“You don’t need permission to be excellent.”
— Dany Garcia, Chairwoman and CEO, The Garcia Companies; Owner, XFL
Building and running a phenomenally successful portfolio of companies, producing blockbuster films and buying a major sports league are all in a day’s work for Dany Garcia, Founder, CEO and Chairwoman of The Garcia Companies―who’s also the XFL Owner, Co-Founder of Seven Bucks Companies, a professional bodybuilder and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s co-producer and business partner. I’m exhausted just writing that sentence.
Jessica Pliska: Dany, you’ve built nothing short of an empire: Film. Television. Health and Wellness, Beverage. Ice cream. Apparel. Tequila! And with your acquisition of the XFL, you’re the first woman with an equal or majority stake in a U.S. professional sports league. Where did it all begin?
Dany Garcia: My earliest influence was understanding that wealth generation would have a great impact on my ability to take care of my family. That was my first dream. I’m first-generation in the United States. My parents were immigrants from Cuba. It was challenging and I understood that. I’ve worked since I was 12 and I always really enjoyed it. I never dreamt of being a movie star or a singer. I just dreamt of working.
Pliska: How did that impact the company you’ve built?
Garcia: Taking care of people is the core of everything I do today. It’s the root that anchors everything; it colors everything I touch. Now taking care of my family also means my companies and the individuals I work with. I’ve developed a very holistic, family-based approach to the build-out of my enterprise. I’ve been able to expand the dream and express it completely and in a more powerful way.
Pliska: What does that look like in action?
Garcia: Take the XFL. Football is a sport absent of the idea of taking care of everyone involved or responsibility for how that experience is to the fan or the audience. All of my passion, perspective and expertise is taking care of people. It’s advancing the human experience. So the XFL is the largest-scale opportunity I have to utilize everything I’ve done to date to impact people in amazing ways—to really get in there, create incredible gameplay and deliver excellence in football, but to also bring a female interpretation of excellence in football.
Pliska: I’m struck by how unlikely it would be to hear the male head of a major sports league talk about ‘taking care of people’ or ‘advancing the human experience.’ And yet it’s clearly been a competitive advantage for you. What do you mean by ‘female interpretation?’
Garcia: Football is a male-dominated sport, built by men, with a male point of view, who may think, “This is how women will enjoy it.” But it’s not just about the female fan or consumer experience. It’s also the perspective I bring to management style, to enterprise style, which gives me greater breadth. I have a holistic point of view. I look for sustainability in action, like with our athletes—who they are when they come to us and what happens to them after us. That full circle approach is rare to find in the sports industry.
Pliska: You’re also, amazingly, a professional bodybuilder.
Garcia: That dream took hold the first time I ever opened a bodybuilding magazine and saw a female bodybuilder. When I saw that physique and saw what women athletes could look like, it blew me away. For me, it’s about what it takes to build a physique. To express yourself through sport. It’s the discipline, the drive. What you learn about yourself. The confidence you build.
Pliska: You and your siblings were the only Latinx students in your high school. What advice can you share from your experience with young people of color charting their paths in predominantly white spaces?
Garcia: You don’t need permission to be excellent. When I was coming up, I prepared to be excellent. Spend time preparing to be absolutely the best you can. You’re going to have to do more than others. Gather people around you to be your support system, who say, “We know you, we got you, we love you.” And then make it easier for people coming up after you.
Pliska: In the fall, you launched #LatinxtheMosaic, a virtual conversation among Latinx thought leaders on racism and colorism in the Latinx community and celebrating Black influence within it. Why?
Garcia: There are movements that need to happen—movements to normalize equality. For us in the Latinx community, we see the power of the Black Lives Matter movement, the justification for it, the right to it. I’m so proud that #LatinxtheMosaic has embraced it. I’m humbled to have an opportunity to be part of the work.
Pliska: Young people often have trouble imagining that successful leaders ever made mistakes or are still dogged by insecurities. What still challenges you, despite your undeniable success?
Garcia: Your insecurities come with you! People think when you win, it’s because of your strengths and nobody knows your weaknesses. But when you walk into a room, your strengths and weaknesses come with you. And it’s OK. There’s no version where I’m going into a project and know I have 100% or 80% or even 60% of the tools and information I need to accomplish my goal. I’m continuously giving myself permission to be human through my experiences. I do new things every year. Hard things. Big things. That uncertainty is part of great growth and success.
Pliska: That makes me wonder: Do you typically trust your leadership instincts? Are you good at listening to your gut?
Garcia: Yes. 100%. Whenever I don’t listen to it, whenever I logic myself out of my gut—that’s when I have an issue.
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