Crawford Ker, a former NFL offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, knows that professional athletes do not have the best track record when it comes to their secondary careers. That is why Ker had a plan in place for when his playing days were numbered. That plan, Ker's WingHouse Bar and Grill, has grown to 21 locations throughout Florida since opening in the mid-1990s. BusinessNewsDaily spoke with Ker about the start of his business, what his NFL career taught him about becoming a restaurateur and his biggest challenge in the journey.
BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Crawford Ker: I wanted to be successful. Whatever I ended up doing, I knew I wanted to have a passion for it and be great at it. I achieved just that during my years playing college football and in the NFL and have enjoyed seeing the success and growth of WingHouse over the last 19 years.
BND: What did your parents do for a living?
C.K.: My dad worked in restaurants and was an incredibly hard worker. He inspired me to go into the restaurant business after I left football. My mom was a stay-at-home housewife and stood behind me in whatever I aimed to achieve.
BND: Can you talk about your time in the NFL and how that helped you in business?
C.K.: The NFL taught me the importance of teamwork and having a structure where everyone has a role to play. The team is constantly evaluated on performance — who is doing well, who needs to improve. It’s much the same in the restaurant business. At the end of the day, a football team needs to win and a restaurant needs to be profitable to sustain in the marketplace. Both exist in a competitive atmosphere.
BND: What's the best part of owning your own business?
C.K.: Freedom. I have really enjoyed being able to mold WingHouse into what I want it to be, from the atmosphere to the diverse menu of wings, burgers, wraps, salads and more.
BND: What's the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?
C.K.: Not always surrounding myself with quality people. As the brand has grown, our needs have changed and so I have had to make sure I have the right team in place to meet those needs.
BND: What was your main motivation in starting this business?
C.K.: Professional athletes often struggle with life after sports. The reasons vary, but I knew I wanted to do something that I would enjoy, which would increase my chances of being successful. I found that when I decided to open the first WingHouse in Largo, Fla., in 1994.
BND: What previous experiences helped you in that journey?
C.K.: My father was my mentor. He got me started in the restaurant business in high school, which was great experience to have when I was deciding what to do post-NFL.
BND: What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
C.K.: There was a learning curve when I left the NFL and began life as the founder of a restaurant chain. But I overcame it with hard work and am excited that WingHouse now has 21 locations across Florida and continues to grow.
BND: What is the best bit of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
C.K.: Believe in yourself at all costs, never quit and have perseverance.