As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marques Colston. Marques is the founder of Marques Colston Enterprises, a transformational education company started to provide personal and professional development to athletes and fellow entrepreneurs. Marques launched this company to provide athletes and entrepreneurs with a roadmap to success. After launching and advising several businesses — through success and failure — he understands the rigors and challenges that face today’s athletes and entrepreneurs as they build brands and scale businesses.
Colston’s wealth of expertise was honed through years of getting his hands dirty in business.
Marques currently lends his knowledge as an advisor to companies in sports technology and health and wellness. He is actively working with Timeless Herbal Care, an international cannabis company, and serves on the advisory committee for NFL Players Inc., the licensing arm of the NFL Players Association. He also shares his experiences with students through education programs and workshops at various colleges and universities.
Marques Colston is a former 10-year NFL veteran. He is a Super Bowl champion and inductee in the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. While an active player, he was the Saints’ all-time franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards, and total touchdowns.
A proud husband and father, he resides in the Greater Philadelphia area with his wife, Emily, a real estate professional and health and fitness expert, and their two children, Austin and Mia.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Iam an entrepreneur whose perspective is defined by my upbringing and the unique life experiences that accompany a journey from an under-recruited high school football player to an NFL star. By nature, I am a quiet, reserved, and thoughtful individual who strives to move with intention.
My parents instilled strong values that centered around hard work, integrity, and community. They taught me to follow my dreams while showing me what it looked like to work and sacrifice to achieve them. These values have helped me build a growth mindset that I call “Irrational Confidence” and it has propelled my journey. Fueled by my self-belief and internal drive, this Irrational Confidence has helped me see opportunities where others do not. It now pushes me to continue creating separation from my competition in the business world.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I started to build an internal team, I was still playing football and managing a couple of my personal investments. My time was stretched really thin, so I hired someone to manage engagement on my accounts, and begin reaching out to connect with colleagues and potential partners on my behalf.
This was one of my first hires, and was quick to trust the vendor as an expert. I didn’t take the time to check any of the other accounts they managed.
A week or so went by, and I logged into my accounts to check on some of the engagement. What I saw sent me into an instant panic mode. I saw messages to former football colleagues and teammates that sounded nothing like the way I would communicate. I could just imagine the look on their faces when they opened a message that started “Hey big guy…” I quickly realized this setup wasn’t a good style fit and brought things back in house.
It taught me a valuable lesson. When it comes to your relationships and your voice- there is no replacement for authenticity. Some things you just can’t rush to scale.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
A book series that has helped me move my career forward has been “Blue Ocean Strategy and Blue Ocean Shift.” Coming into business, the book helped me think about market creation and growth in a more abstract way; A way that I had learned to master on the football field.
The concept of creating Blue Ocean opportunities and avoiding the “red seas of competition” connected with the way that I approached playing the wide receiver position in football. Success at my job, much like in business, looked very simple on the surface — get open and make the play. However, the nuance and complexities that go into getting open, or the process of “Creating Separation” as I call it, becomes the differentiator or value creation.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I entered the business world after a successful career in sports. Some of my early struggles were rooted in the belief that “technical” business experience was the only way to advance. At times, it caused me to devalue some of the intangible life experiences I brought to the table in exchange for learning more technical skills. I believe that is a common reality, especially for many entrepreneurs, athletes, and professionals as they try to break through to the next phase of their growth.
The underlying mission that drives my company MCE is providing professionals and organizations with tools to realize and achieve their goals for growth. We deliver professional development for athletes and entrepreneurs, performance coaching for executives, and leadership development for businesses and organizations. At the core of everything we do is a process I call “Creating Separation.” Creating Separation is the proven process I used to excel as a top-performing athlete. I’ve taken that same framework and developed a highly implementable, goal-oriented, decision-making process to help our clients differentiate themselves from their competitors and stand out in whatever arena they decide to play. Our holistic development process intersects the personal and professional as complementary pathways that can shift the culture of organizations when they intersect.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
“You’re never as good or bad as you think.” There are ebbs and flows that come along with building anything that can sustain success. It is key to maintain a level of perspective throughout the process. In the victories, there is always room to improve and optimize. In the losses and failures, there are always lessons that can be learned and applied forward.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
COVID-19 introduced a new reality for many entrepreneurs — one full of uncertainty. The moving target around reopening businesses and schools has been the biggest X factor for my business and my family. As a father of two, one in preschool and one in 2nd grade, time management has become my top priority.
I’ve worked to strike a better work-life balance to ensure my family gets the time they deserve, my son gets the education he needs, and I get the work done to keep moving the business forward. I gave myself permission to eliminate excess and trivial tasks that would normally dominate the day, and prioritize the higher-value tasks.
To get this accomplished, I start my days earlier to make sure I can work out and work for 2–3 hours uninterrupted before anyone else in my house is awake.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
This pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities in our society. Like many businesses, my business wasn’t prepared to answer the question “What happens if what we do now, can’t be done later.” I had just started to launch my speaking and coaching business in January. As soon as COVID-19 hit, my primary service offering disappeared almost instantly. I’m choosing to pivot and focus on opportunities, ways to create separation within the new realities.
Today, it’s finding more virtual opportunities; innovating what MCE does for the new realities. This crisis challenged us to create solutions we’d never considered. My current focus is on helping athletes maximize their transition out of the game. I’m building a platform that harnesses the skills they’ve developed during their playing years to transform what life will look like post game.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
My approach has always been to look for opportunities, especially in challenging times. However, I do understand that this crisis has impacted everyone differently, and to varying degrees.
We live in a world that is constantly moving and changing, and this pandemic has forced everything to slow down. Yes, the circumstances that brought us to this point are horrible. Now that we are here, what are you going to do with them?
My advice to my friends and family has been to use this as a moment of self-reflection and self-improvement. In uncertain and adverse times, I believe the only thing you can control is your response.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
The economy will find a new equilibrium and sense of normalcy in the coming months and years. With the historic unemployment numbers being reported, the job market will become extremely competitive. No one knows how permanent those challenges will be.
I do believe that a mainstay in the post-COVID economy will be opportunities built on the fringes of current markets. It will become more important than ever for entrepreneurs and professionals to articulate their unique value and ability to innovate. Those who can combine traditional tactical skills with entrepreneurial and leadership qualities will create more value for themselves and organizations.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
This crisis has created solutions we’d never considered, new ways to do things. We’ve also watched this crisis create community in ways we may not have before.
Many will not be in a hurry to rush back to more in-person, group interactions. Some of the innovations we’ve seen during this time have proved more efficient than the incumbents. We may see businesses operate in a more hybrid fashion, focused on balancing productivity and overhead.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We plan to stay agile as we move past the initial disruption that COVID-19 has brought. We’ll continue looking for creative opportunities that will help to further differentiate our products and services. A staple of our business model curriculum and content development.
We are taking this time to continue developing curriculum and building out our content library. As the world moves toward its new normal, we want to be positioned to deliver high value content and curriculum across multiple platforms.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
If there are immediate opportunities that your business can leverage, lean into your competitive advantages to maintain authenticity and carve out your own lane.
If those immediate opportunities do not exist try to “skate where the puck is headed” and find ways to leverage your resources there.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson
It’s easy to plan everything out in a vacuum, but that’s not how life works. If you want to be successful at anything, you’re going to take some hits and adversity will come in all different forms. That’s the real test. Those who can stay the course and keep pressing forward give themselves a chance to win.
How can our readers further follow your work?
LinkedIn: Marques Colston