Roger Staubach On Real Estate & The NFL: You Can’t Quit-When It Knocks You Down

Whether it’s professional football or commercial real estate, legendary Dallas Cowboys former quarterback Roger Staubach gets a competitive glint in his eye when talking about either endeavor.

“I was very competitive in football, I didn’t want to lose,” Staubach said recently in an interview. “But I wasn’t a sore loser. I couldn’t wait until the next chance.”

During a wide-ranging discussion , Staubach displayed the same will to compete when it comes to the realty market as he showed behind center for the Cowboys, a team he led to four Super Bowls, winning twice.

“In commercial real estate, you have a lot of disappointments, but you have a lot of wins, too,” said Staubach, who is executive chairman-Americas for Jones Lang LaSalle, a major commercial realty firm.

Slightly more than two years after Jones Lang LaSalle paid $613 million to acquire The Staubach Co., the company Staubach founded, the former quarterback remains active in Jones Lang LaSalle.

Staubach founded his eponymous real estate firm in 1977 while he was still quarterbacking the Cowboys. Staubach retired after the 1979 NFL season.

Since the June 2008 merger, Jones Lang LaSalle has gained access to the talents of Staubach and nearly all of the 1,600 office and industrial property brokers who were

with Staubach’s firm at the time of the transaction. In turn, the Staubach brokers have gained access to Jones Lang’s international platform and business network.”I was most proud of the fact that after 30 years, we were the kind of company that Jones Lang LaSalle wanted,” Staubach said.

Staubach estimated about 1 percent of those 1,600 brokers left after the acquisition and merger. That 99 percent retention rate seems to speak well of his leadership style and the cultures of the two companies.

“You won’t win every game, and you won’t win every single commercial real estate presentation,” he said. “But with  leadership, you have a very high level of confidence that you’re going to have a good chance to win.”

That sort of determination is something that might stand people in good stead in a tough commercial real estate sector. And Staubach doesn’t mince words when he assesses the woes that challenges that industry at present.

“This is the toughest commercial real estate market I’ve seen,” Staubach said.

Those are sobering words. They are especially striking considering Staubach’s commercial real estate experience includes the era of see-through buildings of the late 1980s brought on by the recession in the oil industry and the meltdown of the savings and loan industry.

“I don’t know when the comeback will begin,” Staubach said.

The big problem: Companies simply aren’t sure what the future holds. The 2011 tax system is a cipher. The effects of the new health care system pose a riddle. Financial regulations present a fresh set of mysteries.

To compound the enigma, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently stated that he sees “unusual uncertainty” for the economy.

“That word uncertainty just stops job creation because companies are waiting to see what happens,” Staubach said. “The sign that we really, truly are in a recovery is when you see the job market come back.”

Staubach also sees uncertainties hanging over arguably the most popular American sport today.

“Commercial real estate is a little scary, and the NFL is scary too,” Staubach said.

That’s because a strike by pro football players after the 2010 season is a real possibility. Staubach says he believes the NFL has the right person to attempt to ward off a labor stoppage.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is Roger Goodell,” the NFL commissioner, Staubach said. “Goodell cares about the history of the game, he cares about the players and he has responsibility to management. He’s the right guy for that job.”

Looking back at his playing career, Staubach, a U.S. Navy veteran, said that he remembered listening to the first Super Bowl — a Green Bay rout of Kansas City — while in Vietnam’s Da Nang harbor.

Staubach said he would have never dreamed then that he would quarterback a team to the Super Bowl. But in the 1971 season, he did, leading the Cowboys to a win over Miami, a world title that banished a string of playoff and Super Bowl frustrations for the Cowboys.

“When we won that first Super Bowl, that changed my life,” Staubach said.

Ultimately, winning in sports and in businesses such as commercial real estate requires a lot of the same attributes. And both endeavors require a lot of teamwork and a never-say-die attitude.

“You can’t quit in life when it knocks you down,” Staubach said. “Sports teaches you perseverance more than anything I’ve ever experienced.” (credit g. avalos, oakland tribune)

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