Lessons from the racetrack
It was a beautiful, hot and sunny late July Sunday in Indianapolis. Thousands of people were descending on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The parking lots were crowding rapidly, and the air was filled with the smell of concession stands preparing to feed the masses.
I had just finished a speaking engagement at Quality Service Contractors’ Power Meeting, where I shared my workshop, titled “The Six Dimensions of C.H.A.N.G.E. for Contractors.” The race happened to be the day following the meeting, and one of my awesome contractor clients from Indianapolis hooked us up with some amazing tickets for the event.
After a few days of training, coaching and discussing business, we were just looking for an entertaining, fun event that we hadn’t previously attended. Little did we know we would extract multiple business lessons from the experiences of the day.
Years ago, a book was released titled “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” I started to reflect on the premise of this book as I observed the precise teamwork that each of these race teams operates with. Suddenly it felt like all I really need to know about business I might just learn from a NASCAR race!
Preparation and planningThe first lesson to be noted is the preparation that takes place prior to each race. Most business people spend more time preparing for a family vacation than developing an annual business or marketing plan. As we walked through the pit before the race, we witnessed firsthand the amount of preparation that goes into every detail regarding the race ahead. The intricate planning system is designed to handle virtually any challenge the drivers might run into during this race and it is focused on the ultimate goal: winning.
Think about the planning that goes into our contracting companies. Are we spending enough time clearly defining the direction and goals of our businesses? Are we paying attention to the details and “little things” that can hugely affect our results, either positively or negatively?
Impeccable teamworkAs impressive as the preparation was, the teamwork was second to none. Everyone on the team knew exactly what he was supposed to be doing, when he was supposed to be doing it and exactly how it tied to the tasks being performed by the other team members. Everyone understood that for the entire team to succeed, each needed to perform at his very highest level personally.
If you have at least one employee besides yourself, then you have a team. Certainly many of our team members share similar jobs, tasks and goals. However, it is incredibly common that even team members within the same department or division often fail to support each other without even realizing it. As leaders of our organizations, we must clearly communicate how everyone must win individually in order for us to win as an entire company.
Brand communicationAnother lesson we can take from the racetrack is that of overall brand communication. You’ve seen these race cars on television or in person and you know there is hardly an inch of the vehicle without some logo, company or brand being represented. NASCAR and its driving teams understand marketing and the value of branding at a level that very few businesses do. They keep it simple, yet strategic and consistent, and are aware that people are always watching.
We might find it hard to comprehend the fact that these individual race teams also are successful businesses. However, when we look “under the hood” of these high-performing teams, we realize just how well they utilize business fundamentals
Raving fansLast but not least of my contracting business/NASCAR racing commonalities regards the raving NASCAR fans. These fans also are their customers, just in different ways than we’re used to doing business with our clients. They purchase hats, shirts, flags, drinking cups, and just about anything that has their driver’s number, colors and brand tied to it.
We all want to develop a base of customers who are loyal, raving fans of our companies. When was the last time one of your customers had your logo tattooed somewhere on his body? (Part of me is hoping this doesn’t happen very often, as it’s kind of weird.) I certainly saw more bare skin than was necessary at this particular sporting event, but it did afford me the opportunity to see these fans displaying their complete devotion!
Think about your own company when it comes to these key areas: preparation, teamwork, brand awareness and raving fan customers. How can we improve our preparedness while planning to “win” each day? What are the areas we need to address in order to enhance accountability and teamwork in our daily behaviors as a company? How can we better communicate the consistency, predictability and “feelings” we want to instill in our prospects and customers when they interact with our brand?
In addition, what are the missing pieces in our customer service and sales process that need to be addressed so our customers can view us with the same excitement they have when the 24 car comes roaring down the homestretch?
Some of you might be discounting this column right now, saying, “It’s not the same Kenny; we can’t run our companies like race teams.” Perhaps you’re right, but I can assure you that striving for positive development in these key areas will improve your company more than you can imagine. Implement an “unexpected” lesson or two from the racing world and watch as your own company starts to transform into a more cohesive, efficient team that is focused on winning together.