Legends in Business Q&A
NBA.com recently interviewed Clyde Drexler to learn about some of his highlights and challenges both on the court and in the business world.
1) Your rookie season with the Portland Trail Blazers got off to a slow start with an average of only 17 minutes played per game. You went on to have 10 straight seasons of stellar performances with numerous accolades and tremendous recognition. How were you able to step up your level of play?
One key word – opportunity. I got an opportunity to play and I just made the most of it. Before when I was on the bench, I wasn’t given much of an opportunity. Jack Ramsay was my head coach and he didn’t believe in playing rookies, and besides, I had an All-NBA Second Teamer in front of me in Jim Paxson. It wasn’t like the job was just given to you, this is yours because you’re here, we’re happy to have you. No. It was almost like, you’ve got somebody ahead of you who was an All-Star year after year and you won’t play much unless you can somehow find a way to play the point guard, the small forward and the two guard. Maybe you’ll get five minutes at each position. That is the way they presented it to me. I was like, well, shucks, it doesn’t matter what I do in practice or when I get a chance to play, they already had their mind made up as to what was going to occur. That was depressing as opposed to now when guys come in as the number one pick and they basically give them the job.
2) You played at a time when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were forces to be reckoned with. How did you differentiate yourself and what parallels can you draw between this experience and your experience in the business world when you face formidable competition?
Competition doesn’t get any better than those two gentlemen. I can tell you that right now. The key thing was, good as they were, I knew they were going to be good offensively, but what you had to do was make them work on the defensive end. Neither one of those guys ever guarded me so I knew they couldn’t guard me to save their life. I had at least a decent chance of making them work hard for their shots, but they were just a little too foot slow to guard me. The key was they never guarded me. When you have great competition, it’s a thing of beauty. What it does is it gives you an opportunity to raise your game to new levels. It puts pressure on you to be your best and that is what competition is all about. That is why I loved playing the better players and the better teams because they were going to bring out the best in me. It was easy to get up for games when you were playing great players or great teams. I was more apt to have a bad game in a situation where we were playing a lesser team than I was in a prime time showdown.
3) How did your NBA career prepare you for the business world and the challenges associated with operating in a very competitive environment?
You have to be really well prepared in the NBA. Everything comes at you quickly. You have to be on time, you have to be professional and you have to be able to deal with a lot of different variables. Being a part of a team concept, you have 12 players, trainers, coaches, and assistant coaches all to deal with as part of your family. You have to be able to manage personalities well, to deal with the things that come up and not let them affect your overall performance. It’s the same in the business world. You have to be prepared to make changes and put out little fires if you have them, but at the same time, keep a good working relationship and try to always achieve maximum performance. That doesn’t change in either setting.
4) As the owner and operator of “Drexler’s World Famous BBQ & Grill” you are exposed to the very competitive world of restaurants where diners pick new favorite restaurants weekly. How do you make sure your restaurant consistently stays as a top choice?
That is a very tough thing. My mother and my brother were partners and operators for many years. My mother decided to retire about a year ago and my brother decided he wanted to do something else. That left me to make decisions about which direction we were going to take it. We have shifted our operating schedule to be open for special occasions only: private events, parties, Bar Mitzvah’s, 50th birthday parties, anniversary dinners. So we are only open now when we have something to be open for. It is a lot less taxing on my mother and less taxing on me. It has been about a year now since we have changed our operating schedule and it’s been a lot of fun putting things together.
5) “Drexler’s World Famous BBQ & Grill” has been a family owned business in Houston since 1967 (source: drexlersbbq.com) started with Mama Drexler’s famous BBQ. What are some of the key characteristics you and your management team look for when interviewing candidates?
What we really look for is the ability to get things done. You really have to be resourceful because things quite often don’t go the way they should go, but you have to be resourceful to achieve your objective. That is what we look for, someone who can find a solution. You have to be able to make decisions – good decisions. We look for qualified people who are easy to work with.
6) How do you establish an environment that helps cultivate the entrepreneurial drive in your restaurant staff?
We talk about customer service, how the customer is always right. Basically we’re in business because of them. So when customers come through that door, we aim to please. That is the first and foremost thought that we have. We want to provide good quality service, we want our food to be consistently good and we want people to have a good time when they step through those doors.