On May 29th hundreds of thousands will gather in attendance and millions across the globe will watch the 100th running of the Indy 500, the world's greatest spectacle in racing. I, for one, am excited. With drivers pushing speeds of over 220 mph for 500 miles, the race explores the limits of man and machine, of individuals and teams. It's a relentless pursuit to push forward, move onward, and race toward the finish line with grit and determination. In many ways, the Indy 500 is like running a small business.
Except when you are running a small business, you are in the race every single day. Here are a few takeaways from the Indy 500 that can be applied to running your small business.
Tune Your Car: An Indy car is a work of art. Mechanically and aerodynamically built for maximum performance, each car is precision tuned for the driver, the type of race it's competing in, down to the exact track it will run on. Its purpose is undeniable. Can you say the same for your business? If your business is not hyper-focused on meeting a very specific goal, you are going to have a hard time fine tuning and adjusting it to it achieve the type of astounding performance you need to stay in the race.
You Need a Good Pit Crew: Teamwork and perfect timing gets the car fueled and tires changed in seconds so the driver can be back on the track in the shortest amount of time possible. A successful pit crew is built on trust. Same goes for your employees. Just as the driver doesn't get out of the car to double check the pit crew's work, you have to build a team you can trust to work together to keep your business on the road and moving forward. This is especially important for brand new businesses. Those first hires you make are potentially the most important decisions that will affect whether you stay in the race or drop out.
Check Your Rearview: The earliest known rear-view mirror mounted on a racing vehicle appeared on Ray Harroun's Marmon race car at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 race in 1911. He knew early on that during the race, knowing what's behind you is equally important to seeing what's in front of you. Same goes for your business. You have to be tenacious about your future goals, but it's important to spend time looking at what you've accomplished in the past. Every quarter our company does an "accomplishments review" and a "lessons learned." We ask: What have we done that's worth noting? And then: What have we learned that will help us accomplish our goals for the next quarter? Doing this keeps our fuel tank filled with the positive focus we need to tackle our next challenge.
The main difference between the Indy 500 and running a small business is that running a small business has no finish line. You race toward the horizon only to get up the next morning and do it all over again. It requires a certain type of psychological makeup-one that speaks to the restless and relentless nature of entrepreneurs. Most people don't have the nerves of steel needed to drive in the Indy 500, as most people don't have the fortitude to handle the extreme ups and downs of running a small business. But for me, it's the greatest race on the planet.