In fact, some of the most valuable business skills I’ve ever learned were taught to me not by professors, but by NASCAR insiders. For a number of years now, I’ve been able to join a tight-knit group of friends, who also happen to be NASCAR drivers, marketers, agents and team owners for a lively gathering to celebrate, commiserate and plan for the future. The lessons I’ve learned from this unique group of individuals extends well beyond stock car racing and I strive to put many of them to use each and every day.
Love what you do and success will follow
As with any professional sport, the professionals involved in NASCAR have the ability to make large amounts of money and gain widespread fame. One thing I’ve learned through these friendships is that most drivers are driven by a passion for what they do, not the money. If the money and fame disappeared tomorrow, I’d bet that most would show up at the track regardless. They do it for the love of the race, and that passion and authenticity shines through in all of their interactions. Everyone involved, from the PR professionals to the agents and drivers truly loves racing. Sure, there are good days and bad days just like any other profession. However, the underlying love for the sport is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. They lead with authenticity and passion, and success follows.
Entrepreneurs and leaders should take note. It’s always tempting to chase the latest trend or to start a business with the intent of finding fame and financial success. However, when people pursue things just for the fame or money, they often find themselves coming up short.
I’m passionate about helping small businesses succeed. That’s why I started BodeTree, and it’s why I work day in and day out. If everything went away tomorrow, I’d still try and find a way to keep doing what I love. Passionate entrepreneurs are authentic entrepreneurs, and that is the root of success.
Street smarts matter more than book smarts
NASCAR and all of the professionals in the periphery are an egalitarian bunch. You’ll find self-taught agents and marketing professionals, billionaire entrepreneurs, drivers who eat, sleep and breathe racing, Ivy League-educated lawyers, and everything in between. Interestingly, no one seems to care about your pedigree. All they care about is your ability to perform and get deals done. There are no points for being the smartest person in the room. Some of the most successful people I know in the racing world learned everything right there on the track, and the street smarts they gained are both feared and respected by those around them.
The value of street smarts should never be overlooked by entrepreneurs. I grew up in the world of finance, where “stump the chump” is the game of choice and people love few things more than to one-up somebody. When I made the decision to leave that world behind and become an entrepreneur, I was amazed at how little my background mattered. Instead, hard work, creativity, and grit were the things that separated the winners from the losers.
NASCAR is often criticized for being a network of “good ol’ boys,” and while there is certainly some degree of truth to that, the reason has more to do with tradition than anything else. The world of racing is all about relationships and trust. Traditions are respected and valued because they serve to reinforce that trust. The separation between business and personal matters is a joke. Every business deal is personal, and in the world of racing, every personal relationship has business implications. Tradition serves as a social structure that reinforces the values that people hold dear. Without it, business wouldn’t be the same.
I’ve learned that tradition matters across the board. It makes people feel comfortable, reassured, and part of something larger than themselves. The lessons that I’ve learned from this fascinating group of friends will stick with me forever. This strange and often crazy annual tradition of the NASCAR gathering is something that I cherish and continue to learn from for years to come.
Chris Myers – Cofounder and CEO of BodeTree, a web application designed to help small businesses manage their finances