GCPA Spring Conference Interview – Drew Dougherty & Jamey Rootes

April 15, 2021


Jamey Rootes

Drew Dougherty 0:00
Hello there and welcome into a nice little conversation. My name is Drew Dougherty, I’m the host of Texans TV with Jamey Rootes, the longtime president of the Houston Texans.  It’s always good to be with you and you at the Gulf Coast Power Association, it’s time to take a step back and just kind of listen to a little conversation. We’re going to cover football, the city of Houston, the book you wrote, in dealing with adversity, which is something we know about it the Houston Texans, and something you guys know about too. But let’s start with you. After two decades, really more than two decades, here with the Texans, you’re moving on! What’s this change been like for you, Jamey?

Jamey Rootes 0:32
It’s been an interesting experience. I mean, you do something for 20 years, it’s really kind of your baby. It’s very hard to give it up. The hardest part has been the relationships that you make, the team that we have here at the Houston Texans is exceptional.  I mean, put them up against any team in pro sports, and our fans and our customers. I mean, you just build these deep relationships and to walk away from that. It’s very difficult, but it was clear to me, it was time. I’ve got one more run in me, one more thing that I can go and build or turn around. And that’s what I’m in the process of pursuing and really, really excited about it.

Drew Dougherty 1:06
Yeah, I mean, I’m fascinated to see what that is. I know you’re gonna let that out in due time. But let’s rewind all the way back to when things started. You were here before games were even played. You were here in the infancy of this franchise. What was it like back then on the business side of things, which is what you led for the last 20 plus years,

Jamey Rootes 1:24
I spent five years launching the Columbus Crew and Major League Soccer and had done really all that I could do there. I think I was 3035 or 36 years old at the time, we built the first practice facility for a stadium with the largest season-ticket base. I mean, it was really in good shape. And so I felt like it was time to do something different kind of how I feel now, right. But my first weekend on the job was the Super Bowl in Atlanta. And just to see how big the National Football League was, I knew at that point in time, I’d made exactly the right decision. It was a chance for me to demonstrate that the success that we saw on Columbus wasn’t because it was a sport that was so natural to me playing soccer in my life and coaching. And it wasn’t because it was a small market, which Columbus is a small market. So now you come to the biggest of the big, the National Football League in the fourth largest market in America. And the results have been spectacular. It’s been an incredible team effort. Anything anytime a sports team is successful, it starts with ownership. You cannot be successful without great ownership and the McNair’s are as good as it gets. We had a great stadium NRG Stadium, one of the best on the planet, and certainly a wonderful market that was receptive to the Houston Texans. And I’m very proud of the deep Association that’s been created with the team. I think the fans really see themselves in battle red, deep steel, blue, and liberty white. I mean, it’s part of who they are. It’s not just going to a football game. It’s part of their life and part of their social capital throughout the week. And so that’s been super cool. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

Drew Dougherty 2:57
Everyone has a football team or everyone that has a football team in the NFL, they’re doing something right. What was what are some of the main goals? Aside from winning championships? What were some of the main goals that you all set out to accomplish, right that are at the start?

Jamey Rootes 3:09
Well, it was about respect and value and you respect people who do things that you’re not willing to do or you can’t do. And so we really challenged ourselves to do things at the highest level, operating on the extra mile. And then the value is not only the financial rewards of the franchise, but the value in a 360 mindset that you know the value for our customers value for our communities, value for our investors, of course, and value for our employees, you know, making it a rewarding experience. And I think we accomplish that in a 360 fashion. I mean, a very valuable experience for everybody involved with the franchise.

Drew Dougherty 3:45
We’ve heard you many times say and I’ve been here since 2009. Many times talking about creating memorable experiences and creating raving fans. And the Texans I think are animalistic about it. As far as the gameday experience here in the state of Texas. They want to constantly improve constantly get better. Why? And how did you guys go about that over the last 20 years, because whether it was putting up closed captioning for folks who were kind of hearing impaired and couldn’t hear what was going on in the stadium, right to having better pretzels! I mean, it was kind of a constantly evolving process.

Jamey Rootes 4:17
I mean, it’s like an onion. And so you’re constantly peeling back the onion a layer at a time asking yourself what is better, what is better than what we did last time. And if you just keep on that path of always getting better, you know, and never think about where you are relative to other people just I want to be better than I was last year. It’s amazing how much progress you can make. And the fact that we had so many people here that care so deeply about the fan experience, care so deeply about the notes and reactions that we get from people that this bond’s people together like nothing else. We really do feel like we’re doing something important, and it matters to us. And so when you got that going, you get this notion of elective effort, people Do things because they want to know because you can pay somebody to do a job, but you can’t pay them to care. And so we have a group of caring people that protect the experience at all costs, protect the brand, at all costs. And, you know, you do that for 20 years, it’s amazing where you can get.

Drew Dougherty 5:15
Yeah, and you do anything for 20 years, you’re gonna have some tough times, you’re going to go through some adversity. Sure, what were some of those tough times? And how did you get through all that?

Jamey Rootes 5:22
Well, we’ve had adversity in terms of, you know, 2 and 14 seasons, we’ve had adversity in the form of hurricanes and floods. And I mean, every time it just the best of this organization, came to the surface, who john wooden said, you know, adversity, does it, build character, it reveals it. And I saw that time and time again, that the character of this organization was revealed. And in fact, in the book that I wrote, The Winning Game Plan, I talked about four plays to handle all adversity, and it’s all about your attitude. First and foremost, Scott, M. Scott Peck, who wrote the book, The Road Less Traveled, and you’ve never read it, just read the first chapter and the first paragraph, because it says life is hard. Once you embrace it, life is hard. The fact that it’s hard, didn’t matter anymore. And so getting your mind, right, that you’re open to the fact that life is about challenges. First and foremost, number two is to committing to pushing back, you know, this is not going to take me down, I am going to push back against this adversity. Number three is to stay positively focused. And you probably remember, around the time of the NFL lockout, positively focused was the mindset we had here, we had the bracelets, and anytime you weren’t positive, you know, thinking positively and focused on the things that you can control. You did it to the other wrist and over time that.

Drew Dougherty 6:47
snapped it real hard snapping hard. Yeah,

Jamey Rootes 6:49
That discipline of only focusing on the things that you can control because anything else is irrelevant. And to accentuate the positive. To counteract the negative is so incredibly important number. The next is is to believe, you know, the Bible says, “Blessed are those who have not yet seen but still believe,” you know, it’s not about seeing, it’s about believing that you will be successful. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for having no original ideas! You know, and if he had given up at that point in time, entertainment wouldn’t be what it is today. But he believed that he could overcome and then lastly, just to persevere, you know, so often, it’s the last one standing that wins. There’s a movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, right? And Sonny is the innkeeper and one of his lines is so great. “Everything will be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, right now, it must not be the end”. And so just keep going. And that really, in a nutshell, is how you handle any adversity.

Drew Dougherty 7:49
Yeah, you know, over the years, we’ve heard you pull from a lot of these sources that you just referenced there. You also talked Don Shula, Bear Bryant, you go across the gamut, or you run the gamut. What made you want to write a book? And how much did you pull from all of them?

Jamey Rootes  8:01
Yeah. So really, writing the book was, was just a compilation, I took quotes and acronyms and presentations that I’ve done, and put them into a logical sequence, and added a bunch of stories that link them all together. That’s really what the book was all about. But the genesis for it was, there’s a guy by the name of Greg Beetles, Greg is the Executive Vice President of the Atlanta Falcons. And at an NFL owners meeting, almost two years ago. Yes, two years ago, he stopped me at the end. I see all the business metrics, and the Texans are always at the top. But you guys have had modest team performance, which helped me understand how that happens. And I gave him an answer. But when I got home, I was like, You know what, I really do need to write this down. We’ve been able to perform from a business perspective, in an exceptional way, year after year after year, without consistent team performance. And it comes down to very basic leadership, fundamental principles about who , you know, the talent that you have on your team, the culture, the how, how you do what you do, and we talk in terms of impact. And then number three is a purpose. You know, because business isn’t about profit. It’s about doing something uniquely awesome for other humans. And if that’s what you’re here to do, if that’s what you’re engaged in, people will go the extra mile to make it a reality.

Drew Dougherty 9:25
It’s a pretty interesting idea there. You talk about the talent, just getting a job here. It’s tough. I mean, it’s a rigorous process. You go through a lot of interviews, you go through a lot of vetting, but once you get in, you’re given a lot of latitudes, a lot of freedom. That’s a very important idea to you, isn’t it?

Jamey Rootes 9:40
Yeah, it is. I think people want autonomy. You know, you want to be very tough on the front end, and don’t allow anybody on the bus that doesn’t have a great work ethic, a winning attitude, and a commitment to operate consistently with our values. But once you’ve demonstrated that, hey, look, go make things happen. You know you’ll have latitude you’ll have autonomy. And over time, your results will speak for themselves. And often I find so often I can’t even think of a situation where someone left the organization because of, you know, objective performance. It’s usually about work ethic and mainly attitude. You know, if you’re not positive, optimistic team-oriented, it’s just not going to work for you, just so you’re so fit in, and you’re not a great collaborator, you’re not in it for the greater good. But if you are, there’s just no limit to what you could achieve here.

Drew Dougherty 10:31
So it’s an international bestseller, this book that you wrote, it’s a lot of fun. What was the best part of the process for you? What did you learn about yourself the most in writing this book?

Jamey Rootes10:39
I mean, it was about nine months, and it was all during COVID. Right. So I spent the day from seven in the morning to seven at night, doing my normal work. And then I’d take a break and have dinner, and then from 8 to 12, I got a chance to relive the last 20 years. That’s what was so special. I mean, all the stories that I tell, I mean, it just they made me laugh, they made me cry. Most importantly, they gave me optimism that tomorrow can be better than today.

Drew Dougherty 11:08
Yeah. And it does not just work. I mean, there are some very personal stories in there. That’s part of the book. It’s one of the fun parts of the book, I think and, and one of the best parts too. How personal was the process for you?

Jamey Rootes 11:18
It was very personal. And it’s very hard to unlock those things. Because, you know, you experience them and you put them in the backseat and you move on to something else. It caused me to kind of rewind and really relive all these positive moments, negative moments, mostly positive moments that you know, fortunately, and it gave me a chance to express my most sincere gratitude to the McNair family, also to the hunt family gave me a chance to get into sports originally with the Columbus Crew and maybe most importantly, to express my most sincere thanks to our teammates, because I mean, you know it you see them all around. I mean, we just have incredible people that care deeply about what they’re doing.

Drew Dougherty 11:57
Yeah, you love this organization. love the people that work here. You didn’t grow up in Houston, but you’ve come to love the city too, Haven’t you?

Jamey Rootes12:02
know, of course, and my hope is to stay here. My daughter doesn’t graduate from high school for another 15 months. And so I’ve already made a commitment that whether I’m working or I’m not working, I’m going to be here in Houston until she graduates but who knows, maybe something cool can come up here in this city.

Drew Dougherty 12:17
Alright, Jamey Rootes, best of luck in the future. And thanks so much for joining us. We’re gonna kick it back to you at the Gulf Coast Power Association. We really appreciate you letting us share some time with you.