The racing season is almost in full swing. It’s a great time to think about the year ahead. And if you’re a smart businessperson, you will also think about where you’ll be in the future.
You’ve come through the toughest and most challenging times most people have ever experienced. You’ve had to make hard choices and tough decisions.
Now that the economy has stabilized, you’re ready to go full speed ahead. But you must now deal with customers who are better educated, better informed, more service savvy and more cost conscious than ever before.
In this environment, the competition is intense. In addition, new competitors seeking to gain market share are emerging all the time.
You can’t help but wonder: In the long road ahead, who will be able to compete and come out a winner? And more importantly, will I be one of them?
Several unique characteristics will ultimately identify racing businesses—both large and small—that stood the test of time and continued to grow. These companies will have employed 15 sound business practices and strategies that fueled high performance and helped them create and sustain success.
Several years from now, the following will be said of them:
1. They slowed down to create a business plan to speed up business growth. There’s one thing all performance racing business owners and suppliers have in common—the love of racing! But those who were able to succeed and prosper had a strong vision of where they wanted to be in the future. Even small speed shop owners and engine builders knew they needed a plan to get them where they wanted to be in the years ahead. They recognized that taking the time to create and execute a smart business plan was not optional. It was, and will always be, critical to the success of any business, and cannot be overemphasized.
They also recognized that many businesses owners operate without a detailed, well-developed business plan, and many had no plan at all. They observed that some established businesses experience growth despite this lack of direction. What these smart individuals fully recognized is that although they were proficient in what it takes to win a race or bring new motorsports products to market, they would be in a far better position to compete with an accurate roadmap to guide them.
2. They involved others in planning for the long road ahead. These successful people knew that oftentimes an owner can be too close to their business, too focused on the racing schedule ahead, or too absorbed in helping other drivers speed up—and that having other people involved in planning was a smart thing to do. They enlisted the support of their entire team, including mechanics and others who may have known little about business. Their logic for involving everyone on their team was to make each member feel that they played a strong role in the company’s success. Some involved their accountants, non-competitive friends in the business, or a friend who was a smart business professional and had the ability to look at their business with the eye of an unbiased outsider. Larger businesses involved the smartest people in their company and others who could contribute to the creation of a plan.
Owners and their planning teams worked together to identify strengths and weaknesses of the business, and pinpointed those areas where the most improvement was needed. Additional discussions and idea sharing took place on other critical areas of the business:
How can the entire team help bring in more customers?
How can we improve productivity?
How can we improve the level of customer service we now provide?
How can we improve the level of service we provide to each other and work together as a cohesive team?
How can we diversify our business?
3. Business owners made decisions on which ideas they and their team brought forth to implement. They recognized that revenue is really nice, but profit is what matters. They looked at the revenue they brought in the previous years and looked at the profits. Then, they created a plan for the year ahead. Another plan was created for three years ahead. Both plans included financial goals, sales goals, marketing and advertising strategies, and methods to dramatically improve customer service.
4. Execution was a strong part of their competitive strategy. The successful businesses recognized that knowing what should be done and actually doing it are two very different things. They mastered the art of execution—especially in implementing new ideas, diversifying their offerings, and taking action on ways to improve in every aspect of business and racing.
5. The plan was watched consistently, new ideas were added on a regular basis, and if something in their plan wasn’t working, they shifted gears. To ensure regular commitment to the mission at hand, these companies held periodic meetings that were informal—and not tedious—to make sure they stayed on track and progress was consistently evaluated.
6. Complacency was their enemy. The successful companies conducted research on what top performance racing businesses were doing, and kept a consistent “Internet watch” of their top three competitors. Whatever these competitors were doing, they figured out ways to do it better. They adopted even bolder marketing and advertising strategies. While other motorsports businesses failed to “go green,” the winners recognized the green momentum was not about to subside. They created a green program, promoted it in their marketing and public relations campaigns, and helped win over customers who were environmentally conscious. In addition, they consistently sought ways to improve how they ran their businesses—especially inventory management.
7. Suppliers regularly explored and adopted new ways to add value for their customers. They realized and exploited the fact that much of the value they provided to customers was the superior knowledge and racing expertise they had to offer. They became value-added organizations, knowing how important their expertise was to their bottom line. They helped their customers far more than any competitor, knowing that in a world of fierce business and racing competition, customers appreciated it. They asked customers, “How can we provide more value?” And they reached agreement on priorities, actions and outcomes.
8. They got serious about customer service. Every single aspect of the customer experience was analyzed. Service flaws were identified and eliminated. Proactive complaint prevention was practiced. Websites had fast and easy ordering for parts and equipment. All employees were held to the highest standards for customer service excellence in every aspect of the customer experience. Together, the company and its people developed an obsession to deliver their best performance—with every customer, every day. They developed a reputation for consistently great service. Business increased, and customers became loyal advocates who helped spread the word about their great service and racing expertise.
9. Technology helped them drive their business faster than their competitors, and helped them and their customers to race faster! State-of-the-art technology and equipment was used and well maintained.
10. Social media was not ignored as a passing fad. While many business owners didn’t want to think about using social media, forward-thinking businesses were early adopters and consistently utilized it to draw attention to their companies. As a result, their efforts brought them new customers. Creativity was applied with each and every tweet, blog, Facebook post and YouTube video. Their websites were far superior to their competitors’, provided the “wow” factor, and were optimized for search engine placement. Video clips were present on their main page and throughout their site. No stone was left unturned.
11. These smart companies became “learning” organizations, and learned faster than their competitors. They were constantly striving to improve their skills—technical, customer service and interpersonal. They knew that they needed to be far more knowledgeable than their competitors.
12. Owners treated their entire team the same way they treated their best customers. They fully realized that being a great boss while creating a great work environment was one of the best things they could do to keep their team motivated and performing at their highest levels. Appreciation for their hard work was expressed on a daily basis.
13. They celebrated every success, both large and small, and appreciated their good fortune. To keep the spirit alive, many “high-fives” were exchanged on a daily basis. Owners and managers alike recognized their good fortune in being able to make a living doing what they love. When the going got tough, they used the love of racing to propel them through any situation.
14. They never missed a PRI Trade Show! They attended the annual event and made the most of all that it offered. They saw new products, made smart purchasing decisions, and obtained more industry knowledge by attending the educational sessions offered. New ideas were discovered and fun stories were shared when they interacted with other business owners.
15. They did not stop believing in themselves, their business, their team and a better future. They kept their eye on the prize. They had only one goal—to emerge from the fray as the winner, with their business stronger, more vibrant and more prosperous than before, and with solid prospects for continued growth and success into the future. Successful performance racing businesses took these steps and many, many others specific to excelling in their livelihood.
So now that you've seen the future, what will you do?
The question you should be asking is, “In the long road ahead, will my business come out a winner—gaining market share, growing and prospering? Am I doing the things that will translate into business success?
Success in business doesn’t just happen by itself. It takes smart decision-making, strategies, and the drive to compete and win.
Christine Corelli of Christine Corelli & Associates, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois, is an industry speaker and author of five business books including the bestselling “Wake Up and Smell the Competition” and “Capture Your Competitors’ Customers And KEEP Them!” Her latest book release is “ROADMAP To Success.” She has also been a popular speaker at numerous SEMA events. To inquire about her services, call 847/581-9968.