By Colby Horton
Teamwork is paramount to the success of any business endeavor. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Troy Aikman touched on this subject throughout his Thursday morning keynote address. From his football experiences to his dealership ownership, charitable contributions and recent NASCAR involvement, Aikman told attendees that success comes from implementing teamwork into the working environment.
Aikman spoke to NACE attendees about his "Aikman's End Zone" charity. Established in 1992, the project provides interactive playrooms for hospitalized children.
"We wanted to help children who were falling through the cracks," said Aikman. Today, the interactive playrooms are scattered throughout the United States, including a recent opening in New York City. The program allows children in hospitals to chat with other children in similar situations. According to Aikman, the charity allows them "to escape their own reality and to laugh and enjoy themselves like every kid should."
In addition to his charitable contributions, Aikman also runs a successful Ford dealership and body shop in Dallas. In 1996, Aikman was a minority owner in an Automall in Dallas. It was then that he was first introduced to the automotive industry. He was eventually bought out of his share of the dealership, but the success of this initial endeavor left a good impression on him.
"I had such a good experience that I always envisioned going back," Aikman said. And so he did. After he retired from professional football, he purchased a slumping dealership and returned to the industry.
"Imports were clearly doing well, but priced at a level that I wasn't comfortable with," he said. And so he partnered with Ford and now successfully runs Troy Aikman Ford. He attributes the success to hiring a productive general manager and staff.
"You must create an environment that allows people to be successful. The body shop business is all about people and relationships. You must surround yourself with talent," he said.
Aikman also praised his small town upbringing to NACE attendees. Raised in a small town in Oklahoma, Aikman said the overall experience was great for him. "A lot of the values that make up who I am came from living in a small town."
In regards to his NASCAR Hall of Fame Racing Team, Aikman said he's still learning. The team is co-owned by himself and former quarterback Roger Staubach. Their initial impression when determining whether or not to form the team was not very optimistic. "We decided there was no way we could put together a racing team to compete with the 'big boys,'" he said.
But they trudged forward. Their goal was for their car to finish in this year's top 25. And although he thinks they'll miss that goal by a few points, he's proud of the winning attitude of his team.
The last part of Aikman's keynote presentation focused on his professional football career. A three-time Super Bowl champion and recipient of Super Bowl XXVII's MVP award, he had much success in the pro football arena.
"For as long as I can remember, all I wanted to be was a pro athlete," he said. "I thought I'd get the opportunity, but I never knew when that opportunity would present itself. On his quarterback legacy, Aikman commented, "It's something I'm very proud of."
"Playing football was very natural for me. I got good coaching at a young age."
On that note, Aikman praised the impact of coach's on team sports. "You're making a real difference in these kids' lives."
But Aikman's focus on teamwork became evident when speaking about his recent Hall of Fame induction. "At the end of 12 years, I felt good about my career. My job was to do whatever I needed to do to win as a team. I didn't care about being utilized the most. I wanted to put the team first, and that's what I'm most proud of in my career."
Aikman ended his keynote address by taking questions from the audience.
On behalf of the Automotive Service Association, Darrell Amberson, ASA's Collision Division director, presented Aikman's charity with a $2,500 check at the conclusion of the keynote presentation.