Self-made billionaire Jerry Jones, who made his fortune in the oil business, bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 for $150 million. Today, his team is worth an estimated $5 billion.
Jones, who has collected three Super Bowl titles as an owner and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017, got to where he is today in part thanks to hard work — and that's a value he made sure to instill in his three kids.
To get the point across, one summer Jones made his oldest son Stephen get a job working in fast food, because he thought Stephen wasn't being sufficiently serious about working hard to achieve his goals.
Stephen was a high schooler at the time and "my goal and dream was to play [football] in college," he told the Dallas News. His dad, who had been coaching Stephen's youth football teams since his son was 10, made it clear that, in that case, Stephen should be spending his summer days away from the house and working out, focused on making his dream a reality.
"If that's what you want to do," his dad told him, "then you're going to spend the time and treat it like a job."
One day, though, Stephen recalled, his dad "came home, middle of the day — he wasn't out of town as I suspected — and he came home to me in the swimming pool with a group of about 30 other kids. ... They were loud, we had music and I was one of the loudest, enjoying the moment. And as things started to progress, I noticed that people started just staring at my house. One by one, the sound level started to drop in the pool. And I looked up, my father was sitting on the porch."
The high schooler shut down the pool party and went up to the deck to see his dad, who told him to put on a suit. "He said, 'We're going on a little job interview,'" Stephen recalled. "I had no idea what he was talking about."
Stephen continued: "I didn't want to say much because I knew I wasn't in a good position to say anything so we got in that car and he said, 'Well, we're headed over to Wendy's. … You need to get your work ethic up. Obviously, you couldn't handle being your own boss so we'll just have you report every morning to Wendy's and see how that goes.'"
Stephen met with the owner, Gerald Hamra, who happened to be a friend of his dad's, and "he walked me through the process of the training program and what I'd be doing — cleaning out the grills and the griddles and the grease pits." At the end of the interview, Hamra hired him. "Congratulations," he told Stephen. "I expect to see you here at eight in the morning."
The car ride home was a memorable one, Stephen told Dallas News: "He says, 'Hey Stephen, you fired up about this job?' [I said,] 'Yes, sir. I'll be ready to go to work.' And he goes, 'Well, are you learning anything from this?' [I said,] 'Yes, I have.' And he goes, 'Well, what?' [I said,] 'Well, I shouldn't have been home. I should've been working.'
"He goes, 'You know what? I'm a big believer in maybe a second chance. I already talked to Mr. Hamra — I've already told him that we were maybe going to do this. If you think you can get it right, we'll give you one more chance.' "
The lesson worked. "I can promise you, I was never within five miles of my house for the rest of my summer workouts and jobs during my next two years," Stephen told Dallas News. "It was a valuable lesson. It was certainly a point well made. It was a point that needed to be made and it was certainly something I learned from. "
Stephen went on to enjoy a successful college football career, lettering all four years as a linebacker at Arkansas. After graduating, he helped sell his dad's oil business to finance the 1989 purchase of the Cowboys.
Today, Stephen works under his dad as the Cowboys COO and Executive Vice President, and, as Sports Illustrated reports, may succeed Jones as owner when the time comes.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct that the owner of the Wendy's at the time was Mr. Gerald Hamra.
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