Several years ago, a friend of mine, who had just retired from Indy Car racing asked me to give a dinner presentation to a group of young race drivers. “Tell them what you learned as a business executive that can help them mount a successful racing effort,” my friend requested. As I thought about it, I realized that while my business career, training and education had taught me a lot about business tactics, management skills and marketing strategies, that same business experience left out the most important training of all: How to build a successful team. Contrary to what my retired race driver friend had thought, it wasn’t my business education or experience that taught me how to be successful, it was my race team experience in my 20s that taught me how to be win championships in the business world.
Below is the message I shared with those race drivers, but today, instead of talking racing, I am talking about your business.
"If you’re here to learn from me how to win a race, don’t waste my time. Anybody can win one race. All you need to do is have the biggest budget, be lucky, have the fastest car (this week) or be the fastest driver (today). But, if you really want to be successful, the true measure is winning a championship. You can’t just be lucky once. You can’t just have the fastest car or be the fastest driver (this week). You need to be the best over and over again, for the entire season. And that can only be done by having the best team — a team that is absolutely committed to winning the championship.”
So how does that relate to your auto repair or parts business? Well, anyone can have a big sales day, just by cutting the prices (until someone else matches them) and lots of people start a business spending big bucks on advertising and promotion (until they have spent it all). Many small business owners have personal talents that the customers love (until growth results in the owner not being able to handle every customer himself). Each of those things can result in a short burst of business success (wins). But to be a business “champion” you need to have consecutive years of business success (winning business seasons). Just like those race drivers I spoke with, to be successful in your business, you need a business team that is absolutely committed to winning the championship.
I explained to the Indy car drivers, that what I learned about building a committed and strong team (race or business), is this: It’s all about pride.
I read once, but unfortunately can’t recall where, that ‘Pride is the fuel of human accomplishment’ and that ‘competition is the spark plug.’ So, if you want a committed race team or a business staffed with a team of people committed to your business success, you simply need two things:
* First – a team full of people who are proud to be part of that team and of what they can accomplish.
* Second Some other company or “thing” for your business team to compete against. Having pride and being part of a team is not motivating for many people in the long haul. So, to get the most out of team pride, you need something for the team to compete against
The methodology and techniques to achieve the above are simple and fun to implement.
To build the pride, remember that recognition builds pride. As the owner or manager of the race team or business, be vigilant in praise for the individual’s effort and contribution to the team. “Man, was that a great sales call you made or what?” “Wow, there is no one else in the business that could have given the kind of customer service you did!” “That car owner is gonna love the way you made her car run!” “Your product display is the best ever – incredible!”
Selecting a competitor for your team to beat is simple, but key. It can be a person (Fred, the owner of “Fred’s Garage”) or it can be a company (Low $ Auto Imports Inc.) or even the economy (While the economy is slow, let’s take customers from our competition, so they get laid off instead of us). By picking a common enemy — a competitor for your team to focus on beating — you ignite the competitiveness in each of the team members so that they can accomplish more.
For the long-term, as the race driver, team manager, business owner or manager, your biggest job is to continue to build pride, through recognition, with comments like “Our team whipped the competition because, Suzie did a great…., George made a fantastic…. Armando delivered the best…. Together, you all are the greatest team I could ever find.”
My car racing experience followed by years of business experience has proven to me that the above process grows on itself as the team gains even more pride, and then accomplishes more, and gets prouder, and goes after bigger competitors, accomplishing more and growing the individual and team pride to unexpected heights. By the way, someone on such a successful, championship winning business team is virtually impossible for a competitor to recruit.
So to sum up what I taught the Indy Car drivers that night at dinner many years ago, the secret to your success is:
Accomplishment through team work.
Team work fueled by pride
Pride built with recognition
Focusing the team on beating a common competitor
Now, go win a business championship for me!