Some of you that know me a little better know that in my “parallel life” I’m also a racer. I own a Racing Series (www.ASCRacing.com ), I have my own race team (www.MGRRacing.net) and I just love racing and fast cars in general… But since this is primarily a business Blog, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned from racing that I’ve applied to improve the efficiency of my other businesses.
It is no coincidence that the most successful and leading auto racing team owners are also very successful entrepreneurs outside of the racing world. In the USA, Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, to name a few, all run a number of other very successful companies in addition to their racing teams. Bernie Ecclestone, was a so-so driver, but later became a very smart team owner and he’s currently the 4th richest person in the UK according to Forbes, while he’s also the President of Formula One Management among a number of other business ventures and enterprises that he also owns.
So what are the common personality and business traits that racing leaders possess that we can all apply to our own businesses? Well, here’s a quick list that I personally adhere to with my own businesses.
1. Team Work: if you want to be the best, you need to surround yourself with the best team. The old cliché that “you’re only as good as your weakest link” is not only critical in racing but in all other businesses too. Whether it is your jack-man that keeps messing up, or your accountant, or your project manager, etc. if you don’t have the absolute best team, you will always be settling for second place, or third, or fourth…
2. Focus on Results. Believe me, I go to a lot of meetings… primarily clients’ meetings or meetings with prospective new clients or even informal business conversations. I can’t tell you how many times I see very smart people get lost in the “process” while ignoring the final results. I don’t care how good your process is (or you think it is) if you’re not producing results, you might as well wrap up that process nicely and throw it away! It is good to have processes and operating procedures but ONLY if they work. If they don’t work, the longer you stick with them, the further behind you will fall.
3. Always Use the Right Tools for the Job. Aahhh, how many times have I used my trusty adjustable wrench as a hammer, or my reliable flat head screw driver as a pry bar, or my favorite, the BFH (don’t ask me what that stands for) as an all-in-one tool for everything that is bent! It just doesn’t work! No matter how many times you ask your accountant to manage a project, or your designer to become a programmer, or your programmer to adjust a graphic, the truth is that you are setting yourself for failure. Get the right person for each job and you will always win. If that doesn’t work, see #1 above.
4. Good Today is Better than Perfect Tomorrow: this is another one that I don’t understand. Why do people always wait until the very last minute to create something that they hope is “perfect” although it will never be, at the risk of missing a great opportunity to be the “first” to market. I always prefer to roll out a new product that it’s only 80-90% proven today and improve it as we go, over missing out a great opportunity (and timing) because I wanted to make it “perfect.” Being first to market a new product is always better than being last to market the perfect product. Why? Because the market will make it perfect for you.
5. The Art of Delegation. I’ve already written a separate article about Delegation, but suffice it to say that if you as a driver, don’t trust your engine builder, or your tire changer, or your fuel person or your crew chief to do their jobs, you will not go very far. Hire people that are better than you at what they do, let them do their jobs so you can focus on your own job. Otherwise, try to drive your racecar, come to a pit stop, get out of the car and change your own tires. Then tell me how that goes…
6. Sharpen Your Tools. So my cutting blade is dull and a simple cutting job that would take me 5 minutes, it is now taking me 15. Then the grinding wheel is all worn out, and my metal file is about done (maybe at some point I used it as a pry bar too?) Either way, this “easy” job that could be done in 15 minutes is now taking me one hour and becoming a huge aggravation. Does that sound familiar? Are you working on an old computer, with a slow internet connection, outdated software, poor lighting, an uncomfortable chair…? How much time, money and aggravation is that costing you each day? Sharpen your tools and you will be not just more efficient but much happier too.
7. If in Doubt, Throw it Out. It is bad enough that every company out there promises the “magic part” or chip that will add insane amounts of horsepower to your engine in ‘3 easy steps.’ The truth is that if it is too good to be true, it most likely is. Golfers know that all too well since the Golf products infomercial market is also full of false promises. The only thing worse than trying a new part, or tool, or software, or Golf club, that doesn’t work is holding on to it just because the advertisement says it does. Believe me, you’re better off trying something else and not wasting any more of your time trying to convince yourself that what you have “has to work.” Cut your losses, save time and move on.
8. Forget Your Mistakes… Fast! Yes, learn from them, but after that, forget them! In racing, things happen fast, (no, really?) and I can’t tell you how many times when I was a young driver, I missed a corner, or went off track, or brushed a wall, and I kept thinking about it and swearing in every language I know over the next three or four laps… only to keep making more mistakes over and over because I wasn’t focusing on what’s ahead of me! Don’t let mistakes make you lose your focus! You need to learn from them but immediately regain your focus so you can remain mistake-free the rest of the way. In other words, develop an automatic “short term memory” and remain positive all the time.
9. Reward Your Team. I started this list by highlighting the importance of Team Work. Well, it is just as important to reward your team as frequently as they deserve. No driver gets to Victory Circle by himself and no President or Owner, or CEO ever remains successful without the support of his team. Always reward your team when milestones are reached or when certain performance levels are met. Make them part of your success!
10. But Wait There’s More! Is it? I’m sure there is much more! But for now, I will leave this list open. Now it is your turn. Tell me what you do to run your business more efficiently, or simply be more efficient yourself.
Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)