Former Packer Mark Tauscher takes his winning habits to the business world

Mark Tauscher has been such a steady presence on the Wisconsin sports scene for the past two decades, it’s odd to consider that he’s still a young professional.

A graybeard by NFL standards, the 37-year-old Tauscher has lived many a young Wisconsin boy’s wildest dreams. After joining the UW football team as a walk-on in 1995, Tauscher established himself as an anchor on the offensive lines of his home-state Badgers and Green Bay Packers, two venerable organizations that saw their fortunes dramatically turned around beginning in the early ’90s.

Since retiring from the NFL in 2011, Tauscher has successfully shifted gears, establishing himself as a popular local broadcaster (he and current Packer John Kuhn launched a sports talk show on WTMJ last fall) and last July purchasing Madison’s Isthmus newspaper along with Red Card co-founders Jeff Haupt and Craig Bartlett.

“I’ve been fortunate to be on a lot of teams that have had great success, and I’ve also been on a few teams that didn’t have success, and I think one of the biggest reasons was that there were a lot of people trying to jockey for more.” — Mark Tauscher

So when Tauscher talks about teamwork — and how vital it is to establishing success in sports or business — he knows whereof he speaks.

Tauscher will give the keynote at the 2015 CONNECTion event on Feb. 26 at the Overture Center. The event is sponsored by CONNECT Madison, a young professionals group that offers career development opportunities to young local leaders. The theme of the night will be the importance of teamwork for success, and the featured nonprofit for this year will be CATCH (Community Around the Children’s Hospital).

According to Tauscher, teamwork can be an elusive commodity, but when team members understand and accept their roles well enough to check their egos at the door, success is all but inevitable.

“Every business is people-driven and relationship-driven, and it doesn’t matter if it’s insurance, if you’re trying to sell cars, or whatever it is, if you have good people who understand their role and do their job, your chances of success are going to be that much higher,” said Tauscher. “It’s about defining roles and making sure everybody understands their roles.

“I’ve been fortunate to be on a lot of teams that have had great success, and I’ve also been on a few teams that didn’t have success, and I think one of the biggest reasons was that there were a lot of people trying to jockey for more. They were trying to go outside of what was asked of them and they weren’t happy with the role that they had, and if you have too much of that, your team’s success is going to get hurt.”

A winning philosophy

To Tauscher, two executives who exemplify the kind of leadership that leads to effective teamwork are Barry Alvarez and Ron Wolf. Both men, he said, understood how important it is to assign roles, define those roles, and then allow team members to do their jobs. Alvarez was Tauscher’s head coach at UW, and Wolf was the Packers’ GM when Tauscher first entered the league.

“Barry Alvarez was great at having a philosophy — he had a basic groundwork for how his program was going to be, and then you had different people that you’d fit in there, and you’d understand how the core basics of your program needed to be consistent. You had your guys come in, and you made sure they were doing their job, allowing players to continue to grow, but it was always, ‘Here are our basic principles; we’re not going to shy away from these.’ And it was the same thing with Ron Wolf and the Green Bay Packers organization.”

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Of course, once a winning tradition is established through strong leadership and a bedrock philosophy, it’s much easier to sustain, said Tauscher.

“Any time you’ve had that track record, it makes buy-in a lot easier from the people who are trying to find out what their roles are, and as long as they’re clearly defined, typically people embrace that or they move onto something else. But if you know what the role is, it’s a lot easier to be a part of a team knowing that you’re contributing your part.”

Feeding success

Today, Tauscher is excited to be part of another winning team. Bartlett, Chris Winterhack, and Haupt (who spent 15 years with The Onion — 10 as the owner of the Colorado edition) founded Red Card in 2010. The off-campus meal plan allows its 4,000 users to make purchases at the Fresh Madison Market and more than 80 area restaurants through its discount card or app. The company has also partnered with UW Athletics, which uses Red Card to feed its football, basketball, hockey, and volleyball teams.

That was just the hook Tauscher needed to get involved with the Red Card/Isthmus team.

“I just thought with the NCAA rules and knowing how important feeding your athletes on a budget was going to be, there was potential for good growth there,” said Tauscher. “It was something I thought would be really challenging and could be a lot of fun.”

While Tauscher is primarily involved with the Red Card side of the business — he hints that there’s some “exciting stuff” in the works for the company in the coming months — he’s also eyeing a role with Isthmus.

His father, Denny, was a sportswriter for the Marshfield News-Herald for many years, and Tauscher plans to follow in his footsteps —on a limited basis, at least.

“I would be doing somewhere between 10 and 15 articles a year,” said Tauscher. “Obviously, during football season would be more when I’d be thinking about doing stuff. But it would be something sports-related, and I’d do it when I came across something I thought would be interesting to write about. It’s going to be a fun challenge for me to try to put pen to paper.”

As for the near-term future of his Badgers and Packers, Tauscher is optimistic, despite the teams’ late-season stumbles in Indianapolis and Seattle.

“The great thing is the expectations for both are incredibly high,” said Tauscher. “As long as you have Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback, you’re going to be in the mix every year. And as you saw this year, a few plays here or there, if they go one way or the other, you’re going to a Super Bowl, and so I think Green Bay is always going to be in the mix as long as they have that quarterback playing at the level he’s playing at.

“Wisconsin, I think, is the cream of the crop in their division, and it will be interesting to see how Paul Chryst does. The cupboard is not bare. There’s a lot of talent, and you always kind of assume that offensive line is going to be a catalyst in the running game, and if you can run the ball successfully you’re going to be in every game. So I think the future is bright, and it’s going to be bright for a long time.”

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