"Hard work. Dedication. And the mindset that failure is not an option."
That is how former Green Bay Packers great Willie Davis answered a question about the secrets behind his post-football career as a successful executive in the beer distributing and radio businesses.
Davis was fielding questions at a recent Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon, where he was promoting his recently completed autobiography, "Willie Davis: Closing the Gap." The subtitle of the book is "Lombardi, The Packers Dynasty and the Pursuit of Excellence."
Davis, of course, was an All-Pro defensive lineman for Coach Vince Lombardi's Packer championship teams during the 1960s.
For the past 30 years, Milwaukee has been a focal point of Davis' life. He still owns a residence in Milwaukee and maintains a strong local presence through ownership of radio stations 1290 WMCS, 102.1WLUM-FM and WLDB-FM 93.3.
A quick scan of his book recounts lessons learned from the legendary coach and how Davis applied them later in life to his business career.
One of the striking themes of the book is the vision Davis had for his career after football.
As a player at the peak of his game in 1963, Davis enrolled at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business to earn his master's degree in business administration with an emphasis on marketing.
"If there was one player on the team who truly appreciated my pursuit of a degree, it was Bart Starr," Davis wrote in the book. "Bart, as kind as he was, never once took part in giving me grief. Instead, he talked to me about the struggles of school and encouraged me to stick with it, telling me that what I was doing was inspirational. I was scared but excited. Going back to school made me feel like a winner, like I might be able to achieve my dream after all,"
After Davis achieved initial business success as a West Coast distributor of Schlitz beer, he was asked to serve on a series of corporate boards of directors. In almost every case, he became the first African American to sit in the board room in an era when the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum and breaking new barriers.
Davis wrote candidly about his director interactions as the only minority at the table.
"As recently as the 1980s, corporate America was still lacking in terms of minorities in upper management positions," Davis wrote. "I also found it fascinating how intrigued and sometimes even uncomfortable certain board members were in terms of dealing with a black director.
"I can say truthfully that I never once encountered any kind of blatant racism or even really any bad feelings toward me and my involvement. Instead it was more of an uncomfortable adjustment at times for companies that had been so used to doing things a certain way. They wanted to change, they wanted to broaden their world perspectives, especially when it came to issues related to minorities, who were becoming a much larger customer base with each passing year. It was like anything else at the beginning. It was sometimes awkward as they took those first steps."
Davis shares plenty of advice for other business executives.
"Know where you want to go and get there," Davis wrote. "You might not always know how or where your path will take you. I can assure you it will not be achieved in just a few big steps but rather a series of small steps along the way."
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Steve Jagler
Published Feb. 9, 2015
Since 1851, Wisconsin's state motto has been "Forward." However, these days, a more appropriate motto might be "Just hold on a minute..."
Published Jan. 14, 2015
If it seems like so many public policy decisions are hanging fire in Wisconsin these days, it's only because they are. And so many of these loose ends seem to be intertwined and interdependent.
Published Dec. 23, 2014
As the legal slog to develop a new streetcar system in Downtown Milwaukee continues to play out in court, in City Hall and at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, proponents and opponents alike would do well to keep an eye on Cincinnati.
Published Dec. 2, 2014
If asked to return for another term as secretary and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Reed Hall says he would be honored to serve again.
Published Nov. 14, 2014
In recent years, the Milwaukee Bucks have not had much to celebrate when they've conducted their annual preview luncheon with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. This year, however, there was a tangible buzz in the room at the event, which was held at the Harley-Davidson Museum.
Published Nov. 12, 2014
In essence, preserving net neutrality would ensure that all consumers and businesses will have universal levels of access to a fast Internet, not just some preferred customers who would pay for "faster lanes" on the Internet.
Published Oct. 29, 2014
Over the years, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and its president, Tim Sheehy, have been vocal and ardent opponents of new taxes. That's why more than a few business leaders were still trying to process the messages Sheehy gave them when he spoke to the Milwaukee Rotary Club recently about the need to raise public financing for the region's cultural and entertainment venues.
Published Oct. 19, 2014
Empower your people to think like entrepreneurs and serve your customers. That was the leading takeaway message from the panelists at the first Next Stage Workshop recently presented by BizTimes.
Published Oct. 8, 2014
The Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) recently unveiled its list of the "Fastest Five" companies.
Published Sept. 17, 2014
Bottom line: Koss is losing money, has halted production at its plant in Mexico, is pulling back on research and development of new products and is suspending payment of dividends to shareholders.