SBJ/Sept. 2-8, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Shad Khan, owner, Jacksonville Jaguars



‘At my age now, time is very precious,’ and the man working to turn the Jaguars organization around isn’t wasting any. He discusses scaling up, working hard and an optimist’s take on Sartre.

M
y management style has evolved over time, but I know what works for me now. You have got to find the best people. Everything really comes down to the people, whether it’s auto parts, football or retail.

You’ve got to find the best people, you’ve got to give them the resources, you have to hold them accountable, and then you have to set high standards on them.

Photo by: PATRICK E. MCCARTHY
So it’s very simple — it’s people that you click with, people you like and trust, and they’re competent.

I thought I was the smartest kid in the world earlier in my career. Seriously. I finished engineering school before I turned 20. I could do a lot of different things, and I had some good success with innovation and metals — solving some problems or challenges that had existed for a long time and hadn’t been solved.

I was also able to stay ahead of the curve. I went from nothing in 1988 to 12 years later being a $50 million company at Flex-N-Gate. And then through a bunch of different circumstances, I ended up with a couple of really good key people who are still with us today. I learned that there are a lot of other people out there that are competent and have plans.

Having an open mind and empowering others is really how you can scale up. If you can’t find the people, you’re not going to scale up.

Whenever I’ve been at a decision point, and there was an easy way and a hard way, the hard way always turned out to be the right way.

When I was young, I was looking for a job. … Obviously, for me, I had a huge sense of urgency because if you don’t have a job, you can’t get a green card and you can’t stay in America.

After a good 60 days of door-to-door calling, I ended up with two job offers the same day: one as a sit-down night manager for an ice cream shop. I’d put on a tie and basically boss around high school kids in the air conditioning and it was clean. And then there was basically a blacksmith job. You’ve got dust, you’ve got grinding, it’s hot. It’s hard work. So what is the choice? I ended up obviously at Flex-N-Gate. I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll get to use my degree there.’

Today’s youth may feel more entitled because we have so many success stories. We have Microsoft, Facebook, anything technology related. You have a blogger and all of a sudden they are doing very well. And what they don’t see is that there were hundreds of others who didn’t do well.

Hard work, I think, is fundamental. It is part of the American DNA. Maybe very Midwestern, very Puritan, but it’s absolutely the fabric of America.

Jacksonville is Deep South. More Deep South, less Florida. It’s got a lot more in common with Georgia than it does with Miami. It’s like a Midwestern mindset in terms of hospitality and the kindness of people. There is an obsession about football.

The London opportunity is huge for us, because it gives us a chance to really do something for the league and work in a leadership role.

To me, it was very important we have full stadiums. You need the energy. Yes, you want the money, but I think it’s more than that in football. You want the 12th person in the stands and you want the energy. You want people getting out from behind their HDTVs and into the stadium.

One and a half million Brits come to Florida each year. I’ve already seen that after last year — when we announced we were the home team for the next four years in London. People going to Disney World would take a day off and they came for a game.

It’s good exposure for Jacksonville, great for investment, insurance, banking, to all get exposure in London. And obviously on the football side, we need the money.

There is a direct correlation between the top revenue-generating teams and success on the field. Green Bay is a small-market team but it’s No. 4 in NFL revenue.

I end up entertaining big time during games. If we lose the game, regrettably, there’s very little I can do at that stage. My job is not to second-guess the general manager and coaching staff, it’s just to see that we move in the right direction.

Last year we started at ground zero and we didn’t move in the right direction, and it’s a judgment that you aren’t going to be moving if you don’t have a coaching change and a people change. We’ve done that. Now it will be to re-evaluate if we are moving in the right direction. And I’m confident we will.

At my age now, time is very precious. You want to have experiences that add value to you. One of the great choices is you can do anything you want to do with whatever time you have. That is a luxury that you can’t put a value on. It’s precious.

I’ve traveled quite a bit; I’ve been pretty much everywhere.

You want to read stuff you wouldn’t read otherwise, and I kind of developed that habit even as a student just going through bookstores. I like Michel de Montaigne, the French philosopher. I also love to read about Chinese history, some of that has evolved into “The Art of War.” It’s probably got 100 translations, and all of them are different.

I’ve been reading the books of Jean-Paul Sartre. I’ve got to tell you, it’s like this guy is Fox News all over again. It’s gloom and doom, the world is coming to an end right now.

It’s a very pessimistic kind of a thing, but to me, I always want to look at the 1 percent of the glass that’s full, so it’s such a different viewpoint, but a lot of times when you do that it gives you an appreciation of what a person’s viewpoint is.

I’ve been blessed that I’ve been all over. I like the vitality here — Manhattan. Awesome. Barcelona. We have four clients in Barcelona, so I really discovered that as a business. I love Barcelona. Again for the excitement, the vibrancy, the realness of it where people are making a living and yet want to stay up late and enjoy good food. It’s not fake.

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