baltimore.

PBN: How big do you want to be?
SHULA: We don’t have any design on expansion. It’s always been what makes sense and what we feel we can handle. We never want to take on too much or take on something where the quality suffers, or the service suffers, or something that hurts what we are trying to do sets us back. … We look to do intelligent expansion. … I think this is going to be a great spot. We’ve had two restaurants with The Procaccianti Group, and they have both been successful. And this is their hometown.

PBN: When you put together a football team, you put together different talents and personalities within a certain framework. How hard do you work at that in the restaurants?
SHULA: It’s important. We call the restaurant managers head coaches, and then they have assistant coaches. It’s set up like a football staff, with that chain of command and the staff meetings. And for staff rewards, we give them game balls.
We try to have that theme, that kind of preparation, that kind of attention to detail, the same thing I did as a coach. And Dave [Shula’s son and company president] has carried a lot of that over into the restaurant business.

PBN: Is there a single factor that determines success?
SHULA: It’s hard to put your finger on one. It’s all those things I talked about. We don’t have a corner on hard work. We obviously don’t have a corner on attention to detail. We try to do all those things better than the competition. But there is more. When I give my motivational speech, I talk about over-learning. When I was a player, I always wanted to know more about my responsibilities, why I was being asked to do what I was being asked to do. I drove my coaches nuts with the “why” questions. Why this, why that? When I got to be a coach, I wanted my players to ask “why” questions, because I knew they were that much more interested in what we were trying to get accomplished. I think the whole key is information. Find out as much as you can and put it to use and do it better than the competition.

PBN: What do you think you have that your competition doesn’t?
SHULA: What we touched on is the best food, the best atmosphere, the best service that money can buy. And then the fact that we insist on it. We don’t just talk about it. … We want to make sure that it happens by being on top of it. As a coach I never wanted to be accused of not being aware or not noticing, because that was my responsibility. … I want our head coaches to feel that way about their responsibilities. I think those little things add up to big things. … As a coach, I always respected the competition and then I always took that much more enjoyment and pleasure and satisfaction that you beat somebody who was pretty good. … The bottom line is every year, when you see what the profit or loss is, you can see if you are heading in the right direction. We have 26 open; we have to be doing something right.

Interview: Don Shula
POSITION: Hall of Fame football coach, founder of the Shula’s chain of steakhouses.
BACKGROUND: Don Shula is the founder of a chain of 26 steakhouses, but he is much better known for his football career. He began with the Cleveland Browns in 1951, playing until 1957. After a number of assistant coaching positions, he became head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1963 at age 33. After seven season, Shula moved to Miami to coach the Dolphins and won two Super Bowls with the team, including a perfect 1972 season, when the Dolphins went 17-0. He set and holds the record for most victories, with 328 in the regular season and 347 overall.
EDUCATION: B.A., 1951, John Carroll University, Cleveland; M.A. in physical education, 1954, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland.
RESIDENCE: Miami Lakes, Fla.
AGE: 77

No posts to display