National Franchise League Spotlight: Muhsin Muhammad
National Franchise League Spotlight: Muhsin Muhammad

All-Pro receiver turns All-Pro business leader

Muhsin Muhammad ranks 31st on the list of players leading the NFL in career receiving yards. Drafted to the Carolina Panthers in 1996, Muhsin had a career that wide receivers dream of. During his 14 years, he served as a captain leading two teams to Super Bowl XXXVII and XLI, selected to two Pro-Bowls, and was named a wide receiver on the 2004 NFL All-Pro team.

Muhsin has taken his personality (seen in his touchdown dance), leadership and hard work to a career in business. Graduating from Wharton School of Business, Muhsin is currently a managing director at Axum Capital Partners; a group investing in the Back Yard Burgers and Wild Wing Café franchises.

Additionally, Muhsin’s appreciation for the community stands out as he sits as president of the M2 Foundation for Kids, which works to enhance childhood education along with mental and physical development.

In an interview with 1851 Franchise magazine, Muhsin weighs in on his NFL career, the business world, his intangibles and how grit leads to success.

What did the NFL teach you – in terms of business leadership? Did the leadership you learned in the NFL translate?

The NFL taught me many things about business. To start off, playing professional football taught me basic core values of hard work, proper planning, teamwork and strategy in a very heightened competitive nature. Additionally, I learned that at the end of the day, results matter.

While in the NFL, I was exposed to networking and its value when building business relationships. During my time with the many teams along with the Player’s Union, I was exposed to different investment tools and realized that you will have access to knowledge if you wish to gain it.

Regarding knowledge and growth, continued education was always available and I tried to take much advantage of it. I took part in a few intern programs set up by the NFL for current and retired players. Eventually, I attended University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Business leadership is similar to leadership in general. I was a team captain for 8 of my 14 seasons. Additionally, as a representative in the NFL Players Association, I was a part of the collective bargaining agreement. Through those positions, I learned a lot about myself and how I lead.

When in your career did you realize that business world was a secondary career?

I realized this early on in my football career. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but I lacked business knowledge. I began to seek out and follow business role models. From that point, I began to invest as a limited partner and sat in the back seat gaining knowledge about the industry.

During my thirteenth season, I returned to the Carolina Panthers and began to formulate a plan and exit strategy. Being confident in what I learned and my abilities, I became a general partner leading a group and starting a business.

Again, I always had an entrepreneurial spirit; it just needed to be cultivated.

How important is it to protect your investments if you are a professional athlete?

It is extremely important. Players need to seek the right guidance and mentorship and proceed with caution. But that being said, mistakes will be made. Every business owner or successful person has made a mistake. If they haven’t, then they have taken no risk. You learn a lot through difficult times and must be willing to take calculated risks as they allow you to grow as a business leader and person.

You mentioned mentors, who were those people?

Many of my mentors are people you wouldn’t even know. They are local business men in Charlotte. I do follow Irving (Magic) Johnson because we are linked by our hometown, Lansing, MI. Although I have never had a personal mentor relationship with him, I learned from a distance while monitoring his decisions and strategies. They are very impactful.

Shifting gear to college students, what advice do you give them? What if being a professional athlete isn’t in their future?

I would tell them to put down the joysticks, controllers and video games, and read a book. Also, if they are interested in a field or need advice, seek out guidance. Lastly, they should never lose out on an opportunity to build a relationship with a business person they want to learn from.

Additionally, Education is extremely important. Graduate and get your degree.

What was your investment attraction to Back Yard Burgers?

I was attracted to the name. There is equity and value within the name. Back Yard Burgers captures everything American. It’s within our culture. The name represents a place where relationships were built and where families come together.

On top of that, the history of Back Yard Burgers was extremely attractive. We were a pioneer in the better burger space. I joined because I saw the value to resurrect the brand. I plan on utilizing the great systems, processes and infrastructure. The company has great bones.

Lastly, Back Yard Burgers has a very faithful following. People are waiting to see the Back Yard Burgers of the future and it’s our job to give them that. Many of the employees have been around since its inception. You can tell that people really love this brand. If we meet the expectations of our previous consumers regarding the brand’s future, we will win those consumers back.

What are your top intangibles in business?

I have five and they make up the acronym CHAIT, which is one of the first calendars ever created.

  • C stands for continued education and commitment to excellence. I believe with what I lack in experience and knowledge, I need to continue to develop in.
  • H stands for humility. I know I’m not going to be right one hundred percent of the time. When I’m wrong I need to admit that I am.
  • A stands for my accountability. If I’m going to do something, I will follow up and do it.
  • I stand for integrity and that speaks for itself.
  • Lastly, T stands for teamwork. These are the foundations and principles of which I build my business on.

What is the value of grit in business? We see athletes excel even if they aren’t drafted. How does this translate into business?

I can say there are many components of failure within grit. It’s a spur for good work ethic and focusing allowing you to have a more sustainable future when times are tough. In the business world, if your period or quarter isn’t what you expected or find yourself battling headwinds, you begin to develop different skills, systems and processes that are more disciplined. You begin to focus on the core fundamentals of your business so that when times are prosperous, the disciplines implemented provide acceleration towards success.

Being gritty is the ability to sustain difficult times while not losing sight of who you are and the prosperity of the future.

We have seen grit while handling the worst times in American history. Some of the best businesses and practices were born during the Great Depression. I believe that some the best businesses were formed, some of best practices were developed, and that gritty attitude positioned companies to take advantage in order to attain future success.